Tuesday 11 September 2007


It's autumn now isn't it?

When I reached the UK I discovered that the elderberries in the garden were in full fruit and the blackbirds and starlings hadn't got to them yet so I decided to restock my supply of elderberry cordial.


It's hard to mistake elderberries for anything poisonous but if you have the slightest concern about the berries you've gathered then consult a reliable source for confirmation before proceeding.

Elderberry cordial is an ancient preparation recommended by herbalists for coughs, cold and fevers. It is rich in vitamins and antioxidants and there has been some research showing that there is a quantifiable benefit to the use of elderberry extract for curing colds and flu.

It's terribly easy to make. Gather your elderberries on a dry day, green ones are mildly poisonous so only take plump fully ripened ones. Wash the gathered fruit in plenty of water and remember to lift the berries from the washing container. If you drain the water off through the berries all your work will have been in vain.

Strip them off the umbels into a pan. Some sources suggest that the whole umbel can be used at this stage but I dislike the smell of elder stems, leaves and bark and prefer to reduce it as much as possible. Small stemlets can be ignored.

Add a little water, maybe enough to come a third of the way up the berries or if they are very ripe the water left from washing may be sufficient, and set over a gentle heat to soften and give their juice. Mash them down with a potato masher from time to time until the berries are completely broken up. This will probably take 30 or 40 minutes.

Strain the berries and their juice through a jelly bag. It's o.k. to squeeze it, this isn't a very clear preparation however carefully it's done but obviously don't force through any pips, skins or sticky bits.

Measure the juice and to each 600ml (about a pint) add 300g of granulated sugar (about 1/2 a pound) and two cloves. Bring the whole lot back to boil slowly to allow the sugar to dissolve completely, then simmer briskly for five minutes.

Pour into your prepared small bottles dividing the cloves up evenly. If your bottles are sterile and you put the caps on immediately there should be no need for further processing after bottling and the cordial will keep for several years if needed.

Although this is usually served diluted with hot water to make a soothing drink for the unwell we have discovered it makes a damn fine cocktail with an equal measure of gin or, as I found during the styling of this photo, tequila. Cheers.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Note for the unwary:
Tequila is highly toxic and should under no circumstances be taken internally.