Elderberry winter tonic recipe and a giveaway!

It’s a bumper crop year for elderberries here in Nebraska, it appears. Little Mack asked me yesterday when we were going to start school. I looked at him blankly for a moment, thinking “School? Already? When there are so many elderberries to pick and process?” That’s not what I said, though. I said “School! School? Oh, yeah–school! I can’t wait–I think–next week, how does that sound?”


I hissed to Amalia, later: “I’m not ready to start school yet!” and she laughed and said (in a fond manner, sweet girl that she is) “Mom, you’re never ready to start school!” Which. Is true. Why, I ask you, does school have to start at the most delicious time of year, when the nights are cool and perfect for star-gazing, even the bugs are beautiful and fascinating, harvest season in the garden and the fields and the wild areas is just beginning and the days are sunny and pleasant? Hello?

Two words: Outdoor School. That’s what I’m thinking. πŸ™‚ In the Woods School. At the Picnic Table School. Picking Elderberries School. πŸ™‚ On the Bikes School. Yes, I think we can make this work. πŸ™‚ School is a very broad term at our house.

Very Broad, indeed.

Learning happens everywhere, with just a bit of forethought, don’t you agree? A good history reader can be stuck into a backpack and read in the waiting room, while Mom has her eye appointment (it will take longer than you think, you know.) Sketchbooks can be carried anywhere, those daily sketches done in the car or during church (it helps me listen, don’t laugh). Math can be done outside, on the picnic table, as long as you can ignore the bluebird scouts that happen through one morning, the funny little Icelandic roos that are beginning to crow now and sound like dear rusty hinges, the dog that is whining plaintively for a walk, the bald eagles that soar overhead now and then . . . okay, kids, better move inside to do math.

elderplantsBut anyway. I’m scrambling here a bit this week, since we’ve been picking wild elderberries and wild plums and rose hips to make into our precious cache of wild foods for winter. I’m thankful for all this activity out and about, inside and out. Not to mention, my tomatoes are producing like gangbusters.

“Gangbusters.” Whatever does that mean??

I gave a boxful of beautiful heirlooms to a tomato-loving friend whose tomatoes haven’t produced as she had hoped this summer. “I thought you’d give me the ugly ones,” she said. There are no ugly tomatoes this year. It is a great tomato year in my garden. Take a gander. (More about this next week).

A 2-pound Brandywine.

A 2-pound Brandywine.

The weather has been delightful–very cool atΒ  night, and perfect temperatures and sunshine during the day–and it’s so pleasant to turn attention from a weedy, grasshopper-bopping garden to the wild areas around our home. I would live outside, if I could. That’s between you and me, Gentle Reader. And anyway, you already knew that, right?


Anyway. Here’s my elderberry winter tonic recipe that I promised you earlier this week. You can use fresh elderberries, or if it’s not the right time of year for elderberry harvest or if they don’t grow in your area, you can buy them here.* Be aware that the recipe is slightly different if you use the dried elderberries. Hang on, I have an elderberry giveaway at the end of this post, too.

Elderberries are an awesome wild food, with many great medicinal properties. Read more about them here. They are best known for being a powerful booster of the immune system, and that’s why so many health-conscious folks make some sort of winter tonic or syrup, yours truly included. Elderberries are rich in antioixidants and vitamins A, B and C. They’ve been reported to be good for many health problems, including easing arthritis symptoms (not that I’m old enough to start worrying about that . . . cough . . . ).

The only tedious thing about making this winter syrup is the stemming of the elderberries, but I have one handy tip for this task: Netflix.Β The kids and I never turn on the t.v. during the day, unless we’re working on a tedious task together that can be done with one eye on Sherlock. Or a Downtown Abbey rerun. Or a M*A*S*H, if we’ve only got 20 minutes or so. Yesterday both Amalia and Mack asked me if we were going to work on elderberries (“please, Mom? Can’t we work on elderberries today?” πŸ™‚

Thank you, Netflix.) πŸ™‚

It almost feels like we’re getting away with something, enjoying our elderberry stemming so, so much. πŸ˜‰

I just love Sherlock. If Mack joins us, there are certain episodes that we don’t watch, because they are a bit too grim. What am I saying? Some episodes are too grim for me.

washed and stemmed elderberries

Washed and stemmed elderberries are a beautiful sight.

This happened at our place yesterday afternoon: Me: Oh, my, well, I need to vacuum the living room and finish up the dishes first before I have time to stem the elderberries-–” Little Mack: *sighs* Okay Mom, I can do the vacuuming and I’ll ask Amalia to help do the dishes so we can do the elderberries quicker . . . ” I am not making this up. It happened. Cross my heart.

But, back to the winter tonic. This is a very strong syrup and can be taken every day as an immune booster (1 tsp per day for adults, half that for kiddos) or added to fizzy drinks (I’m making elderberry kombucha with it this week) or used in any way that you’d use other sweet syrups. It’s just lovely to have in the ‘fridge all winter long. It’s a delightful taste of fall that will nourish you through the winter months, if you get on it and make it now. I like to drizzle it on breakfast yogurt, too.

This tonic will stay good in your 'fridge for months.

This tonic will stay good in your ‘fridge for months, too. I hope to make enough to last us the whole winter through.

If you don’t have the time to make it right now, you can always stick the stemmed elderberries in the freezer and make it later. If you have the freezer space available. (I don’t.)

4.6 from 8 reviews
Elderberry Winter Tonic
Recipe type: immune-boosting syrup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 quart (ish)
Elderberries and raw honey are both anti-viral, and together with fresh ginger and spices, make a delicious and nutrient-rich syrup for use in your healthy kitchen! This recipe can be doubled or tripled or quadrupled or whateverupled.
  • 1 cup fresh elderberries, washed thoroughly and stems removed, or ⅔ cup dried*
  • 1 cup water (or if using dried elderberries, make it 3 cups of water)
  • 2 Tb fresh ginger (grated) or 1 tsp dry
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ cup honey (local and raw, if possible)
  1. Bring berries, spices, and water to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
  2. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes (or 45 minutes if using dried elderberries). (Word to the wise: don't go out to the garden while this is happening, because invariably it WILL boil over and your son will shriek mightily from the kitchen and you will bolt back to the house, thinking that he has had a horrific accident. You will be relieved that he is not mangled in some way, but your stovetop will be, I'll warrant, a distressing mess.)
  3. Strain out elderberries, pushing on them with a wooden spoon to get all the juice out.
  4. Let cool.
  5. Stir in honey.
  6. Decant into bottles or jars and keep in the refrigerator. Lasts for months.
  7. Use in drinks, on ice cream, pancakes, etc., or just take 1 tsp per day as a health-building tonic.

This winter tonic (I like calling it a tonic, it has such a restorative, old-fashioned sound to it) will help sustain you through the winter months, when you are recalling lovely days like this one . . .



But wait, that’s not all . . . to reward you for reading this blog to the end, I’m doing a quick, impromptu giveaway. Mountain Rose Herbs, the excellent company that I buy organic herbs and many other things from, gave me some dried elderberries to do a giveaway with! Let’s keep this simple. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment below. For a second entry, share this post (making a note in the comments that you did so). That’s it! The contest will end a week from today (next Thursday) and we’ll pick a winner randomly.

Good luck to you and thanks, guys!


*Quick note: This affiliate link is a company that I have done business with and heartily endorse. Shopping from an affiliate link like this one doesn’t cost you a cent extra, but helps me create a bit of revenue that I roll back into this blog, helping me create free content for you! Cool how that works, eh? Thanks so much!

100 thoughts on “Elderberry winter tonic recipe and a giveaway!

  1. Diane

    “Be aware that the recipe is slightly different if you use the dried elderberries.” – How so? Do you mean the amount of berries is different? If that’s not what you meant, could you please explain? Dried elderberries will be all I ever get to use where I live! Thanks!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Diane, I’m sorry, I forgot to add that part. I’ve added it now. If you’re using dried elderberries, use 2/3 cups of them, with 3 cups of water, and simmer them for 45 minutes instead of 20. The dried berries need the extra liquid and the extra simmering time to rehydrate them. Thanks for bringing this omission up! Good luck with your tonic!

  2. Robin Follette

    The wild birds feasted on the elderberries this year. I’ve been trying to decide if I want to make chokecherry jelly but now I just want elderberries. I’ll have to look for them on my way to and from Lincoln tomorrow. Thanks for sharing yoru recipe. It’s good to know I don’t need quarts of them.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Robin, I’m a bit jealous of the chokecherries. They are very hard to find here, and the ones we planted haven’t done very well. And I loooove chokecherry jelly! Good luck with the elderberries. My chokecherry jelly doesn’t usually set up very well, but I don’t mind because it makes the nicest pancake syrup.

      1. Jillian

        Chokecherry syrup goes best on pancakes with fresh corn mixed in the batter snd cooked in bacon fat so the edges are crispy. Just sayin.

        1. dramamamafive Post author

          Oh my goodness, Jillian, that sounds so delicious. Do you have a specific recipe, or do you just chuck the corn in?? Crispy edges . . . yum!!

  3. Jim graham

    If you freeze elderberries… Do you know how long they will stay good for? I have some wild crafted berries from last year that I still haven’t done anything with but hope to soon.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I think if you have them well wrapped up (say, in freezer bags) they would stay good for a year or two. I’d just pull them out and give the a good look and sniff. They are probably fine.

  4. Heather Harvey

    We love elderberry tonic at our house. My goal one day is to own an elderberry plant but they don’t exist don’t here. I will have to visit friends up north to get a starter. *it has to be started already, I have a a very black thumb* I’m going to share this because we are out of elderberries at the moment!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks for the share, Heather. Elderberries grow wild here but I know that there are lots of cultivars available. I hope you can find one that will grow down there!

  5. Stephanie

    Our chiropractor recommended elderberry syrup for our 8-yr old daughter (whose hair does not grow). Now I can make it myself–thank you!!

    (Also, I shared this on Facebook.) πŸ™‚

  6. Veronica

    Hi Amy

    I always enjoy reading your posts and thank you for hosting this giveaway. I order from Mountain Rose Herbs all the time and have always received quality product so I hope to win this! Also they are located in my old home town of Eugene, Oregon.

    Thanks again, and keep sharing : )


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  8. Francene Stanley

    Oh, Amy. Your lifestyle sounds so idyllic. No school? What little boy would refuse this. He even helped with the housework so you could prepare the elderberries. I wish some grew close to me and I wish I had the energy to prepare them and make the tonic. But that’s not going to happen, so I’ll share your happiness.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Francene, I certainly am blessed. I am also blessed by friends like you. Thank you for your constant positive comments to me, they are such an encouragement.

  9. Amy L

    I’ve been taking elderberry syrup during flu season for a couple of years, ever since I had a bad flu that was made much better by taking it.

  10. Lesa

    I used to make elderberry jelly years ago, I would go looking for them now but no time. If I win this giveaway and get some dried elderberries from Mountain Rose Herbs then I will make this syrup. . Guess if I don’t win I will just have to order some.

    Going to share this on Pintrest

  11. DJ

    This looks like a great recipe! I have never tried elderberries before, so this is really exciting. I can’t wait to make this recipe.

  12. Pat

    I actually order from Mountain Rose……I have the dried elderberries but I also ordered the powdered ones………..I am wondering if they would work in the tonic also? Thanks Amy for your lovely posts………….

  13. Debra Beeuwsaert

    I have never tried elderberries. I believe I have a few bushes on my property but will need to make sure with the state extension office.

    I also forwarded this post via email to my friend, Penny.

  14. Rose

    Ok…you got me on this one. I’ve been hearing you speak of ederberries and was intrigued by these little tiny berries. Never heard of them nor tasted them. Can you make a syrup and add it to your hot tea? Or for that matter cold? I love my lemongrass, ginger tea with roselle in it. Would love to taste your elderberry kombucha. Too bad we’re not neighbors! We could trade off tasting all our goodies we make! Enjoy your elderberries!

  15. Alana

    Shared this on Twitter. Alas, I haven’t had a source for wild elderberries for many years. Miss the years I was able to gather them when I live in rural Arkansas. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

  16. Kelly

    I love elderberries. I have been wanting to harvest ours but this year we didn’t get any berries πŸ™ I am hoping my neighbors will share πŸ™‚

  17. Mary Ann Cauthen

    I am going to look for elderberries here in GA & try this!! I greatly enjoy your writings & photos, & as for the schooling just go the Hewitt route of “unschooling”. It works!! Thanks for sharing so much of your life. I would love to have the give away. Mary Ann

  18. Claudia

    Thank you for this recipe. I usually just go home and make an alcohol tincture. This sounds delicious. Once you can recognize the elderberry bush you’ll be surprised how often you can just pull over and pick a nice little passel of them out in the wilds.

  19. Kay

    thanks for the name of your organic herb supplier. Can’t wait to look them up online. Shared this on Facebook to a forager, natural foods friend. And for the tonic recipe. And yes, you can do school whenever. The jobs of homeschooling. We always postponed it for a while during harvest or cut way back. If we did do any school, we called it our Vo-AG unit, because it usually revolved around harvest yields, weather, repairs, field meals, time management, cost analysis, grain judging, and social skills ( also known as: How to have a discussion in the heat of a major combine breakdown or with bad weather coming or being just plain worn out.)

  20. Pingback: On schooling, learning, immersion learning, and life. - vomitingchicken.com

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh yes! I’m going to make some more this evening. The kitchen is already hot, so why not make it a little sweet smelling?

  21. Sunshine

    I love this peek into your life! I’d love to know what other “wild winter” foods you preserve with your harvests. Thanks for sharing your recipe…I tried locally made elderberry syrup last winter for the first time, and would love to make some this year!

    I will share this post on FB, too!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sunshine: the short list: wild plum jelly and jam, rose hips for tea, herbs (natch); I dry dandelion leaves for my canary’s (he deserves the special treatment) winter enjoyment. If I can swing it (timewise) I dry nettles for green smoothies, I love to freeze aronia berries for smoothies and scones, and of course the elderberry winter tonic is at the top of the list! Thanks for your comment! Someday we must meet!

  22. Dakota Hurley

    Usually I’m a quiet lurker around here, but figured I could finally introduce myself since that also means I get to enter into an amazing and gracious giveaway! My family and I live in Nebraska also! We are about 50-60 minutes south of Lincoln. I have been following your blog for awhile now, as I am truly inspired by and hope to attain some knowledge from your lifestyle! Anyways, love and blessings! XO, Dakota

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Dakota, wellll I’m so glad you are ready to get acquainted! Someday soon I’ll get up the nerve to go have a meet and greet in Lincoln with my area Gentle Readers, and then I hope to meet you in the flesh!

  23. Renee

    Oooooo this sounds like fun! I love discovering new health remedies…elderberries…I’m not sure we even have them around here…..but I would love to give this a try! Thanks and sharing now…to Facebook πŸ™‚

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