I just love when England is so … English! Cream teas. Crumpets. Pickle. Hedgerows. Elderberries. Trifles.
Since I’m living in the UK at the moment, I try to rediscover traditional English remedies as often as possible. Most recipes start with picking copious amounts of fresh ingredients from a field, tree or hedgerow. This is a bit of a challenge living in London. You’re not supposed to pick plants in public parks, and the plants growing beside the road either have traffic grime on them, or might have been visited by a dog… Needless to say, whenever we are out of the city, I’m on the lookout for foraging opportunities!
On a recent weekend we took the scenic route down to the south coast and along the way spotted some Elderberries growing beside the road.
(And also saw Bodiam Castle … complete with a moat! Yes, things like this still impress me. Clearly I haven’t lived here long enough yet.)
Elderberries have a reputation for being an amazing cold and flu remedy. They also contain vitamin C and taste pretty good when cooked, so they are often made into jams, jellies, or classic elderberry wine. I decided to make an elderberry cordial.
Not familiar with cordials? They’re my new obsession. Cordials are a fruit or herbal flavored syrup that you add to cold or hot water for a drink (and are very popular in England, frequently called ‘fruit squash’). I like cordials because they’re easy to make, keep for a long time, and you can be really creative. To use cordial, just add a finger or two of the cordial to a glass and top with hot or cold water. They are also brilliant for making cocktails in place of simple syrup.
This elderberry cordial is delicious! I can’t attest to its immune-boosting properties yet, but I’ll be testing it throughout the winter. So far I’ve been drinking the cordial cold, but I plan to mix it into a mug of hot water this winter … probably with a shot of brandy for extra warmth!
- 1.5 lbs Fresh Elderberries (or however many you have!)
- Demerara sugar (or whatever sugar you have available)
- Cinnamon Sticks
In a saucepan, cover the elderberries in water (just enough to cover them). Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. The berries will become very soft and the liquid will be dark red.
Strain out the berries, reserving the juice. (Be careful with the juice, it stains!).
Measure the amount of juice.
Pour juice back into empty saucepan. For each 2 cups of juice, add 2 cups of demarara sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, and the juice from 1/2 lemon.
Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 15 minutes, stirring regularly (to ensure all the sugar is dissolved). Remove cinnamon sticks. Let cool while you prepare the bottles.
I store my cordial in the fridge so I don't do an 'official' bottling. Take your bottle(s), and clean them well with hot, soapy water. Then, rinse them with boiling water as a final step.
Once the bottles are cool, fill with cordial, cap, and store in the fridge. Will keep for at least 6 months.
Serve a few fingers of cordial with hot water (and a splash of brandy) when sick or feeling rundown, or with cold still or bubbly water (or champagne!) for an aperitif. If you don't want to make your own elderberry cordial, you could try this delicious elderflower cordial instead, yum!