October has brought a distinctive change in the weather, and with it, an influx of sniffles, coughs and colds. We flick the switch on the central heating and the onslaught from the invisible invaders begins; are our immune systems caught off-guard in the ambush?
Our go-to remedy is hot Elderberry Cordial, but I’m not entirely sure what happened to the elderberries this year – whether it was a short season, a poor crop, an influx of birds (or foragers) or just my poor timing, I missed out and had little opportunity to bottle up any of their medicinal goodness.
So here’s another of nature’s hedgerow miracles, the humble rosehip.
Packed with an insane amount of vitamin C, the little red fruits of the rose family have been used by man for centuries. Commonly used to make tea, I personally recall the bright red hips from my days at primary school in Cheshire, where little hands reached through the fence to harvest them as a remarkably potent source of ‘itching powder’. Every hip is packed full of seeds, each covered in tiny irritant hairs that you really want to avoid. Kids can be pretty cruel to each other at times.
Take care when foraging rosehips as it’s all too easy to shred your hands on the thorny bushes – wear gloves or snip the hips off with secateurs.
- 1kg Rosehips, washed
- 1 ltr Water
- 500g Granulated sugar
You’ll also need muslin cloth for straining and sterilised jars or bottles for storing.
I like to trim the hips but it’s not essential.
- Roughly chop the rosehips in a food processor and pop them in a large pan with the water.
- Bring it to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Strain the hips and their pesky hairs through a double layer of muslin cloth, squeezing out as much liquid as you can.
- Strain the liquid again through a couple of layers of muslin cloth into a clean pan and add the sugar.
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved and bring the mix back to the boil for 3-4 minutes.
It’s advisable to bottle the syrup in small quantities as it will need refrigerating once opened.
Yet another ‘Superfood’. As long as you didn’t go too mad on picking the Elderflowers earlier in the year, the fruit of the Elder Tree can be foraged in Autumn and transformed into a number of delightful offerings. This year we decided on elderberry cordial for its lovely flavour, versatility in the kitchen, and medicinal properties (not only are they packed with antioxidants, but some studies have shown success in prevention and treatment of Influenza).
If you’re making cordial or syrup, you’ll simply require the addition of sugar, water and perhaps a few Cloves or Star Anise.
Starting with your basket of Elderberry heads, the first thing you’ll need to do is separate the berries from the stalks. This is important as Elder foliage is poisonous, but thankfully, it’s rather easy. All you need is a regular fork. Surprisingly satisfying it is too.
Give them a good rinse to remove any creepy crawlies that may be lurking.
Pop them in a large pot or ideally a preserving pan, although not many people have these unlike in the good old days. Top the pan up with just enough water to cover them, and then simmer for about 20 minutes.
Next is to strain the Elderberries through muslin cloth to remove the skins and all the little bits. You’ll be left with a rather attractive looking liquid.
Nearly there. Measure how much liquid you have, and then add about 450g of sugar for each pint (568ml). At this point you can add in some whole Cloves or Star Anise for a bit of background spice. Boil for 10 minutes until thick and then remove any spices.
Bottle it up in sterilised bottles or jars and you’re done. Keep it in your fridge once opened.
The children enjoy it diluted with water – particularly sparkling. Now we’re looking forward to the colder months so we can drink it with hot water.
Next year, Elderberry Liqueur…
Is there anything quite like foraging for food? Some of my fondest childhood memories are of mucking around in rock pools. I really hope Felix looks back at this and smiles. Free food always tastes better; why is that?
Shame this one was too small.
If Only We’d Met When You Were Older