Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Respect Your Elders

Even though we are on our way out of cold season, it is time to start planning for the next bout of illness. One of my favourite cold remedies is Elder.  Elderflowers and elderberries can be used in teas, tinctures, honeys, and syrups.  Right now is the perfect time to gather the flowers.  You probably have seen them all around you and never knew what they were.  Tiny white blossom bursts in a cone-shaped formation on large bushy trees.  They seem to line the highways and roadways.  They are sun seekers - you will not find them deep in the forest. They always seem to pop out the same time as the cherry blossoms, but don't get the same fanfare, except from me.  I get so excited when I see the first cones.  It is time to make medicine!

Do you see the white cones above?  Here is a close-up:

Snip off the blossoms, just below the cone.  You don't need the leaves.  Fill a jar:

Bring it home and admire the loveliness while you decide how you want to proceed...

I have made honeys, tinctures, teas and syrups.  They all are great in their own ways.  Honeys and syrups are sweet and therefore are easy for kids to take.  Dried blossoms for teas are nice to have on hand for when you want something warm.  Tinctures are quick and simple for adults in need of a remedy. But liqueurs are the nicest way to take your medicine.  I have found that when I am feeling run down and need something special to lift my spirits and my immune system, there is nothing like a small cup of elderberry/elderflower liqueur on ice to warm your insides and banish the bugs.

The process for tinctures and liqueurs starts out the same.  Fill a jar with blossoms (or berries), and cover with vodka.  Any vodka will do.  Let it sit for 6 weeks to allow the alcohol time to draw out the medicinal properties.  Shake jar every week to ensure that all surfaces have been touched.  After the six weeks (or longer) strain out the blossoms and squeeze out any excess liquid.  You now have a tincture. If you want to make a liqueur you can add sugar or honey.  Honey adds additional medicinal properties - local honey is even better!

I happened to have some berries left from last summer hanging out in my freezer.  You see, the easiest way to remove the berries from the toxic stems is to freeze them in a bag and then smash the bag around and the berries release from the stems.  

These are blue and black elderberries.  The blossoms shown above produce a red berry.  The red berries are not as sweet and palatable as the black and blue - but the blossoms are just fine for this project.  I want to let as many flowers turn to black and blue berries - I can't waste my secret stash!

I followed the same process with the berries - covered them with vodka (supervised by Chief of Quality Control - Mr. Simon).

Now all three jars are ready to be tucked into a cool dark cabinet for the next two months.  The berries seemed to have settled, didn't they?

Try your hand at other liqueurs...blackberry is another favourite around here!

Also....Happy May Day!  My little helper and I had such a great time in the sun, breathing the fresh floral air and snipping the cones.  I think gathering elderflowers is going to be my new May Day tradition.

No comments: