Garlic Festival and Elderberry syrup

From Birch Moon Farm & Herbals, 42 Cooleyville Rd, Shutesbury, MA

Hooray for rain…!!!

I hope it rains all week, then is sunny for the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival this weekend! Hope you all can make it.

(By the way, we will be closed at the farm Saturday, since we will be at the Garlic Fest!)

Our booth - Garlic & Arts Festival 2007

There is a great variety of locally grown food, products, music and much more. This will be our 5th or 6th year with a booth there, come visit us! We are the ones (only ones I think) with a stand made of wood, milled and built at the festival site (friday). You can smell the delicious fresh pine scent just walking by (but please come in!) We’ll have all my bodycare products, as well as tea blends, first-aid kits, salve-making kits and hopefully lip balm-making kits (if I can get them done in time…)

We may bring garlic and onions again, or we may just save them for our Shutesbury Market. We will bring a few cases of Olea Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil for customers who need to pick some up, but may keep it under the table since we do not “grow” it ourselves. Just ask if you need some.

So on another note – it’s time to start your elderberry elixer for the coming season of viruses (I write while blowing my nose, already caught one!) so the following is the absolute easiest method of making elderberry elixer yourself. Fresh elderberries made into a syrup is just as wonderful and healing, but much more time-consuming, and they have mostly been eaten by birds, so try this:

Elderberry Elixer

you need:

one quart jar

1  cup dried organic elderberries (I sell them if you need ’em)

about 3 cups of honey (we use Warm Colors Apiary Honey)

brandy, vodka or organic apple cider vinegar ~ 1 cup or less

(I have never made it with cider vinegar but it is very healing and preserving and great if you are avoiding alcohol – but have no idea as to the overall taste outcome… and The Wine Rack in Greenfield sells organic Vodka, FYI)

optional: fresh(Old Friends Farm in Amherst!) or dried ginger – not much, maybe 2-3 tsp grated fresh, 1 tsp dried

or a pinch of cayenne, a little cinnamon, some dried echinacea root…endless possibilities (best to start simple)

So put the elderberries and any optional herbs in the jar (typically dry herbs should be 1/5 of the total mixture, but I am simplifying by saying 1 cup (1/4 of the total, so add a little less if you want, it wont hurt either way). Then pour in half the honey and mix well with a wooden spoon (so as not to break the glass!). When thoroughly mixed, add more honey, leaving about 1-1/2 inches open at the top. Add alcohol to 1/2-inch below the top, leaving room to shake it up (once covered). Put a lid on it, preferably BPA-free (Quattro Stagioni by Bormioli Rocco are sold in 2-packs at Greenfield Farmers Coop Exchange or throught the NOFA-MA bulk order next Spring) or use on of those hard-plastic (white) Ball lids. Shake daily. Ideally a dark place is great, but I find the only way I shake them daily (or a few times daily) is to leave them on my counter! That is fine, too. This will need to infuse for about 6 weeks. Take a spoonful when you feel a cold or flu coming on, 6 times a day or more if you are really fighting off something strong!  Sleep also helps, and avoid all other sugar/honey/syrup/wheat/flour  products (besides this elixer) until you are in the clear. Voila!

Elderberry is antiviral, and if you add ginger, the warming effects of the ginger help the Elderberry get where it needs to go, speedily.

Fresh Elderberries this Summer

You can make this more of an “extract” or “tincture” by using mostly alcohol with a little honey (switch the amounts, or any combo in between) but this is delicious and seems to keep well out of the fridge. In June I put last-year’s batch in the fridge, strained, just in case it was thinking of molding, and it is still fine (delicious!). The elixer can also be used in tea in place of plain honey. I have tried it with ONLY honey and dried berries and it was too thick. I added a bit of steeped elderberry tea to thin it out, but it never really got the strong berry-flavor that I got with the alcohol (and I’m guessing with cider vinegar).

These make great gifts, reusing jelly jars, with the herbs in them so people see the process…

It is very easy and satisfying to make your own medicine. Especially when you fight off your cold or flu by drinking ginger tea and taking your Elderberry Elixer…     that being said I guess I should put in a disclaimer that I am not responsible or making any claims to cure or heal any disease, all that. Go to a doctor if in question. We have great Naturopaths and Herbalists around here if you want someone less conventional.

That was more than I was originally going to say about that! But I hope it is helpful. Call or come by Wed 4-6 or Sat 12-6 (but not this Sat, we’ll be closed for the Garlic Festival) or come to the last few weeks of the Shutesbury Farmers Market! I’m always happy to give demonstrations or private classes, or just answer questions! Enjoy the rain!!


  1. Hi,
    will you have some elderberries at the garlic festival?

    If so, I’ll want to come by & pick them up. I’ll be working at the No, Quabbin Energy booth sat. from 9:30-11:45, and can check in after that.

    elaine r.

  2. Hello, I am friends with Gary Scaza and Bruce Spencer. I am interested in solar H2O panel to supplement an existing Tarm wood boiler. I reside in New Salem and was wondering if I could call or stop by when convenient for you. I may be at the Garlic fest this Saturday. Thanks.
    Also, I am a great believer in the “power” of elder berries. We have 15 gal. of elder berry wine fermenting now in our sun room!
    David and Karyn Briand
    27 Lovers Lane
    New Salem

    1. Yes, come by and talk to Keith about solar hot water. 413-259-1183 – call first to make sure he’s here, or stop by at the festival.
      And I’m jealous of your elderberry wine – I was SURE I would make a batch this year but didn’t get to it, again! maybe next year…

  3. I found a bit of mold on the top of the elderberry syrup I made mid-september 2010. Can I still use it, maybe if I heat it to a boil?
    Please advise.

    1. Yes, you can take the mold off, heat to a boil and then cool, then store it in the fridge, but boiling is not necessary. That’s better for a syrup made wih fresh berries and preserved with sweetener. If it’s just dried berries made with honey and alcohol I wouldn’t boil it. I have questions – was it my recipe? I am wondering the sugar/ honey/ alcohol content. Was it made from fresh or dried berries? Was it refrigerated? It should only mold if there is not enough sugar or alcohol, or if the jar was not completely clean. You could sterilize the jar before you pour it back in, after you boil it. And it is very possible to make it with no alcohol, but it needs enough sugar/ honey to preserve it. I tend to use a blend of the two so I don’t have to add as much sweetener. I guess I don’t feel too helpful until I know more info!

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