21 July 2011

Sciroppo di Sambuca

Elderberry Trees grow all over Liguria and when you come across a tree with it’s branches hanging heavy with these clusters of black fruit attached to bright magenta stems, it begs to be picked! Unfortunately, I missed the flowers this season (there are so many wonderful things you can make with the incredibly floral Elderberry flower), but the bunches of berries did not escape me.

**Please note that elderberries are NOT to be eaten raw. They contain alkaloids that must be cooked out before consumption.

There are numerous recipes for elderberries; everything from jellies to pies to syrup. Due to the fact that elderberry is very medicinal and the syrup is good for warding off colds and flu, I decided to make syrup out of my impromptu harvest. I used the recipe from David Lebovitz here.

Elderberry Syrup
1 Kg/ 2 lbs Elderberries
1 L/ 4 cups water
500 g/ 2 ½ cups sugar
Fresh lemon wedge

The first thing I did with the berries is soak them in water for about an hour to make sure all the little spiders and other bugs beat it out there comfy home. Then, I lifted them out of the water and into a large colander and started to carefully pull all the little berries off the stems and into a large bowl. This is not as tedious as it sounds, but you do need to be gentle as you move your fingers through the stems to pull off the berries. They should come off fairly easily. Some of the pink stems will wind up in your berries, but don’t worry about it. You want to use only the dark, almost black berries and avoid the awfully bitter red berries, so discard any red ones you come across.

When you have removed all the berries from the stems, dump them in a stainless steel pot with the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to cook at a low boil for about 20 minutes.

Prepare a large work area that can handle stains because this next part can get a little messy. Pass the mixture through a food-mill (these are really great and everyone should have one. I think they are under-used in the US. You can get one on Amazon).

I took the remaining pulp from the food-mill and pressed it through a strainer to get the remaining liquid out.

Return the liquid back to the pot and add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil for 15-20 minutes until it reduces to a syrup.
A lovely pink foam will form on the surface. Squeeze the lemon into the syrup, stir and pour straight into sterilized jars or bottles. Will keep for several months in the refrigerator.

Elderberries have a very unique flavor, unlike anything else I have tasted. The syrup is not only good for you, but it tastes great as a topping on vanilla ice cream or it is delightful with white wine, as an Elderberry Kir. For Tons of other recipes for elderberries, check out the compilation on Wildcraft Vita.



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