Archives for posts with tag: Food and Related Products

elderberries, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves & elderflowers, yarrow, peppermint

Elderberry syrups are everywhere these days.

I love the fact that these products are available but I often wince at the price tag.  It is like anything though, you are paying for the convenience and the availability… and maybe a touch of hype?  I know how to make elderberry syrup, and I can tell you that it is not very expensive to make.   It’s no wonder that this syrup is in demand: elderberries are anti-inflammatory, relaxingly diaphoretic, antiviral against many viruses and a wee bit laxative in regular doses.  These little berries are helpful in cases of colds, sore throats and flus.

I like to keep elderberries on-hand. One of the advantages in doing so is that I do not have always make a syrup.  I can make a decoction of the berries, and then add little honey. Sometimes I forego the honey, since  it’s important to avoid sugar; too much sugar gives my immune system a lot to deal with. This will ultimately set me back.  On the other hand, there is a disadvantage to avoiding sugars in herbal preparations. In this case, an elderberry decoction has a much shorter shelf life – like between 24 and 72 hours – if kept in the fridge.  I add honey and make an elder berry syrup in cases where I want a longer shelf life, if I am dealing with people who are new to herbal remedies, or who have sensitive palates.

Elderberry Syrup

The most basic syrup is elderberries simmered for a long while in water, then squished, strained and composted. Add honey to the final decoction.  As always, I can add all sorts of tasty and useful ingredients to make it my own lil’ creation.

First Step

1/2 cup dried elderberries (50 grams)

3 cups of water

In a sauce pan, bring cold water and berries to a boil, then slowly simmer until it is reduced to 1/2 the amount, between one cup and one and a half cups.

Second Step: Squish the berries to release the juice, Strain with a strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Compost the berries.

Third Step: Mix 1 cup of raw honey into the hot decoction.  Sometimes I add tinctures, like 50 ml of echinacea.

Fourth Step: Put the syrup into a suitable container with a tight fitting lid, making sure that there is not a lot of head space.  Label clearly, note ingredients, suggested uses and the date it was made. Use within 2-3 months (before the end of the winter).

How I use the syrup: I take a teaspoon of the syrup several times a day if I am fighting a cold or flu because it will generally decrease the severity and duration of the illness.  It is nice to stir it into a tea… perhaps the elderflower, mint and yarrow tea?

The decoction: Take 1 tablespoon of the berries and put in a sauce pan with 2 cups of cold water.  Add fresh ginger or cinnamon if you would like.  Slowly simmer this until it is reduced by half or for a half an hour.  Remove from the heat.  If you want, add a teaspoon or two of dried leaves and flowers to this (yarrow, mint, elderflower) and steep for 10 minutes before straining everything.  This might seem like a strong brew, so I take a 1/4 cup every couple hours.  I drink other tea and water in addition to this because I know that I want to get a lot of fluids into my system when I am fighting something.

THE DIY elderberry syrup kit!

Take the ingredients of your choosing and put them in a little muslin bag.  Or put them in a cute jar that could hold the syrup after it is ready made.  Attach clear instructions on how to make, use and store this syrup.  Add a little container of ye olde traditional blend of peppermint, elderflower and yarrow. Decorate as desired.  The ready made syrup is a nice gift too.  I like the dried berries and such because it is easier to transport and people have the choice of making a decoction without sweetener or a syrup.

optional additions:

1 stick of cinnamon , 5 cloves, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon echinacea root, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, a few slices of raw ginger

*glycerites of elderberry are also wonderful.

** the elderberries I am referring to are Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis.  Be sure to know what berries you are working with.  The red berry elders are toxic.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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A few years ago I discovered a cool little book called Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning written by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante.  I was intrigued by this book because it outlined traditional techniques using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage and lactic fermentation.  These types of food preservation were basically unheard of in my family.  By the time I came around in the 70’s, nobody was preserving food with these methods. Where I grew up, there were two ways to keep food (lots of vinegar or lots of sugar) and both involved subjecting foods to plenty of heat. So, for me, this type of book is controversial.  It goes against the advice and intelligence of my first community.  I feel though, that this intelligence was under the influence of a particularly recent trend.  My grandparents parents likely knew some of these methods.

Many of the recipes outlined in this book would make perfect gifts; dried fruits, sun dried tomatoes, homemade vegetable bouillon powder, harissa, herbs in oil, marinated rosehip jam, fruit syrups, chutneys, and fruits in alcohol.  The recipes for crocks of lactofermented fruits and vegetables look delicious to me, but… these might not be everyone’s idea of a perfect gift.  I will try to stick to the recipes that I know will be a hit, like steeped fruits.

I once made two varieties of the most delicious steeped fruits; plums and cardamom and pears with vanilla and black pepper.  I picked out perfect fresh fruits (this is important) and a little spice, filled two clean canning jars with them, added one cup of sugar to each and filled the jar with alcohol.  I let it steep a couple months before I opened the jars.  If my grandma knew how easy it was to “can” something, she might be shocked.  It is extremely easy to make fruits in alcohol and it makes a very decadent gift.

Right now you will likely not find any perfect fresh fruits.  But you can make this with dried fruits.  It is not exactly the same, but it is still a very special treat.  A very small quantity (like a tablespoon) of this with a little cake or ice cream is a nice occasional treat.  You can also use these little fruits in baking such as butter-tarts and cakes.

Today I am steeping fruits for Christmas cake and pudding. Over the years, we have actually developed a taste for these foods.

Here are some combinations that I have heard of:

  • dried apricots, vanilla, brandy and a little sugar
  • raisins and currants in Pedro Ximénez sherry
  • prunes, red wine, brandy and a little linden tea
  • golden raisins in Grand Marnier
  • raisin with rum or raisins with gin.
  • sun cooked cherries, brandy, a little sugar

An easy gift that does not involve alcohol is the “Compote Bonne Maman Ceries – Cherry.”

Make it DIY by decorating the jar!

This is a lovely gift!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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