Elderberry Tonic Wine, the drink of the Gods

My apologies for my absence the last month, I moved house amongest other life changing events, so still unpacking! Oh and to try and be as environmentally friendly as possible with my move, I reused all my cardboard boxes and turned them into halloween masks and costumes for my art classes!

I have been taking opportunity of the unexpected lovely weather to do more foraging and over the last month, have been gathering large quanties of rosehips, elderberries, blackberries and hawthorn berries.

I topped and tailed the rosehips, sliced in half, painstakingly removed the seeds and then dried on a flat baking tray for a few hours and so far have collected enough for a large jam jar which I’ve sealed with a tight lid. I also made up a batch of Rosehip Syrup since I keep coming down with colds and coughs. Interestingly enough,  the syrup was a much darker golden colour then the first batch I made in early September.[oh in this photo, you can see the elderberries, my rosehip syrup,broad beans and mangetout from my garden and some rosehips]

I have been freezing half my blackberries by sorting carefully, washing and then drying lightly in a old tea towel before packing flat into see through freezer bags. These we intend to make into blackberry pie, blackberry tart, blackberry fool, blackberry crumble… The rest of the blackberries was had fresh with yoghurt, ice cream, custard or mixed into cereal for a healthy start to the day.

I have discovered that I have an absolute passion for elderberries and made a large batch of Elderberry Tonic Wine last week, six wine bottles in total. It was time consuming to make but simple enough. Here is the recipe if you’re lucky enough to have some Elder growing nearby:

1] Remove all stems from berries and wash throughly

2] Place about a cup worth of berries in a large saucepan with a litre of flitered water and let it come to the boil

3] Simmer for twenty minutes, then remove berries using a sieve, crush well [could also use a muslin cloth to strain liquid] and return to mixture

4] Boil up again and then strain for final time with muslin

5] Return clear liquid to saucepan and add three bags of sugar [according to taste but the more sugar, the longer it will last] and boil again for five to ten minutes stirring all the while with a wooden spoon

6] When the sugar has dissolved, carefully pour the liquid into sterilised bottles [glass wine and fruit bottles work well for this]. Seal instantly and store in a cupboard until opened and then keep in a fridge [photos to follow of finished wine]

7] To serve, place a dash of elderberry tonic wine in a saucepan and add a cup of water, heat gently until bubbling and then pour into glasses and drink while hot. Heavenly!

I have been doing some research on the Elder tree and was quite fascinated by what I found. According to ancient belief, the Elder tree represented the Earth Mother who protected her trees and so the tree became sacred. There was also a belief that if you fell asleep under a elder tree you would never awaken for the fragance of the flowers would transport you to the Otherworld. Apparently, there is a mild sleep inducing drug inside the branches of the tree which might have started this idea.

The Elder has been used for healing for a long time, the bark as a diurectic, the shoots for the lungs, the juice of the leaves for eye inflamnation, the flowers for arthitis, the voice and for cosmetic use while the berries are used for cattarah, to boast the immune system and for the lungs.

Elder in Ireland was traditionally used by witches at Samhain [Halloween] to enchance communications with the otherworld. It was believed that breathing deeply of the elder blossoms at midnight on midsummers night will open the portals to the faerie realms.

It was carried at weddings to bring good luck to the couple and the flowers were thought to help protect unborn children. It is called the Queen of herbs because of the great healing and support it has always given people.

I wasnt as surprised as I might have been to find this all out as I have been having a dash of my Elderberry tonic wine every night to combat a chest infection and other ailments that were troubling me and it has made a world of difference. Its not just the heavenly scent of the elderberries that sets my mouth watering, or the sight of the beautiful dark mysterious deep purple liquid in my glass but the sensational taste, powerfully sweet yet evocative of the richest wines.

I think in truth I have become addicted! 🙂 Now, the only question is how to make my supplies last until next autumn!


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