Elderberry Cordial

One of my very favorite herbs is elder, for both the blossoms and berries are versatile and valuable.  In mid-January during another blast of winter, I pulled a bag of elderberries from the freezer and cooked a medicinal and tasty cordial.  After measuring 6 c. berries into a large kettle, adding 6 c. water and  1 1/2 c. sugar, bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cook about 5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved.  Cool.  Add 3/4 c. lemon juice.  Stir.  Then I divided the mixture into 3 parts in sterilized quart jars. Elderberry cordial 2

Into 1 jar (top right) went 3 cinnamon sticks.  The second jar (left) got a tsp. of fennel seeds, and the 3rd slightly smaller jar (front) received 1T. dried anise hyssop leaves, slightly crushed.  After capping them securely, and a good shake, they went into a cardboard box to shut out light.  Each day for two weeks, they got a good shake.

The final step was straining the liquid into bottles or jars.  I just let it drip through a fine strainer, and didn’t push the pulp through.  Using a bottle that had contained elderberry syrup from Germany, I washed it well and filled it with the anise hyssop- flavored cordial. Elderberry cordial straining compressed  The  fennel-infused batch went into the bottle shown below; the cinnamo into a sterile quart jar.  It will go into bottles when I have some pretty ones to serve to guests or give as gifts.

And, I didn’t waste the strained berries, but spread the sweet mixture on my toast for the next few mornings.  There were a lot of crunchy seeds but it tasted delicious.  I put the “used” cinnamon sticks into a pot of tea, so nothing was wasted.  Elderberry Cordial compressed  Medicinally, elderberries are immune system boosters, just what we all need during this flu season.  I enjoy a liqueur glass of the cordial before bedtime.

Elder was once a common wayside plant, growing in hedgerows and along roadsides and woodlands.  It is a hardy perennial shrub that can grow in full sun or light shade and tolerates a range of soils and moisture levels, although they produce more berries with adequate moisture.    Its stems are hollow, so it has a history of use as a “straw” or “pipes” both for moving fluids or making music!  Elder has always been considered a fairy plants, filled with magic.

I only have one elderberry bush but it is 6’ tall and as wide.  It produces enough blossoms for several quarts of elderflower “champagne” or syrup shown below, that I use for Hugo cocktails, Elderflower syrup compressed  pouring over pound cake or fresh strawberries, or adding to apple pies and tarts AND still enough berries for several batches of jelly and for freezing (this year I froze 4 gallons!)  So throughout the year, I make Elderberry-Peach Cobbler, Elderflower-Apricot Tea Bread, and Chicken with Elderberry-Orange Sauce among other things.

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About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in elder, preserving, small fruits, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Elderberry Cordial

  1. I love elder trees too and they self-seed freely in my garden. I have to prune them on a rotation basis otherwise they get so big I cannot pick from them. Like you I have a few berries left in the freezer so I will try your cordial recipe. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie Graves says:

    My mouth is watering! Love elderberry. Also, it’s great how you wasted nothing.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. bcparkison says:

    Oh my …I need to plant one or two. We have them on the ‘way side” but sometimes it is pretty snakey to try and go after them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 69owen says:

    Hi I love elderberries and especially the cordial using the flowers and we have quite a few wild trees dotted around the area. Just a note though as I have read in a few places that the seeds contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside so I always deseed them before freezing or making syrup and then freezing.

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  5. Island Time says:

    Wow! Your elderberry and elderflower recipes look and sound delicious! I love elderflower cordial, but the variety of elder that grows wild where we live is the red berried variety, and the berries are apparently toxic, although I have heard that some people do use the blossom, carefully removing the little flowers from all the green stems, in order to make a flower syrup similar to the English elder variety. I may have to try this! Last summer I made a tasty cordial using sweet cicely blossom, not the same flavour but totally refreshing mixed with sparkling water over ice; somewhat anise flavoured. Thank you for this lovely post. And please, what is a Hugo cocktail?

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    • carolee says:

      A Hugo Cocktail is about 2 T. elderflower syrup muddled with 3 leaves of mint in a wine glass. Fill with chilled Prosecco and add a slice of lime. Delicious, especially in summer!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Island Time says:

        Yummy! That sounds like a tasty “cooler”. I’m going to jot that one down in my recipe book for future reference. Looking forward to elder blossom time so I can give our west coast variety a try; if I can stand to pick out all the teensy green bits! Cheers to you! Enjoying your blog by the way.

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      • carolee says:

        Thank you! It is my favorite cocktail (I’m not a big drinker!) First had it in Germany and have loved it since. SO glad I have an elder plant of my own.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A kindred spirit! I’ve made elderberry syrup every winter for 20 years, and only ever got a cold when it ran out! I use a different method – simmering the berries, straining and reheating to a gentle boil with sugar – and add a few pods of star anise to the first stage.
    As I made wine over the same period, I’ve always had to avoid using screw top lids. There’s so much yeast in my kitchen that all jams and syrups start to ferment quite soon, no matter how much sugar is in them. I have to cork my bottles, in case of a dangerous build up of pressure from this.
    I found it helpful to have a shot glass full of neat syrup before and after going to meetings, or other places where there’s a lot of people in a room.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sounds divine! I dont think elderberries grow well in our Northern California climate, I have yet to find a bush at our local nurseries.

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    • carolee says:

      I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. I’ve been to Mendocino and it doesn’t seem that different, other than we get colder for longer. It hailed the day I was at the Botanic Gardens!

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  8. Helen says:

    I love elderflower cordial but haven’t tried the berries. Elder doesn’t seem to grow much round here, which is a pity – I need to hunt out an area where I can reliably forage for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This looks so yummy! How wonderful that you have your own bush. It is definitely on my list of plants to get this year if I can find one in my area. I love making my own elderberry syrup and would love to be able to pick my own instead of paying for dried. They are SO expensive.
    Happy Weekend,
    Kate

    Liked by 1 person

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