You can purchase elderberry syrup (called "sambuca")at the co-op but it is quite pricey. So, last summer when we found wild black elderberry bushes growing along the roadside nearby, we made sure to harvest some when the berries were ripe.
First, I washed and towel-dried the umbrels of berries. Then I tried dehydrating the berries (still on the stems) in three different ways:
- air dried by hanging upside down in bundles
- on a baking sheet in a very low oven
- in the food dehydrator
Once dried, the berries are easily separated from their stems and can be stored in a container in the cupboard. The berries that were dried in the food dehydrator dried within hours, look plump, glossy and beautiful, and were the easiest to separate from the stems - I will dry them all using that technique next summer.
Many recipes can be found online for making elderberry syrup. Last night, I concocted my own recipe and it is my favorite version so far:
Combine in a saucepan:
1/2 c. dried elderberries
3 c. water
Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to a simmer.
3 T. Mulling spices (or, a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves, a star of anise, an orange peel)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Simmer 40 minutes.
1 cup honey.
Allow to cool. Mash the berries and strain the syrup. Store in a covered glass container in refrigerator up to 3 months. The syrup can be eaten by the tablespoonful or can be added to tea, cranberry juice, or poured over ice cream, yogurt or waffles.
Sara hates to go to the doctor or take any drugs; she was very appreciative of this traditional medicinal. I hope it helps--and if so, I think I will plant a row of elderberry bushes this spring.