Herbal Apothecary 101: Elderberry Shrub with Honey


Health made simple: A few herbs and you in your kitchen, preparing medicines with simple techniques as ancient as time.

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Makes about 2 quarts

Shrub is a term for an acidic iced beverage that is sipped in small quantities. It is often preserved with lemon, vinegar or alcohol, so it can cause one to perspire, which is cooling in the summertime. Recipes for shrubs vary greatly and date as far back as pre-colonial times. Shrubs can be made with sweetened fruit juice, fruit, vinegar, honey or sugar. Some suggest adding spirits, such as rum or brandy, to the shrub, but we haven’t yet tried this.

Generally, shrubs are sipped from a cordial glass, poured over ice or served with a bit of sparkling water. They are a wonderful remedy for congestion and sore throat, and make an excellent tonic for the body. Elderberries are great in this shrub, but you can substitute other berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries or a combination.

• 2 cups elderberries
• 1 quart apple cider vinegar
• 1 quart honey

1. Wash and pick over the berries. Put berries in a nonreactive pan. Pour vinegar over berries, cover and bring to a low simmer. Remove from heat and let stand overnight or up to 2 weeks. 

2. Mash fruit vinegar and strain through cheesecloth or muslin. Add honey and blend well. Bottle in dark glass sterilized jars with non-metal lids. Label contents in bottle; keep out of reach of children.

3. Store in a cool, dark place. Use within 1year.

Susan Belsinger and Tina Marie Wilcox use herbs every day in and around their homes and greenhouses. Some of this article’s information and recipes are from their book The Creative Herbal Home (Herbspirit, 2007). 

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