Dipping into the Grimoire: Elderberry Cordial

Elderberries shown on the tree


The hero of my fantasy series Night Calls is Alfreda Sorensson, a young practitioner on her way to being a full blown wizard. While I am not Allie, I carry in my heart many of the things she loves and creates wherever she lives. I grow herbs when I can, seek out fresh, organic food and seasonings, and dream of growing heritage apple trees. In a sense, the seeds of her grimoire, Denizens of the Night, are stashed in bits and pieces in folders and my computer.

It’s the season for her elderberry cordial, so I thought I’d share her recipe with you.

This recipe is traditionally used to keep pretty much everything in the unfriendly microbe category away. Fans of it back in colder climes start making it in November and take it until March. Refrigerated the mix can last two months or so, and then seems to go off slightly in flavor. If you cut the honey, it doesn’t last as long. I personally make 2-3 batches a winter. If you are taking it only for preventative purposes and stay healthy, you probably need only a teaspoon a day. If ill or immune compromised, or everyone else at work is ill, you may choose to take up to a tablespoon a day. When ill, if you can keep it down, a half teaspoon an hour might help.

Does this really work? Well, I haven’t had flu in the ten years I’ve made this recipe. So either it works for me, or my immune system is now scary strong. YMMV. I am not a doctor or a practitioner.

Yes, this could be the base for an alcoholic version, but the honey benefits will probably die gasping under the alcohol. Check with your herbalist, or research medicinal cordials. I never add alcohol to mine, but alcohol in correct proportions could make it shelf stable. Use good honey, not mixed from all over the world pasteurized stuff. Honey has curative properties, but you don’t want the honey to get too hot. So do NOT add honey before boiling; add after the mix has cooled down quite a bit.

Remember, do not give this to a child under two years of age. Research honey–there are sound reasons why you don’t give it to infants or toddlers.

Elderbery Cordial for Health

1 cup dried elderberries (organic if possible)
4 cups filtered water
1 square inch peeled organic ginger, slivered up or grated (if desired)
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice
sprinkle ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. Ceylonese cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Saigon Cassia cinnamon

Up to one cup unpasteurized local honey.

Bring water, berries, ginger, and spice mixture to a low, rolling boil. Cook at a gentle roll for fifteen minutes, mostly covered (it can spatter) but not sealed as boil-over will happen. Then set aside to cool down a bit.

Set strainer in 4 quart Pyrex measuring cup; strain mixture. Gently press berries and ginger to get last of juice out. Compost berries, if you compost. Let juice cool some more. You may have up to 3 cups of liquid.

Add one cup of unpasteurized honey. I sample until desired sweetness is reached, but do not add more than one cup. Stir until dissolved, then carefully pour into a clean one quart wide mouth ball jar. (You may add more spring water to recover a full four cups, if desired. But boil that water first.) Refrigerate. Always use a clean spoon each time you dip into the jar. I actually stir and then pour into a shot glass and shoot my morning cordial. You’ve got enough for 1 tsp. a day for three people, with a full recipe. I have halved this in the past to keep it fresh, or if I am heading out for holidays for a few weeks. I try to start taking this two weeks before extensive travel, and then make more on my return.

Thanks to writer Becky Kyle for the ginger suggestion.

I will add that I most definitely am not a medical practitioner. If this has entertained you, I’m glad. And if you feel this traditional berry can improve your life, Allie is delighted that you made its acquaintance!

This picture comes from Wikipedia: wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a9/Sambucus-berries



Dipping into the Grimoire: Elderberry Cordial — 7 Comments

  1. Sounds wonderful — I’m going to try it! Thor makes an Oregon Grape cordial/winter tonic that feels like a concentrated hit of summer during the dark days. He uses alcohol to preserve it; we haven’t tried honey, but maybe we will. Thanks!

  2. This sounds wonderful! I’m going to have to try some this year. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hmm! I realized when I went to make this that I wasn’t sure if the spices (other than the ginger and the nutmeg) are supposed to be measured as the whole/dried version or ground.

      Given the tenor of your intro, I went with the whole versions of everything but the cinnamon; the flavor, when I tasted it, was oddly mild, making me think I perhaps goofed.

      If it’s not too much trouble, would you clarify whether it should be whole or ground spices? TIA!

  3. Innnteresting. My neighbor gave me a cutting of elderberry dunnamany years ago and the damn thing has grown monstrous, migrated, and grown triply-monstrous. I had to cut it absolutely down to the ground because it was twice the size of my bald cypress sapling and overshadowing it. Not sure if it gets enough bees to make berries; it flowers lavishly, but by the time the berries are ripe, there aren’t many on the bushes.

    Really 1 cup honey to 3 cups berry-boil? That’s hella lotta honey.

    I recall Letitia Carberry and her friends were fond of using elderberry cordial–the alcoholic version–medicinally–quite a bit on their many adventures.

    • Yay. Another Tish fan. I keep wishing someone would do a TV series from those short stories.

  4. “Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”

    I was just talking with someone about formulating creative insults without using expletives, and I used that quote as an example. And then I drop by this blog and find this discussion. Heh heh.

    And “elderberry” isn’t really a word people use every day. Anymore…