Elderberry Cordial

When my children were small a herbalist recommended Elderberry Syrup. Rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, A, B6 and C. It’s known to be immune boosting and an anti-inflammatory. This year I noticed the plump berries and had the time to gather them and turn them into syrup. It was so much fun. It reminded me of mushing up Elderberries in “stews” from the tree at the bottom of our garden when I little. I also made a complete mess in my kitchen. The fun of the process, plus the mess factor made it an ideal job to do round the fire at forest school, better still it was something the children could enjoy drinking round the fire, a more locally sourced alternative to hot chocolate.

Here is my campfire method for Elderberry Cordial. The same children can do all the steps or you can invite different children to do each step so that everyone can be involved.

You’ll need:

  • Elderberries
  • Cinnamon
  • Sugar
  • A clean bucket
  • Forks
  • A pan that’s OK to use on the fire
  • A fire to cook on
  • Fine mesh sieve
  • Spoon
  • A large jug
  • Gauntlet
  • Mugs


  1. Find some Elderberries. If you aren’t confident identifying them the woodland trust has a lovely video showing a year in the life of an Elder Tree. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-uk-native-trees/elder/ Remind everyone that whilst Elderberries may look delicious they shouldn’t be eaten raw. They contain cyanide inducing glycosides which can make you ill. Luckily the glycosides are destroyed by cooking.
  2. Collect a bucket full of elderberry florets. These should come away easily from the tree. Shake them to get rid of most insects before putting them in the bucket. Use clean water to wash the florets in the bucket, tipping away any bugs or leaves that float to the surface.
  3. Run a fork through the florets to remove the berries into a pan. This is fun but important step as the stalks, barks and leaves aren’t safe to eat.
  4. Cover the berries with water and add 5 teaspoons of cinnamon.
  5. Boil for 15 minutes.
  6. Use a gauntlet to remove the pan from the fire and allow to cool. (You can risk assess whether your children are at the stage they can safely manage this)
  7. When cool use a potato masher to mash the berries in the pan.
  8. Put the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug use a spoon to press it through.
  9. Put the sieved juice back in the pan and add 1 cupful of sugar for every cupful of juice.
  10. Heat for another 15 minutes
  11. Dilute with hot water and share between mugs to make a delicious campfire drink, that’s the rich dark red colour of red wine.