Dear Elderberry Syrup Making Kit, It’s Not You, It’s Me

In one of my first posts, What’s the Story Morning Glory I indicated that I would share both successes and failures. My vision was to write about successes, keep it positive to start, and eventually as I became more daring, fail. It was a nice idea, but life had other plans for me this past weekend. 

It all started with a simple elderberry syrup making kit. The directions were clear:  follow this simple 4 step process to produce your very own Organic Elderberry syrup. While the result was not a failure of epic proportions, it most certainly did not turn out as planned. Fortunately, this wasn’t my first encounter with elderberry. Before I get into the results of this weekend, you should understand why I love elderberry.

Elderberry Basics

Sambucus Genus comprises about 10 species of both shrubs and trees. Only one, the European Elder Tree is used to make elderberry products for health. Consumption of elderberry is thought to increase immune system activity. It is interesting to note that many traditional medical sources indicate that there is no scientific evidence to substantiate this theory. However, these same sources note that individuals  with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), etc. should avoid  elderberry because it might cause the immune system to become more active. With a response like that, it sure is hard to tell if modern science wholeheartedly believes that elderberry effectiveness is a bunch of hooey. 

It takes a bit of searching, but there are research efforts out there regarding the effectiveness of elderberry improving the immune system.  Check out this one from Franklin Health Research Foundation (FHRF). “In this study, the FHRF research team found that elderberry is highly effective against cold symptoms and has a powerful reduction effect on both the duration and the severity of the flu.”

Or this one from The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. “Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B.”

And a third one, just for good measure, this one from Science Daily. "The phytochemicals from the elderberry juice were shown to be effective at stopping the [flu] virus infecting the cells, however to the surprise of the researchers they were even more effective at inhibiting viral propagation at later stages of the influenza cycle when the cells had already been infected with the virus."

That’s all fine and good, but why did I try Elderberry in the first place?

What spurred trying this remedy you may wonder? After surviving the seemingly endless illnesses that seemed synonymous with children in preschool, we had fallen into a routine of 2-3 sicknesses during the schoolyear, typically shortly after Labor Day, post-Christmas Break, and sometime in the Spring. I don’t like being sick, frankly, I don’t know anyone who does. To maintain health, I have latched onto various tactics and remedies to prevent the onset. My 2018 regime included a morning tonic of warm lemon water with a splash of apple cider vinegar to start the day. If I found myself around anyone who showed signs of a cold or virus, I would run a detox bath in the evening and start popping Zicam. It worked well. But the Zinc tasted like Zinc and after hearing the hype about elderberry, I decided to try it…and haven’t looked back. 

My first purchase was in the form of an elderberry gummy. The suggested serving was 3 a day for adults. These delights were just that, super yummy, like having candy in the morning. And after a glimpse on the ingredient list, they most certainly were. Sugar and corn syrup were the top “other ingredients”. I dismissed this justifying that they were supplements that tasted good, so I wanted to take them, a happy habit if you will. 

This supplement was part of our daily habit for about 6 months before the pandemic hit, so kinda good timing, but also kinda not. The routine of buying elderberry as needed, maybe 2 if it was on sale, was no longer a reliable option. It seemed like everyone jumped on the Elderberry bandwagon all at once.  Lack of supply prompted trying different brands. Some tasted better than others, but the most compelling point for our family, and reason we were unwilling to omit this wonderberry from our routine was that year over year, the illnesses in our home have gone down. In all fairness, we have stepped up our hand-washing game and haven’t been around as many sick people, so that should be considered. Maybe we cannot attribute our health to elderberry exclusively. Regardless, elderberry has become our good luck charm.

Fast forward to the Elderberry Making Kit debacle. 

Stumbling upon the DIY Elderberry Syrup Making Kit from Noelle’s Naturals was a great find! I ordered without hesitation. It arrived quickly with pre-measured organic ingredients, a reusable pouch for steeping, and simple instructions. I picked up my favorite local honey and was ready to start. 

Elderberry Syrup Making Kit

Directions indicated that it was easy: place contents in pouch, simmer for 30 minutes, strain, and add honey. Feeling super confident (no way could I botch this right?!), I got to work. The aromas of fall quickly infused the kitchen as the cinnamon, ginger and clove steeped with the elderberries. Feeling the excitement of anticipation, I brought the mixture to a lovely simmer and left it alone. A special note on the directions indicated the importance of being careful not to over reduce the liquid. Keeping this in mind I checked the pot after 25 minutes. Not soon enough. My heart sank when I discovered so much liquid had disappeared. Shaking my head in disbelief and silently scolding myself for not checking sooner, I replaced the lid. It needed to come to room temperature, and I needed to run to Target. 

Upon my return, I was informed by my crew that the aroma I had so enjoyed in the beginning had become so strong it teetered on pungent. Ugh, this fun little project had lost all appeal.

As I uncovered the pot and peered at the now cool liquid, the pouch seemed bloated. Determined to finish the project, I squeezed, and wrung, and twisted the pouch. I channeled my frustration into emptying all excess liquid from the pouch. The first burst of liquid onto my hands was bold in color and resulted in stained hands. Fortunately, I didn’t have evening plans, because like most berries, I should have thought of that and worn gloves, yet another poor move on my part. Using a glass measuring cup, I was able to eek out just over a cup of elderberry juice…I should have had two cups. I have over-reduced in the past and knew that this juice didn’t stand a chance on its own. As a last-ditch effort, I added water to bring it to the full two cups. I recognize that this was not a great solution, and that it was not guaranteed to produce anything worth consuming, but I had to try something. I finished the elderberry syrup by whisking in the honey and bottling for the refrigerator. At the very least the packaged product looked pretty.

Elderberry Syrup

My extremely supportive husband, asked with a completely straight face, how it had turned out. I told him that I had already had my dose of elderberry gummies that morning, so I would try it the next day. Truthfully, after my experience, I dreaded the thought of trying the syrup, and hoped that it would magically transform after being chilled overnight.

The Final Result

Mornings typically provide me with a quiet moment or two as others sleep. Tentatively, I poured a tablespoon of the chilled elderberry syrup and tasted the tiniest bit. Much to my delight, it wasn’t terrible. I finished the spoonful. The elderberry syrup is good. The spices are a bit too heavy for my preference (this is quite possibly because of my erroneous preparation). The reviews on Amazon are exceptional 756 ratings with an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5). Clearly, the results of my efforts were the exception. The quality, simplicity, and service were excellent. This Florida based business has quite a nice selection of organic products. 

I will end where I began…

Dear Elderberry Making Kit, 

It wasn’t you, it was me. I’m sorry our first encounter didn’t go as planned and hope that we can still be friends. 

Quite Sincerely, Nikki

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