Elderberry Syrup, which may or may not cure that change-of-seasons cough

I owe you all a handful of recipes that I planned over the summer, but then before I finished tweaking them, busy season at work happened, and now here we are at the change of the seasons and I’m thinking more about immune boosters than about the strawberry shortcake recipe* I haven’t typed up yet. At the moment, my stove has elderberry syrup and apple butter simmering on it, and carved apple heads are dehydrating in the over in preparation for Halloween. Autumn.

I won’t go into whether or not elderberry syrup actually makes colds and coughs stay away, or get better faster. There’s a fair amount of vitamin C and other good stuff in it, so it might. Or it might just make me feel better. I’m a strong believer in home remedies that are comforting, whether or not they’re provable cures. Bonus: elderberry syrup tastes good.

Elderberry Syrup

  • 3 cups water
  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries**
  • 1 – 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • ~1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1 – 2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup raw, local honey

Place all ingredients except honey in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from heat, mash the berries slightly, and let stand and cool until lukewarm. Strain. Stir in honey. Store in pourable jar in refrigerator.

Dose : ~1tsp per day for kids, ~1Tbsp per day for adults as a preventative. Same amounts every few hours when colds or flu strike. Take by the spoonful or drink in sparkling water or warm water, or mix it in yogurt, or basically whatever you like***. You’ll get more of the possible magic of the raw honey if you don’t add it to anything boiling, however, so let tea cool a bit if you’re adding the syrup to that.


*It’s a really good recipe. I’ll post it someday for reals.

**I get mine in bulk at a local natural foods store. They’re also generally available online.

***White wine and brandy both work well for a more adult cureall.

Brrrr! – Ginger Hot Toddy

ginger juice, mug with spoon, and jar of honey

It is that kind* of weather out. It is that kind of day. I am day dreaming of hot tubs and springtime and we have a very long time to go before May.

So, it’s a good time to tell you about my recent hot toddy innovation** – ginger juice! Um, actually it’s really that simple. Take a regular hot toddy and substitute ginger juice for the lemon juice. It is super delicious and warming though.

  • 1 oz. bourbon (or rum or …)
  • 1 spoon (approximately 1 Tbsp) honey
  • 3 cloves (because I like cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp (or glug) ginger juice***
  • ~1/2 cup boiling water

Combine all ingredients in a handy mug. Sip. Feel a bit brighter and warmer than before. Go on to fight the good fight another day.

Note: you could also do this with ~6oz hot cider instead of the water and bourbon if you want a non-alcoholic version. That would be good. (Or with cider and bourbon. Mmm.)


*by which I mean “cold, wet, and dark” which is my least favorite kind of weather.

**I’m certain someone has done this before, but it’s new to me.

***I generally have Ginger People ginger juice hanging out in my fridge because it’s great to add to thai-style dishes and I like to splash it in juice. It should be fairly easy to find if you’re so inclined.

holiday traditions, aged eggnog

aged eggnog in half gallon jars on a counter

I can’t remember exactly when I made my first batch of aged eggnog. My guess is it was about nine years ago. Ever since then I’ve had at least a little every holiday season, most years because I made it, some years because there was leftover from the year before*, also because some of my friends make it too. I got the idea from Michael Ruhlman, who got the recipe from Chow. It’s delicious as well as a wonderful, intriguing, decadent drink to share with family and friends in the long, dark evenings of December**.

I generally don’t do the last step in the original recipe of adding whipped egg whites and cream. I simply serve the base in tiny glasses with a grating of nutmeg on top. The trick is, make this now. It’ll be ready to serve in three weeks, which, frighteningly enough, is mid-December, about when our first holiday party will take place.

Aged Eggnog

  • 12 egg yolks (or 9 duck egg yolks***)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 liter bourbon
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Cognac or brandy
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Pinch sea salt
  • nutmeg, for serving

Whisk yolks and sugar together until well-blended. Add other ingredients and whisk again to combine. Pour into a one-gallon (or two half gallon or …) jar and leave in the refrigerator for at least three weeks. 

To serve: Stir to recombine, if needed. Serve in tiny glasses with a grating (or shake) of nutmeg on top. Cheers!


*Yes, this stuff really does keep for years.

**or of June, if you’re much further South than I am

***Wait… duck eggs? The first time I made eggnog with duck eggs it was simply because I had some, and I thought that was cool. More recently it’s because a dear friend of mine in allergic to chicken eggs (and it’s still kinda cool). I’ve made this recipe with a dozen duck egg yolks, but the results were a bit … overly eggy. Duck eggs have bigger yolks (~.9 oz) than chicken eggs (~.65 oz), so 8-9 works well.

Sometimes You Need a Little Comfort… (Hot Chocolate)

hot chocolate with a marshmallow in a mug showing Van Gogh's Outdoor Café

I started making hot chocolate out of chocolate bars when I was in college, while trying to replicate Spanish hot chocolate*. Turns out, I like it this way and I often have spare chocolate on hand**, so I still do it.

Hot Chocolate

per serving:

  • 1 oz. chopped chocolate (from chocolate bars, leftover choc. pumpkins, chocolate chips if that’s what you’ve got)
  • 1 T cream, or milk, or alternative milk
  • 6 to 8 oz. milk, or any alternative you like
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla, or whatever flavoring grabs your fancy (chipotle powder plus cinnamon is pretty great)

Melt the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Once the chocolate + cream is nice and smooth, slowly add the milk until the mixture is the color of hot chocolate that you like. Add vanilla (or other flavoring). Heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming. If you happen to have an immersion blender, blend it. (This makes it extra smooth and slightly whipped, which is a delicious touch.)

Serve, with or without marshmallows, whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, candy canes, or other garnish, in a mug just right to wrap your hands around. 

*To replicate Spanish hot chocolate, I add a bit of starch (potato starch, tapioca starch, or corn starch) at the “melt chocolate with the cream” step.

**My kids don’t tend to eat plain chocolate, so we especially have extra chocolate on hand after the major candy holidays. I’ve made a lot of hot chocolate out of chopped chocolate Santas.