“It's a cross between a stroke and a rub" says Arthur from his allotment by the Old Bridge, Ilkley as he described the technique required to remove elderberries from their stalks to make elderberry cordial. "If you use a fork or anything like that the little blighters will be all over the place" he continued.
Arthur a lifelong gardener, now in his 80's and with a voice reminiscent of Alan Titchmarsh, gave me clear instructions on how to make elderberry cordial. He recommended pouring a teaspoon or two of the deep, dark purple liquor over ice-cream, taking a little in hot water to sooth a tickly throat and, he gave me a glass of cool, freshly made lemonade spiked with a few drops to try on the spot. The flavours were spicy and fruity and made me think of all kind of other uses for this regal juice. I think it would marry well with apples, plums and pears.
Interestingly elderberry cordial does have a place in the household pharmacopeia as a cough linctus. If you browse the cough medicines along the shelves of any big pharmacy you will come across Sambucus based syrup. The thick linctus soothes sore and itchy throats.
For safety reasons the berries should not be eaten raw but they can be stewed and mixed with other berries in jams and compotes. They are too good to waste so enjoy collecting them and making this gorgeous syrup.
Makes 750ml (3 small bottles)
1 plastic carrier bag of elderberries
Approximately 550g granulated sugar
Spices e.g. 1 bayleaf, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds (optional)
Rinse the elderberries in cold water and remove from their stalks. Place the elderberries in a saucepan with 100ml of water and spices, if using. Simmer elderberries gently for 10 minutes and then mash with a flat headed potato masher. Strain the cooked elderberries and spices (if using) through muslin or a straining bag and make sure to extract every last drop of this precious juice. Add 400g of granulated sugar to each 500ml of juice and then gradually bring to the cordial to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the liquid to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Cool, and bottle the cordial in sterilised bottles.