How to Make Elderberry Syrup AND How to Preserve it for Storage
Updated: Aug 31
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Elderberry is an absolute superfood! These little berries are packed full of antioxidants and are known for immune system support! Visit any pharmacy or health food store and you’ll see elderberries sold in various pills, gummies, syrups, and powders. However, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and so there’s never a guarantee that what’s advertised on the bottle is what’s actually in the bottle. Even if the supplement actually contains what is advertised, the body usually absorbs nutrients better from whole foods. Save your money and make your own elderberry syrup!
Making elderberry syrup is so easy, and if you forage or grow your own berries at home, it’s cheap! I forage my own berries, and then water-bath can the syrup, so I have it all year long! I like to use elderberry syrup in a mixed berry jam (see my recipe here), in adrenal cocktails (see my recipe here), and in teas or straight up. I usually take a tablespoon about once a week throughout the winter months to prevent sickness, and once a day if I feel something coming on. It can also be used as a cough syrup.
Sourcing your elderberries can be a bit tricky. You can either purchase a plant to grow your own or purchase dried elderberries. You could grow an elderberry plant in your yard, or a very large pot if you’re renting. I do not have an elderberry plant on my property to pick the berries from, BUT they grow wild all over many parts of the U.S.! Just this year, I made elderberry syrup, various jams, and wine all from elderberries I foraged near my home. We live outside of the city limits, and elderberries grow all over near where we live! I foraged about four 5-gallon buckets in August just from the backroads near our house.
We live in Zone 7b, and the American elderberry is the most common variety that grows near us. There is also the European/black elderberry, red Elderberry, and Blue Elderberry. Please do your own research to learn about what variety grows near you, and practice SAFE foraging. Please be very safe when foraging elderberries. There are poisonous look-alikes to the elderberry bush, so do thorough research. I usually start by using an app called Seek. That gives me a good starting point for my research. But please, do not just rely on one app. If you’re using a foraging app such as Seek, use it only as a launching point to do more research. I will say though, after researching the ins and outs of elderberries native to my area, I felt very confident identifying the plants. If you’re uncomfortable foraging, you can purchase them dried, or purchase a plant to grow your own.
Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes Number of Ingredients: 4
2 cups of elderberries
6 cups of water
2 cups of honey
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1. If using fresh elderberries, make sure to thoroughly wash the berries and remove all stems. Some people use a fork to rake through the stems and remove the berries, and some people just use their hands. Be warned, elderberries do stain clothing, so be cautious. I like to do this on my backstep so that I don’t make a mess inside.
2. In a large pot, combine your elderberries and water
3. Bring the pot to a boil
4. Remove the lid, lower the temperature, and let the pot simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. The mixture should reduce to about ⅔ of its original volume.
5. After this time, remove from the heat, and mash up the elderberries.
6. Using a large strainer, strain off the berries.
7. You should be left with about 2-4 cups of elderberry-infused water. Add the honey and lemon juice to this while it’s still hot and mix thoroughly.
Now you have elderberry syrup!
Canning the syrup:
If you plan to water-bath can the syrup, it’s best to do this immediately after the syrup is finished cooking. Do not let the syrup cool down and then attempt to can it. Adding cool cans to a water-bath canner will cause the jars to break (speaking from experience). It’s best to have a pot designed for water-bath canning with a rack, bubble remover, ruler, jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, jar wrench & jar funnel. Here’s a good one.
1. Sterilize 8-ounce jars with 2-piece lids.
Tip: I usually either hand wash them or run them through the dishwasher. To fully sterilize them, and to keep them hot before you add the jam, I submerge them with lids off in the canning pot while the water comes to a boil.
2. Fill your water bath canning pot and bring it to a boil. You can do this while your syrup is still simmering.
3. Once the water is boiling, or close to boiling, fill your 8-ounce jars with syrup. Leave ¼ inch headspace.
4. Clean the rim of the jars, so there is no debris. Use a clean cloth dry or with water only. Do not use vinegar or anything else to clean the rim. It can disrupt the seal. Hand tighten the 2 piece lids.
5. Place the jars in the rack in the boiling water. There should be at least an inch of water covering the jars. Place the lid on the pot again and let the jars process for 10 minutes in boiling water. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, but leave the jars in the pot for 5 more minutes. Remove the jars after 5 minutes.
6. Carefully remove the jars, and set them right-side-up on a towel. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature. You should hear popping noises as the lids each seal as they cool.
7. After the syrup is cooled, check each seal. If the lids are properly sealed, they should not pop up and down when pressed. If you have any jars with unsealed lids, place the syrup in the refrigerator and eat within 3 months.
8. Label the sealed syrups and put them away to store. Properly sealed syrups should last at least 2 years if stored in a dark and cool place. When you bring one out to use it, always check the seal, and make sure it’s still good.
And that’s it! Don’t let elderberry syrup intimidate you! It’s easy to forage and then prepare into syrup. I keep it around all the time now, and take it regularly to strengthen my immune system!
See my recipe here for Elderberry, Mixed Berry Jam
See my recipe here for Immune-Boosting Elderberry Adrenal Cocktail
What’s your favorite way to get elderberries in your diet? Let me know in the comments!