Come late August and September, the branches of the elder tree are heavy with elderberries; clusters of purple-black berries packed with nutritious juice renowned for keeping colds and flu at bay.

My favourite way of harnessing elderberries' immune-boosting properties is to make elderberry syrup. I often make it in those first few weeks my children are back at school after the summer holidays – also known as 'germ term' – as it helps bolster us against the barrage of winter bugs.

Spice wise I tend to opt for the classic clove and cinnamon combo but depending on what's in the cupboard I've also been known to add ginger, star anise or a splash of orange extract.

This spiced elderberry syrup tastes great in porridge, poured over pancakes or mixed with ginger wine for a delicious autumn toddy.

Please note: Elderberries cannot be eaten raw – they need to be cooked before consumption.


  • 20 Clusters of elderberries
  • Caster sugar 450g to every pint of strained juice
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 8-10 Cloves
  • A couple of strips of orange peel


  • STEP 1

    Using a fork, strip the berries from the stalks.

  • STEP 2

    Place berries in a pan then pour over enough water to cover the berries. Simmer gently until the berries are soft.

  • STEP 3

    Strain through a sieve, giving the berries a good squeeze with the back of spoon.

  • STEP 4

    Measure the resulting liquid and return to the pan. Pour in 450g of sugar per pint of juice.

  • STEP 5

    Add the spices and orange peel then gently heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

  • STEP 6

    Leave to cool, remove the spices and peel, then transfer to sterilised glass bottles or jam jars.


Abigail is a freelance writer and editor based in Hereford.