Forage of the Month – August/September

Elderberry Elixir: this is one of my all-time favourite elderberry recipes, and it comes from Lucinda Warner at Whispering Earth. It’s a long-lasting and delicious preparation that Lucinda describes as ‘warming your wintery cockles’… I can definitely attest to that!

Elderberry is well known for its antiviral and immune tonic effects which are in large part due to its antioxidant properties. It contains many vitamins and minerals, being especially high in vitamin C. In this recipe, the added spices, port and brandy give it warming properties, and make it a truly delicious medicine.

elderberry recipe

Picking the elderberries: look for berries that are dark purple, shiny and plentiful, making sure you leave plenty behind for the birds. They’re an important food source for many birds including blackcaps, robins and waxwings.

Once you get the berries home, rinse them and give them a quick dry on some kitchen towel (naturally-occurring yeasts on the berries can cause the elixir to ferment and ooze out of the jar, so this helps prevent that happening). Then remove the berries by running a fork down the stems.

Method: nearly fill a jar with your freshly picked elderberries. Add one cinnamon stick, broken into pieces, 8 thin slices of fresh ginger, and then 12 cloves, 12 black peppercorns and 20 cardamom pods lightly crushed together in a mortar and pestle.

Add brandy until 1/3 of the jar is filled with liquid, then add 1/3 port and top the final third up with honey (ideally raw, local honey). Stir everything thoroughly with a bamboo chopstick or glass stirring rod (avoid using a metal implement for this).

elderberry elixir recipe

Lid, label and store out of direct sunlight, somewhere cool and dry, for a month to six weeks. Then strain the whole lot through muslin in a (non-metal) colander/sieve. Leave it straining overnight, then squeeze/wring the muslin bundle as much as you can, to get every last drop of fruity goodness. Rebottle and store in a cool dark place. It’s a good idea to keep it in the fridge once opened.

take a tablespoon in a small glass of warm water each evening as a preventative or half a teaspoon every couple of hours at the first sign of infection.

Weave your own elderberry foraging basket with Native Hands in Sussex woodland.

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