Winter Elderberry Shrub
Elderberries (sambucus nigra) a small fruiting part of a plant related to the honeysuckle, have been well known as a folk remedy for centuries on four continents. The Dutch believed in the healing powers of the berries and that a tea, made from the leaves of the plant, helped to detoxify the blood. Elderberry has been linked to everything from improving heart health to treating the flu and immune disorders. Try it for yourself in this nonalcoholic cocktail that is as delicious as it is healthy and rejuvenating.
Now that the holiday season exists largely in our rearview, it's the season to maintain, as well as bolster, your overall health and immunity. This can be achieved (with varying results) by taking any number of supplements, herbs, or vitamins. However, there's a tasty alternative. Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants, carotenoids, and anthocyanins, which are shown to enhance and boost the immune system, and they're delicious.
One of the easiest ways to bring elderberries into your diet is through elderberry syrup, which is widely available at health food stores, specialty shops, and even conventional pharmacies and drug stores. However, if you can get fresh or dried elderberries, and you have the time and the inspiration to make your own elderberry syrup, the results are better than virtually anything you can purchase. (Note: If you are purchasing elderberries, make sure they are high-quality and from a reputable source. If you elect to forage for elderberries, please pick up a field guide to make absolutely certain you are picking and consuming safely). You also have the flexibility and creativity of bringing out the flavor of the elderberries, while adding spices and other immune boosters to the mix (like cinnamon and ginger). The Hungry Mouse food blog posted a great DIY recipe for elderberry syrup that gives you step-by-step directions for a spicy winter syrup, laced with ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. However, if time is of the essence and you can’t see yourself sourcing elderberries (let alone making your own syrup) the store-bought option will do.
Elderberry syrup is great in a smoothie, over ice cream, or even on pancakes, but it really tends to shine in cocktails or, in this case, a nonalcoholic mocktail. Fittingly there is something called a “shrub” which is a fruit-infused vinegar drink that is as pungent as it is healthy. Below is a recipe for a shrub that combines the sweetness of elderberry with the bite of vinegar to produce a richly nourishing winter drink.
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds
1/2 cup elderberry syrup (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Soda water to serve
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Be careful not to let the sugar burn. Add the ginger and bring to a low simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let steep 30 minutes, covered. Pour the resulting ginger syrup through a fine sieve into a glass container and discard the ginger.
Mix the elderberry syrup with the apple cider vinegar in a glass carafe (or other nonreactive vessel) and add about 2/3 cup of the ginger syrup, depending on how sweet you want it. Mix vigorously.
Pour the mixture into a glass over ice, and add some sparkling water to cut the intensity of the drink. Drink, enjoy, and be healthy!