Monday, November 21, 2016

Elderberry Tea and Syrup

During this time of year, it seems that colds and flu are running rampant. Thankfully, due to my family's diet and use of doTERRA essential oils, we hardly ever get sick; but I am always on the look-out for natural immune boosting items I can use. I had heard of elderberry syrup before, but I never really looked into it until we moved up to Idaho. Elderberries grow wild everywhere around here, and it seems like all my friends are praising the health benefits of using these tiny berries. Some of their most important benefits are their ability to boost your immune system and protect against bacteria and infection. You can use this tea (or syrup) every day as a preventative, or use it multiple times a day when you are feeling under the weather. Hearing all of this, I had to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. 
     The plants look somewhat like lilac bushes, with clumps of berries that have a white coating on the outside. Once the berries are washed they look either blue/black/purple (the ones I have) or red. The fresh berries grow anytime between July and November, depending on the climate. If you decide to go out looking for your own, make sure you research it a bit. I have a book on foraging for wild berries and I studied that, as well as researched online, quite thoroughly before I went out and picked any for myself. I didn't want to accidentally pick the wrong thing. My father-in-law also picked a cooler full of elderberries from our yard while my in-laws were visiting a few weeks ago, so I had a lot to work with. The recipe at the end of the post is only 1/5 of what I am showing you in the pictures, so don't fret when your pot doesn't look as full as mine. You can totally make an elderberry syrup with only 3 ingredients (water, berries and honey), but this recipe has some additional ingredients as well. All of these ingredients have immune boosting and antibacterial/antiviral properties, and they happen to taste really yummy as well. (Aside from the rose-hips that don't really have much flavor on their own.)
    Another important fact to note is that the only edible part of the elderberry plant is the juice from the berries. The leaves, stems and seeds are all toxic, so you have to be very careful when preparing them. (You can also use the flowers, but that is another post.)
     The first step to preparing the fresh berries is to remove the stems and rinse them. Then, just put them in a pot.

Another plant that grows like crazy around here is rose-hips. When they are in bloom, a lot of people call them country roses. They are extremely high in vitamin C, so I added them to my tea as well, but if you can't find any then you can leave them out. It's an optional ingredient. If you are able to harvest your own rose-hips keep in mind that the brighter they are, the more vitamin C they have. As they get older, they turn softer and darker, and loose a lot of their vitamins.
I just cut the top and bottom off the rose-hips and put them in the pot with the berries. You'll want to add 2-3 fresh rose-hips for every 1 cup of berries. (Or you can use 1 Tbsp ground rose-hips.) Or you can just skip it all together.
Next comes the citrus. I used lemon, but orange works really well also. You can zest 1 clean, whole organic lemon, or just cut it in slices like I did.
Add in some organic cinnamon sticks.
Then add the clove. I didn't have any fresh organic cloves on hand, so I added the ground version. I know some people are very adverse to using cloves, so if you are one of those people, just leave it out. You won't get the antioxidant or anti-septic benefits, but the syrup is still very beneficial without it.
Next comes the ginger. You need 2 Tbsp. It's more potent if you grate it, but I was in a hurry and just sliced it into coins.
I also added some fresh organic turmeric root. It is a good anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient. Again, it is more potent if you grate it in, but I just sliced it into coins. (It's the small circles that look a little like carrots.) If you can't find fresh turmeric root, you can use the powdered version.
The last ingredient is water. The typical ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of fresh berries (1/2 cup dry), but I wanted to make it stronger, so I only added 1 1/2 cups for every 1 cup of fresh berries. I had 5 cups of berries, so I added 7 1/2 cups of water.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Get a potato masher and gently smash the berries, so release all the juice.
Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit.
Then just let it cool, and strain it out. (If you are going to can the syrup for later use, just leave it hot and jar it up as you would any other juice. DO NOT add the honey before you can, because the heat will kill alot of the antibacterial/antifungal properties in the honey.)

Once the mixture is cool, then you can add in the raw, organic, unfiltered honey. The more raw and unfiltered it is, the better for you it is. It will last a few weeks in the fridge. The syrup is very sweet by itself, so if you find it hard to take straight-up, you can always enjoy it as a tea by adding luke-warm water to a mug and mixing in some of the elderberry syrup. My hubby actually just mixes the juice with water, and a small amount of honey for his tea. It is more bitter this way, but that's the way he likes it.
Here's the recipe:  As I mentioned earlier, you can make a simple elderberry syrup by boiling 1 1/2 cups water with 1 cup of fresh berries. Smash the berries and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain out the berry pulp and let it cool. Once cool, add an equal amount of raw, unfiltered honey. The other ingredients in my recipe are all beneficial, and tasty, but if you find you want more or less of an added ingredient know that you are free to change up the recipe to your liking.

Elderberry Syrup

1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried)
1 1/2 cups filtered water
1 stick organic cinnamon
6 whole organic cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground - optional)
2 Tbsp freshly grated organic ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
2-3 fresh rosehips (or 1 Tbsp ground rosehips - optional) 
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground turmeric (or 1/2 tsp powdered)
Zest of 1 organic lemon, or orange
1 cup raw, organic, unfiltered honey

Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the honey, in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Using a potato masher, smash the ingredients to release the berry juice. Simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. You should have 1 cup of juice.  (You may can the juice at this point, while it's still hot, if you are making a larger batch and want to have it shelf stable to save it for later use.) 
Let it cool, and add the honey. Store it in a mason jar, or other air-tight glass container, in the fridge. It can keep for up to 2 months in the fridge because of the high sugar content from the honey, but you will most likely use it up before then. 
Take 1 Tbsp daily as a preventative, or 3-4 times a day to help you get over an illness. 
You can serve it as a tea by adding 2-4 Tbsp of syrup to a mug and fill the cup with lukewarm water. (Hot water is not good for the honey.)

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