Elderberry tonic

Photo: Simon Lambert
Photo: Simon Lambert
Now more than ever before we need to be looking after our wellbeing and Mother Nature has an abundance of elderberries for us to brew.  The method is simple and it costs very little, other than a little time and patience.

Elderberry tonic

Makes 500mL

1kg elderberries (all leaves, stalk and green berries discarded)
filtered water
1cm fresh ginger, finely grated
8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1½ cups raw good-quality honey (or an alternative if vegan or you can use 400g raw cane sugar)

To begin you need to collect the deep purple clusters of elderberries. Do not eat these raw. They must be cooked first!

I recommend wearing an apron and gloves as the elderberries will stain everything in their path. There are many tips on how to remove the berries from the stalks.

I have used wide-toothed combs, tried pulling them through a colander and even picked around the clusters using my gloved hands. Use whichever method works best. Remove and discard any green or mouldy berries and do not use the stalks or leaves.

Once you have collected all the berries, place them into a heavy based deep side pot and cover with cold water. Add the ginger, cloves and cinnamon and bring to the boil.

Reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the berries to burst and the aromatics to seep into the juices.

After 30 minutes, lightly mash the pulp and strain through the finest sieve you have lined with muslin or something similar, into a deep clean vessel. I do this for as long as possible and don’t feel as though you have to force it. You want as much of the elderberries’ juice as possible.

Once this process is completed pour the elderberry liquid into a clean, heavy based pot. Add the honey or sugar and dissolve over a low heat, turn up the heat so the syrup reaches a rapid boil. Continue boiling until you notice the syrup reducing by at least half and the bubbles getting larger.

The syrup is ready when you can coat the spoon with the thick elderberry syrup. I personally don’t reduce mine too far. You don’t want it runny like water but you don’t want it thick like honey. Somewhere in between.

Have sterilised bottles or jars at the ready and carefully pour in. Seal with sterilised lids, label and date and it is now ready for use. Keep it in the fridge for up to 3 months.

To serve the elderberry tonic you can take it straight by the teaspoon or add hot water and enjoy as a nourishing drink.

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