Yes, I know it's August and cold and flu season feels far away. I find my family will sometimes get the "early flu" as I call it; usually associated with the change of the seasons around the Equinox. I hate when it creeps up on us so I start getting ready when the elderberries come on in August.
This year the bushes have had a bumper crop, probably due to all the rain we've had. Some years I've had to water the bushes. This year everyone has stayed nice and green with some amazing growth from all of my bushes.
I have two "groves". The first is in my front yard. It's a Sambucus canandensis, our native elder species, bush that has expanded over the years. The other grove I have is comprised of several bushes of Sambucus nigra. These are taller with larger, purpler berries. So far this year I've picked about 6 pounds of fresh berries, with plenty left over for the birds. In terms of dried berries, this is maybe about 3 pounds of berries; about the amount I go through in a year making medicine just for my immediate family.
I consider Elder a food/medicine. The flowers can be drunk as a tea just because you like them or made into elderflower liqueur, elderflower champagne or even added to a batter and fried as flower fritters. The berries can be treated like any other berries...pies, jellies, berry syrup...and dried berries can also made into tea. Both can be tinctured for a more medicinal preparation. I like to be creative with my plant medicine as well as my cooking. The following are some fun recipes you might want to try. You can also get creative and make up some of your own!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor does this constitute medical advice. All information given here is for educational purposes only.
Make sure you read all the instructions for canning and gather your tools before you begin!
4 C of elderberry juice or elderberry plus another berry (I like to use wild blackberries)...so 2 - 3 pounds of fresh berries
1/4 C lime or lemon juice
2 C of honey
2 tsp Pomona's Pectin
2 tsp calcium water (the calcium is included in the pectin box)
You'll also need jelly jars, a big stock pot or canning pot, canning jar tongs, ladle, whisk, stirring spoons, funnel, jelly bag & stand or strainer, measuring spoons, measuring cups and a pot to cook the jelly in.
To make the juice, cook the de-stemmed fruit in 1 cup of water or juice for about 30 minutes. Let the liquid cool until it's cool enough that you feel comfortable handling it. Strain through a strainer (you'll get a more jam-like jelly) or strain through a jelly bag & stand. Using the bag and stand will take quite a while (up to 12 hours). Squeeze by hand to get the last bits of juice out. I have a fruit press that I use for tinctures. I use that for getting every last bit of liquid out. If you don't have 4 cups you can add some water to reach that amount.
Put the juice in a pot along with the calcium water and half the sweetener. Bring it to a boil.
Mix the pectin with the rest of the sweetener and add it to the boiling juice. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes. It will start to get thick.
Ladle into prepped jars, put lids on an process according to the directions in the Pomona's package. I processed mine in a stock pot for 10 minutes.
If in doubt, follow the directions in the Pomona's package!
You can also add things like fresh gingerroot (about a thumb's worth) or astragalus slices during the initial juice simmering.
Jellies and jams keep for about a year. Use just like you would any jam or jelly.
You'll need a one-quart Mason jar, pot, big measuring cup for liquids, spoon, measuring utensils, strainer and funnel.
1/2 C dried elderberries
3 C water
1 - 1 1/2C of honey (or sugar)
1/4 - 1/2 C alcohol (I use brandy or vodka) - optional
optional: lime, gingerroot
Bring the elderberries and water to a very low simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced by half (you'll have one and a half cups). Strain the liquid out into a quart measuring cup (You can use a regular strainer, potato ricer or a fruit press. Remember it's hot liquid!). Wash the pot and add the liquid back into the pot. Add up to one and a half cups of honey and stir until the honey/sugar is dissolved. Pour into the Mason jar and add optional alcohol. Keeps in the fridge for 3 - 6 months. Dosage is about
While elderflower season has long past, you can still make this. Just fill a quart jar about half full with dried flowers and follow the recipe.