I'm Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh growing herbs is a passion I've had for more than 20 years now. The Backyard Patch is my own herb business started in 1995. I specialize in fresh, amazing, organic blended herbs. Those for cooking, tea and bath -- and they are all home-grown and hand-blended. In the last 20 years I have gained a knowledge of herbs and their flavors that I share here.
A plant with strong ties to Halloween is the elderberry, Sambucus nigra. A small, bushy tree with white flowers and almost black berries, the elderberry was associated with the Germanic goddess Holle (or sometimes Hulda) and was named Hollerbeier for her.
Guardian of the dead, the goddess survives today in caricature as a Halloween witch. But as Frau Holle, she was a caring grandmother and wise crone. She helped souls cross over and took messages to them—perhaps written in elderberry juice ink. She is often seen as being half white and half black or being in both the world of the living and the dead.
Frau Holle, as she is known in Germany, was called The Queen of the Witches. The brothers Grimm tell a story of step-sisters who both go to visit Frau Holle in the 'nether realms'. They begin their journey to her by falling in a well........... Sandra Kleinshimdt, Encyclopedia Mythica
With the influx of German immigrants to the United States before the turn of the last century, these traditions were brought here. In North America, European immigrants found their elderberry’s close relative, S. canadensis, and continued their traditions. People carried pieces of its wood for protection, tied prayers to its branches and left apples beneath it as offerings. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch it is a the number one magical plant.
The elderberry is revered for its health benefits. Since the time of Hippocrates, the benefits of taking elderberry in all its forms have been touted and shared. A tea from its flowers treats cold and flu symptoms, substantiated by the German Commission E (that country’s equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and its berries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
Flowering Elderberry courtesy of Tina Sams
So I felt it only perfect to share an Elderberry Cordial recipe for the weekend. The dark purple color also makes it perfect for a Halloween gathering!
recipe adapted from Hollerbeier Haven newletter
1 quart fresh ripe elderberries, stems removed (frozen will do also, but not dried)
1 cup water
1/2-inch piece of ginger root
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
honey and brandy (proportions below)
Combine berries with water. Simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, or until berries begin to release their juices. Mash with a potato masher to get all the possible juice.
Strain the pulp from hot berry juice and return liquid to a clean pot. Add the ginger, cloves and allspice and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain again.
Measure the amount you have of this spiced berry infusion and add an equal amount of honey and 1/2 of the amount of good brandy. Bottle it and store until you can enjoy it on Halloween.