We love a little warm beverage in the evening during the winter, and these bottles will be stashed away till then.
When elderberries are at their lusciously dark, glossy best they are irresistible, the only tricky bit is deciding what to make with this foraged bounty, will it be jams, jellies, syrups, cordials or wine?
Mary Poppins advice that ‘a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down’ was very much in mind as we picked the first batch of this year’s harvest specifically for medicinal rather than culinary use. Sambucol* Black cordial has a long and impressive history of boosting immunity against ‘flu and respiratory disease thanks to its antioxidant and antiviral properties. [*Sambucus translates as ‘gift of the gods’]. Whilst on the linguistics theme, Cordial derives from Medieval Latin, Cordialis meaning ‘heartfelt’.
Since the arrival of novel Covid-19 disease, described by Dr Chris Whitty as a mild seasonal ‘flu, interest has increased in using herbal remedies in preference to pharmaceutical or mechanical interventions. This significant shift has been endorsed by the NHS Foundation Trust at East Kent who trialled this remedy as a treatment for Covid-19 because of its immune-boosting reputation.
Our immune systems benefit from extra amounts of the flavonoid Quercetin taken with Zinc. Together they act as an anti-thrombotic needed to regulate adaptive immune cell functions. Plant polyphenols with this flavonoid have the ability to inhibit viral replication at various stages in respiratory diseases such as influenza. Published research articles record its role in inhibiting cellular entry of SARS -CoV-2 and reducing upper respiratory symptoms but there is a caution to heed, elderberries are toxic if consumed raw, they contain sambunigrin but cooking eliminates these cyanogenic glycosides.
Israeli virologist, Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University, found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 93.3% of study subjects claimed complete cure or significant improvement within 2-3 days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days or more to recover.
ELDERBERRY CORDIAL RECIPE
[adapted from Noelle’s and others]
Fresh ‘black’ European elderberries
Granulated Sugar [sufficient for preserving shelf-life]
Cloves and other spicy additions [see List below]
Sumac [added to cold infusions for high Vit C content]
Dried echinacea root [immune stimulant]
Dried ginseng root [immune stimulant]
Allspice, Fennel seeds, Cinnamon sticks, Nutmeg, Ginger
Pick berries that are glossy, almost black, reject red and green berries.
• Strip the berries from their stalks with a fork or by hand. I prefer hand-stripping for quality control. [stalked berries can be frozen which makes stripping them extremely easy]
• Wash the berries, unripe ones tend to float to the top along with stray stems and perhaps insects.
• Skim these off, drain, re-wash.
• Put berries in a preserving or thick-based pan with enough water to just cover them
• Gently mash the berries with a potato masher to release their juice whilst simmering on low heat for 20 minutes
• Strain the elderberry mixture through a muslin-lined sieve/straining bag into a jug or separate pan, squeeze the muslin to extract all the juice
• For each pint of juice, add 1lb of sugar and 12 cloves [optional Variants list below] I add the juice and rind of two small oranges, one lemon, 2 cinnamon sticks, all spice and fennel seeds
• Boil the mixture for 10 minutes until it starts to thicken [add citrus juice if necessary]
• Allow the mixture to cool. Strain it again through muslin sieve to achieve a smooth syrupy liquid, pour into sterilised bottles, add more cloves if desired then top up with brandy or cherry liqueur to further extend and preserve its shelf life [up to two years if kept in a cool, dark place]
If you over-boiled the syrup and invented elderberry toffee along the way, well done, have some apples on sticks ready to hand!
We just celebrated a house purchase with a glass of Kir Royale made with champagne and our newly-bottled elderberry syrup, the ultimate health tonic. The cordial is also delicious poured over buttermilk soft pancakes and waffles. Next to try on the culinary list is Elderberry panna cotta which substitutes elderberry cordial for the sweet element in recipes.
Thank you Noelle for suggesting All spice, fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, all of which went into my Elderberry cordials. We’re about to forage our garden for our third batch of elderberries for cordials and will keep going through September until nature closes the supply.