My childhood bedroom looked out on two things – a graveyard and an elder tree. I never gave much thought to either. They were just there. Sometimes, when the elderberries were ripe, my dad would mention that his friend makes elderberry wine. Being a child, wine didn’t interest me much – oh how things change! – and elderberries held about as much interest for me as haws or sloes did. In autumn my dad would take us round the fields foraging for blackberries for jam, rosehips for syrup and sloes for sloe gin. We just ignored the elderberries that grew outside my window.
It was only after several years in Germany that I realised what I’d been missing out on. No one told me that elderberries – and elderflower for that matter – are delicious. When we moved into our house and saw that we had an elder tree at the bottom of the garden, I was determined to give them a chance.
Ever since then – we’re in our seventh summer here this year – the children and I have watched the elder tree carefully each July for signs of ripening berries. Our main creations are elderberry syrup, elderberry jelly and hedgerow jelly. All are delicious and what is brilliant about the syrup is that it is so versatile. You can add it to sparkling water, pout it over yogurt, pancakes or ice cream. You can use it to round off the flavour of gravy or glaze a joint of meat. Or you can add it to Prosecco or gin.
Yes, to gin!
Here’s how to do it.
Ingredients for Elderberry G&T
Tonic water (again, obvs.)
Elderberry syrup (once more, obvs. It is all very simple really. P.S. The syrup recipe is here on my cookery blog)
A slice of lemon per person
For each G&T add one measure of gin, two measures of tonic and 1/3-1/2 measures of elderberry syrup, depending on how much flavour you want in your cocktail. Finally, add in the ice cubes and a slice of lemon.