This is quite different from the elderflower cordial you might have made a few months ago. (See Edible East Bay Summer 2016.) Elderberry cordial is a strong, thick alcoholic syrup, which has both medicinal and culinary applications. Some herbal practitioners suggest taking it regularly for cold and flu prevention, and while there is limited peer review, much anecdotal evidence suggests that the berries enhance immune response. Use it to top pancakes, or, as I particularly enjoy, with sparkling wine for an elderberry kir royale. Feel free to experiment with the spice blend, add other ingredients such as citrus peel and herbs, or keep the cordial simple by using only the berries.
1¼ cups dried elderberries or 2 cups fresh
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
1 star anise
About 3 cups brandy
Honey (or other sweetener like maple syrup) to taste
Place elderberries, cinnamon, and star anise into a clean quart-size glass jar. Add brandy to fill the jar and cover with a lid. Label the jar with contents and the date. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 weeks.
When berries have adequately macerated, strain cordial through cheesecloth over a large bowl. Squeeze contents of cheesecloth to release remaining liquid into the bowl, then discard solids.
Add about ½ cup honey (or other sweetener) for every 1 cup liquid (or to taste). Stir to dissolve. Using a funnel, pour cordial into a clean bottle (or several clean bottles) and seal with cap or cork.
A cordial made with fresh elderberries will last about a year, whereas a cordial made with dried berries will last for 2–3 years and improve with age. Store in a cool, dark place and use as a cold and flu preventative, over desserts, or in beverages.