Elderberry syrup is the most common remedy for colds in Europe (Gladstar, 2008, p.190). I prefer to make gummies instead of syrups. Giving a few gummies to a toddler is way easier than giving a spoonful of very sticky syrup! These tiny treats can be stored in the refrigerator for at least three weeks, and probably would last even longer, though this size batch always gets gobbled up in my house. I typically make gummies like this every time anyone in my house has a cold. Usually I add a little bit of fresh ginger to the mix for extra anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. This particular batch of gummies contains an ingredient which I am quite excited about! Tart cherry juice is touted to be an excellent sleep aid. I found this beautiful Michigan Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate at a local market, and I plan to make these magical treats much more often, to keep the whole family healthy and sleeping well!
½ cup dried elderberries
3 cups filtered water
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup raw honey
¼ cup tart cherry juice concentrate
½ cup gelatin powder
- Place Elderberries and water in saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med/low and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve or, my favorite, a large stainless steel funnel strainer.
- Mash the berries as much as you can, and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Discard the berries (they are great for the compost pile).
- Measure out honey, cherry juice, and lemon juice into a small glass measuring cup. Slowly whisk gelatin into this mixture.
-Pour gelatin mixture into hot Elderberry liquid, whisking to fully incorporate and avoid clumping.
- Pour the mixture into molds, or a glass baking dish.
- I love Pyrex glass measuring cups for this recipe. I use a large (4 cups) one to measure out the water, then when it is time to strain out the berries, I place the strainer over that same, now empty measuring cup, and pour the berry liquid in.
-While you are waiting for the berries to simmer, go ahead and measure out the sweeteners and lemon juice into a small glass measuring cup (or bowl or whatever) but wait to add the gelatin until after the berries have cooked down. You don’t want the gelatin to set up before you are ready!
- I love silicon molds! I have little heart shaped ones that I love. They are a fun shape, but don’t contain too many tiny details, so they are relatively easy to clean. I have classic bear shaped ones that are also super fun, but sometimes it can be a pain to get food residue out of the tiny nooks and crannies of the arms and legs. My silicon molds also came with a tiny dropper to add just the perfect amount of liquid to each individual bear. THIS IS RIDICULOUS! Just pour some liquid onto your mold, and squeegee it around with a flexible spatula. Give the dropper to your child to be used as a Barbie turkey baster.
-If you do have flexible silicon molds, make sure to set them on a flat surface before you start working. An aluminum baking tray works well for this. After my molds are filled, I like to place the whole tray in the freezer for about 20 minutes. This makes the tiny bears extra firm, so they pop out of the silicon very easily.
- If you don’t have molds, just any container with sides, and cut your gummy sheet into pieces after it sets up. I always do this in addition to my super cute molds, as I would need about 20 silicon molds to fit a whole recipe....so, no.
- I have often used maple syrup in place of honey for this recipe, with good results. If you are considering health-ifying these by adding fruit puree or less sweetener, keep in mind that it will dramatically reduce the shelf life of your gummies.
Here is a little more information about the ingredients used in this recipe:
Elderberry is a deciduous shrub that is native to North America. It grows all over the country, and was used by Native Americans for food, dye, and medicine. (Ladybird Johnson, 2017) For medicinal and culinary purposes, select Elderberries labeled as “blue elderberry” “common elderberry” “black elder” or “European elder”. The botanical name is Sambucus nigra or Sambucus canadensis. Do not confuse this with Sambucus racemose, which is Red Elderberry, and potentially toxic. Elder flowers are also edible and have medicinal properties, but the stems, leaves, and seeds, and roots are toxic. Always be sure to cook elderberries before you consume them. I purchase dried elderberries from a local health food store, but Elder does grow in Michigan and if you learn about plant identification, you can forage your own fresh berries! If you would like to us fresh berries in this recipe, use a full cup of berries. Consult at least three reputable sources to correctly identify a wild plant you plan to harvest and consume.
Elderberries are powerful diaphoretics, and can be used to treat fever by inducing sweating (Gladstar, 2008, p.329). The berries and flowers can be used to treat and prevent upper respiratory infections. The berries have antiviral, immunomodulating, inflammatory modulating, and antioxidant properties. In vitro studies have shown that elderberry is effective against many strains of the influenza virus, as well as human pathogenic bacteria (De La Floret, 2017, p.203). Berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, and also contain vitamin A, calcium, iron, and potassium (Peterson, 1977, p.172)
We use Frontier Co-op Dried Elderberries which are sourced from Bulgaria (Gee, we better get on our foraging game!)
Honey is one of the few foods that is enzyme rich. This is important because enzymes are necessary for the digestion of food. When we eat foods that are enzyme rich, the human body does not have to use up as much of its own precious enzyme stores. The enzymes in honey are actually plant amylase, which is concentrated in flower pollen (Fallon, 2001, p.490) Also, glucose tolerance tests have indicated that for most people, honey does not spike blood sugar levels as much as refined sugar does. (Fallon, 2001, p.536) To make sure you are getting all the benefits of honey, purchase honey from a source that is local to you. Make sure it is labeled “raw,” and be sure not to heat it to over 117 degrees F.
We used Sleeping Bear Farms Raw Honey out of Beulah, MI.
Tart Cherry Juice
Cherries are a delicious fruit that is high in vitamin C, and grows all over Michigan! We don’t really need another reason to get cherries into our diet, but here is another one…In a 2012 study, subjects consumed either Tart Cherry juice concentrate, or a placebo for 7 days straight. The subjects were then asked about their sleep quality and had their urine tested for melatonin levels. The study found that “there were significant increases in time in bed, total sleep time and sleep efficiency total with cherry juice supplementation.” Melatonin levels also measured higher in the cherry consuming group! (Howatson, 2012)
We use Omena Organics Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate out of Omena, MI.
We buy it at Western Market in Ferndale.
Gelatin is an amino acid containing arginine and glycine. It is found in bone broths, and can help the body to fully utilize proteins. One example of this comes from a 1923 study in which in which rats were fed a diet of chick peas only. These animals had scrawny, poorly formed young with stunted growth. In contrast, animals fed chick peas with 5% gelatin added, had normal, healthy young. (Fallon, 2001, p.205)
Gelatin is an excellent digestive aid, and has been found to be beneficial for those with colitis, Crohn’s disease, anemia, muscular dystrophy, cancer, diabetes, and hyperacidic intestinal disorders. (Fallon, 2001, p.117)
We use Great Lakes Gelatin out of Grayslake, IL.
We buy it at Organic Food and Vitamin Center in Ferndale.
De La Foret, Rosalee. (2017). Alchemy of Herbs. Carlsbad, CA. Hay House, Inc.
Fallon, Sally. (2001). Nourishing Traditions. Washington, DC. New Trends, Inc.
Gladstar, Rosemary. (2008). Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams, MA. Storey Publishing.
Peterson, Lee Allen. (1977). Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. New York, NY. Houghton Mifflin.
Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. (2017). Plant Database [Data file]. Retrieved from https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=sanic4
Howatson, G., Bell P.G., (2012, Dec 5). Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. European Journal of Nutrition. DOI: