Updated: 1 day ago
American Elderberry Syrup
By Heather Wilson
October 11, 2023
Dried elderberries are becoming easier to find in bulk stores and markets. We are also seeing a movement in families who want to make a syrup of their own at home. Although there are many ways to make syrup, today I am going to share with you how to make an elderberry syrup with American elderberries.
Before I jump into the recipe there is a big factor I need to clarify: The difference between native, black American elderberries compared to others found across the globe. The recipes I am going to present are made with native to the USA, black elderberries or Sambucus canadensis. These elderberries do not require boiling to be consumed, but others across the globe do, those are usually labeled as Sambucus nigra. This is why often, elderberry recipes you will come across require you to simmer your berries for a certain amount of time. With our American elderberries, you do not need to. This is why our grandparents grew up eating them right off the plant without getting seriously ill. Many bulk stores are not carrying American elderberries yet, please be sure to check your labels and if you are using imported berries, use another recipe for making syrup.
I also want to address this: Much of what you will find on store shelves is a watered-down version of imported berries that had to be boiled. I implore you to shop local when it comes to your elderberry and ensure you are consuming Sambucus Canadensis berries. Just because your elderberry product was made here in the USA doesn't mean it was made with American elderberries. If it is, we'll tell you on the label, look for that! American farmers will also thank you!
Why make an elderberry syrup? How is the syrup we offer different from the syrup recipes I am going to share with you today? To begin, our American Elderberry Syrup, to be considered a syrup by the FDA must contain at least 60% sugar. What we sell is more of a flavoring for pancakes and waffles, or to make dressings with. Granted, it is made with our Premium American Elderberry Juice, but imagine the level of sugar you'd be eating if you were taking it twice a day. This is why you'll hear us at River Hills Harvest promote you drinking our American Elderberry Juice, because there is zero added sugar or water.
The syrup I speak of today is still essentially a sweetened fruit juice, but the theory is that it contains ingredients that are good for you to take each day. That is why many folks will sweeten their homemade syrup with honey instead of sugar. You could even use maple syrup, agave or other sweeteners. These syrups can be made with fresh, dried or freeze-dried elderberries. Many people also make elderflower syrup.
Let's move onto cooking now... You may notice my recipes are never very exact. Now I don't claim to be a baker, or a chef or even an expert at health. I find joy in experimentation, and realize that everyone has a different palette. What I love to taste, may be different from what works for you and your family. My advice is trying something new or making it your own. Want to add more elderberries, do it. Don't like cloves, omit them. Like hibiscus, add it.
The first recipe we are going to start with is made with our dehydrated/dried American elderberries. This recipe is done in a crock pot, so you aren't standing over a pan trying to keep it from simmering. I love this method because I can set it, enjoy the smells and don't have to watch it. You'll need a crock pot, a strainer and some mason jars.
Dried American Elderberry Syrup:
4oz (or 1 and 1/3 cups) Dried American Elderberries (Sambucus Canadensis)
7 cups Water
3 TBSP Cinnamon
3 TBSP Ginger
1 TBSP Clove
1-2 cups Local Honey
Put all the ingredients in a crock pot, except the honey. Some crock pots have a warm, low and high setting, others just have a low or high. If you can, select the warm setting. You'll want your ingredients to be in the crock pot cooking for 4 to 6 hours, longer if you want a stronger flavor. I have also found that if I leave the lid off, it cooks down more and has a stronger flavor. That choice is up to you. I do check it and give it a good stir every hour.
Once you like the flavoring, strain and let it completely cool in your sanitized mason jars. You don't want to add your honey while the mixture is still hot or warm. Once cooled, add one to two cups of honey. I prefer less than a cup as I don't care for super sweet tastes, I have found though that others like it when it has about a cup in there or more.
Once your honey is added you are ready to go with your syrup! It's only good in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks, so if you can't drink it that fast, I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays so you can thaw it out as needed.
Here's where it gets fun. At different times of the year, or depending on what you can find, you can make syrup with fresh or freeze-dried elderberries as well. AND the process is essentially the same as above! All you will do in the recipes below is swap out the dried elderberries for fresh or freeze-dried elderberries. The amounts will vary as well as the cooking times.
To make a syrup with fresh elderberries, you’ll first want to destem and wash your berries. You’ll use 2 to 3 cups of fresh berries in place of the dried elderberries listed above. Your cook time may also be less. Freeze-dried elderberries can also be substituted using 2 cups of berries in place of the dried elderberries. Your cook time will only be around 2 to 3 hours if using freeze-dried elderberries.
I have seen lots of homesteads incorporate a freeze-dryer into their processing techniques, you too can freeze-dry elderberries. If you can't though, we do sell Freeze-Dried American Elderberries in various quantities year-round. Want to grow your own American elderberries? We have American elderberry cuttings, plants and bare root plants available throughout the year on our website.
In closing, typically folks consume one to two tablespoons of their syrup a day. By being part of the River Hills Harvest crew, I am lucky enough to have access to American elderberry juice and berries year-round. I have enjoyed experimenting with them and sharing those recipes in our Monthly Elderberry Subscription Box. This subscription is only $49.99 a month (with free shipping), and it'd cost more to have 2 bottles of juice shipped to you each month. This box contains a bottle of American Elderberry Juice, a bottle of American Elderberry Cordial and a third rotating product each month plus a recipe that I have curated myself or picked up on from another American elderberry cohort. The recipes are always simple, quick and can easily be customized. Who likes the same thing every day anyways?
If you'd like information on the research being done on American elderberries, please visit the Advancing American Elderberry page on Facebook. The University of Missouri Extension has also published different articles and papers related to American elderberries. We have numerous resources if you are wanting to grow your own American elderberries and we have the plants. We'd love to see you incorporate these into your gardens and diets or start a profitable farm doing what you love.
Until next time friends, cheers to your health,
I am Heather Wilson, of the River Hills Harvest crew. By being part of the company, I am blessed to have access to American elderberries in all forms. I enjoy experimenting with new ways to incorporate them into my diet, as well as other natural plants, berries and more. I have a background in greenhouse management as well as floral design and am involved in the art community as an artist, when time allows. I enjoy playing guitar and writing songs. I also enjoy wandering in nature with no real purpose, because a purpose always presents itself. It’s a busy life, but one that I love and feel lucky to be a part of.