If you have access to elderberries, fresh or dried, consider making your own elderberry syrup with this elderberry syrup recipe. Use the elderberry syrup in tea, baking, or eat it right off the spoon for some of its immune-boosting properties. (Read more about elderberry syrup and the flu here.) We are lucky enough to have local access to as many elderberries we could possibly ever process. We use the fresh berries to make syrup, but the process for fresh and dried berries is basically the same, you just add a bit more water if you are using dried berries.
Before the core elderberry syrup recipe, let me add a bit of advice after processing hundreds of pounds of these berries myself over the years. Making elderberry syrup from fresh berries is a lot of work and will even be more work than it needs to be depending on your approach. As I describe in the video above, these are some basic rules I use in processing the fresh elderberries that make the whole job a little less work:
This recipe makes about 3 cups of the syrup. If you are making large batches and canning them, you will want to consult with some canning-ready and tested recipes.
The research on elderberry syrup and the flu shows that if we start taking the syrup at the onset of flu symptoms, our symptoms themselves will be greatly reduced. When I begin to feel symptoms that are at all fluish, I add syrup to hot water to make an elderberry tea and I drink it throughout the day for at least three days. This knocks the symptoms out completely. I usually feel my symptoms diminishing within hours. Your mileage may vary but the research basis is very encouraging. The key is to catch it early.
First, if you are using a homemade elderberry syrup, getting an accurate dosage, lined up with the elderberry research, will be difficult (read: nearly impossible). As I mention in the video below, we are a little loosey-goosey on this issue with our homemade elderberry syrup. As I mention above, at the first signs of symptoms, we do just start drinking the tea. However, there is a product commercially available that has been used in the studies on elderberry. With that product in hand, you can be more specific with your dosage. You can find it at our Amazon partner here.
We make our own elderberry syrup and my general attitude is: The best elderberry syrup is whatever is in your pantry. However, if you are buying it and using it for the flu, I would get the brand that is involved in the research studies so that you can have a more systematic take on the dosage. You can find it at our Amazon partner here. That said, if I didn’t make it myself and ran into a great deal on elderberry syrup at a farmer’s market, I would jump on that deal. 🙂
If you are looking for an elderberry syrup without honey, you can absolutely make this. I actually make it all the time but, technically, it’s not a syrup, it is simply a homemade elderberry juice. All you need to do is leave out the honey (or sugar). Elderberry is not very sweet. This will be a very low sugar juice and I typically add stevia as a sweetener when I am using the juice. Because this version has no sugar, it is not appropriate for water bath canning. I freeze mine in jars using the process I outline in freezing elderberries.
Can you make an apple cider vinegar elderberry syrup drink? Absolutely. If you have both, you can simply mix them together to get the benefits of both of these healthy foods. However, if you have elderberries on hand, you can also infuse the apple cider vinegar with the elderberries. I describe how to make elderberry apple cider vinegar in this post.
Can you make elderberry syrup with stevia? I do make and rely on an elderberry juice that I sweeten with stevia. I make the recipe I outline above, leaving out the honey. I freeze it as juice. When I use the juice, I add stevia to sweeten it. For example, I might make a salad dressing with elderberry juice and I add stevia powder to taste to the dressing.
Both turmeric and ginger are great for wintertime health and, as a result, are great complimentary herbs for your elderberry syrup, especially if your primary intent with the syrup is to use it to fight the flu. Turmeric can be a bit bitter but the ginger and elderberry cover the bitterness very well. As for how to add them to the syrup, I would add them to the cooking stage of the berries, allowing them to infuse into the elderberry juices as they are cooking.
Elderberries have a distinctive, musky flavor. It is deep, rich, and stands well on its own. It shines against the simplicity of vanilla ice cream or in a latte-like concoction. It pairs well with coconut milk too but it is hard to beat the elderberry-dairy combination. You could pair it with chocolate but, for the most part, you want to showcase the elderberry flavor in your recipes. It will shine through and you probably do not want it competing with many other flavors. On the savory side, it pairs well with garlic, ginger, rosemary, sage, oregano, and lemon. It is a fun flavor to play with.
I use the same rule of thumb for shelf life of elderberry syrup as I do with other preserved foods: If it is canned, I consider it good for two years. (Really, it’s probably fine another year but why not use it?) As for frozen elderberry syrup, I would use it in the same season — plan to keep it for up to a year. Dried elderberries will last in a well-sealed jar for several years.
Yes, elderberry syrup, just like all things worth eating, does go bad at some point. If you have canned elderberry syrup and you open it, you need to keep it in your refrigerator as you would any syrup or jam. It will stay good for a month or so. The sugar content itself will help it last in the refrigerator. If it is not sweetened, it will not last as long in the refrigerator. For instance, I make a juice that is unsweetened and I do try to use it in a week or two since it doesn’t have the sugar content to preserve it. As for a canned product, it will take years to “go bad.” Do try to use your stash within two years and, again, refrigerate it after opening it.
Elderberry syrup can certainly be frozen. In fact, freezing is a key way I preserve my own elderberry juice. Find my thoughts in the video below or check out the post on freezing elderberries.
Elderberry plant parts can be mildly toxic, notably the seeds and skin. People have had adverse reactions to the raw elderberry. This syrup recipe uses the cooked berry with the seeds and skin removed. Commercial elderberry extracts also exclude the toxic portions of the plant.
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