This winter has been crazy. I have lived in Indiana most of my life, and I never remember having a winter with so much snow (although I did just look it up, and we still haven’t broken any records). I actually like getting out in the snow. There is something so serene and peaceful about taking a walk in the midst of or just after a big snow. And it sure beats the dreariness of a typical Indiana February.
Being housebound with a small children is a whole different ballgame. J, who’s four, would happily play out in it all day long, but M, who isn’t quite two, just ends up falling all over the place and starts to look a little purple. She would stay out in it longer (so long as her big brother is out there), but I get a wee bit nervous about the state of her extremities. So we wind up spending way more time inside than we’re used to. All of this being stuck inside business typically leads to more sickness with all of those germs flying around with nowhere to go. We don’t get nearly enough sunshine or activity, so that just exacerbates the situation.
So I’ve been a bit more uptight about preventive measures this year than I usually am (because, let’s face it, it’s one thing to be stuck inside together all the time. Being stuck inside and sick gives me nightmares). I’m not sure how much any of these things help, but we’ve fought off anything major so far (knock on wood). I’ve been making sure the kids eat plenty of yogurt and fermented veggies in hopes of ensuring that they’re getting plenty of probiotics. We all take fermented cod liver oil for Vitamin D (we use the Cinnamon Tingle flavor, so J asks for the “knock your socks off” vitamin every night, which I think is hilarious). And we all take elderberry syrup most days of the week. I make elderberry syrup all year long and take it if any of us start to feel a little puny, but, in the winter, we take it most days of the week to ward off sickness. It has antibiotic properties, so we don’t want to take it everyday unless we’re actually sick. We usually take it during the week and don’t take it on the weekends, just because that’s the easiest method for me to remember. I first read about elderberry syrup several years ago, maybe when J was a baby. I may have even bought some at the store, but at some point, I came across Mountain Rose Herbs where they sell organic, dried elderberries for $12.50 a pound. A a four-ounce bottle of the stuff prepared is over twelve dollars. I can make about sixteen ounces for around three dollars.
The kids love this stuff too, so don’t tell, but I use it as a bribe to get them to bed (“once you get your pjs on, you can have your elderberry syrup!”). It’s also super easy and mostly hands-off, especially for me since I always seem to forget about this when I make it and wind up with it spilling all over the stove. Get some dried elderberries and make some syrup – there’s still a lot of winter left!
- 2/3 cup dried black elderberries
- 3.5 cups of water
- About an inch or so of fresh ginger root (I don't even peel it - just chop it roughly)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup raw, local honey
- Bring the elderberries, water, ginger, and cinnamon to a boil in a large saucepan.
- If you're me, it will boil over because you forgot about it in the midst of doing something else. If you're a better multitasker than me, after it comes to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until it has reduced by half.
- Let it cool, but not too much because you want it warm enough so the honey melts easily.
- Strain out the elderberries and ginger and dump them in the compost.
- Add the honey to the syrup and stir thoroughly to combine.
- I typically store ours in a pint jar and use a syringe to dose about one teaspoon (5 mL) out per person.
- I find that ours lasts about 6-8 weeks before it gets a little funky (but it rarely makes it that long because we drink it up before then).