Since I was a kid I remember taking ‘Jollop’ in the winter to help protect me from those winter colds and flu. This is a name my mother gave to Elderberry syrup. The definition of Jollop is: an undefined medicine. However in this case, it’s what her mother called it! This year, in the depths of a global pandemic, it seems to be the most important time to have some of this magic syrup in my fridge. So, I decided to make it myself!
The Elder tree is one of my favourites in the forest as it gives us delights all through the seasons. It is such a useful and interesting tree it deserves a blog post entirely dedicated to it. Check it out here for more uses, recipes and identification tips.
During the late Summer/early Autumn, the Elder tree produces bountiful amounts of tiny purple/black berries that should definitely be described as a superfood! These tiny berries are packed full of vitamin A and B, and have higher quantities of vitamin C than oranges, which is why they are so good at protecting you from those winter lurgies.
However, these immune boosting berries cannot be eaten raw, they contain substances that are toxic to the human body that, when eaten raw, may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea – I think I’d take a cold over that!
So, to take advantage of benefits these berries hold, they need to be cooked down and then normally the juices are made into a syrup or tincture. I’m going to explain how to make a delicious elderberry syrup that can then be stored ready for when winter comes to fight off those pesky winter cold.
Preparing the syrup
When out walking keep an eye out for when the berries start to turn from green to purple, as then they will be ready to harvest. All you need is a pair of scissors and a shopping bag or basket and you’re ready. Simply fill your bag with the whole florets of berries. It doesn’t matter how many you get as the recipe is easily adjusted.
Now this part is pretty tedious but it’s worth it so persevere! You need to remove all the berries from the stalks, and that includes all the little stalks that get stuck to the berries (sorry). The stalks contain toxins like cyanide, so unfortunately every stalk needs removing. You can use a fork to ease the berries off, and then pick through to remove extra pieces of stalk, debris, and un-ripe berries.
Ok, so you’ve done the hard part, horray! Now you need to wash the berries and add them to a saucepan, adding approximately half the berry volume of water. Simmer the berries with the water for roughly 20mins occasionally mashing them with a potato masher. Take care to ensure the mixture doesn’t come to boil as this will remove some of the goodness. These berries are a brilliant and vibrant colour, however they stain everything they touch, so it’s best to keep wooden implements away from this job. Also take care with your clothes, I would say this job requires an apron or some old clothes, just to be on the safe side.
After 20 mins you need to strain the liquid from the berries using a fine meshed sieve. Leave the sieve over a bowl letting the liquid drip through.
You will then need to measure out your brown sugar (demarea or muscovado). For ever 500ml of liquid, you need 250g of sugar. Add both of these to the saucepan, along with a couple of slices of lemon and a couple of slices of orange. Also, add your spices which are 1 stick of cinnamon and 4 or 5 cloves.
You should now simmer these together for another 20 minutes. Your kitchen will be filled with lovely winter smells, it really reminds me of the smell of mulled wine.
After 20 minutes sieve out the fruit and spices and then use a funnel to decant into a sterilized bottle. The size will depend on the amount of fruit you have collected. I love to re-use bottles, so I used an empty sesame oil bottle, which I also find ideal as it has a handy ‘slow pour’ nozzle. Store it in the fridge for up to 3 months.
And there you have it, a handy bottle of Jollop – I mean elderberry syrup! I tend to just take a spoonful of this in the morning if I am feeling a little under the weather or if people around me are ill. However, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this syrup; you can add it to hot water for a refreshing and nourishing tea full of antioxidants, or you can enjoy it in the evening as a hot toddy and add a little whisky to your tea! That’s bound to beat any flu that’s coming your way!
**Disclaimer: If you are on any other medication, don’t take foraged remedies as it can interact with the medication. Always check with your doctor if it is safe to take herbal remedies.