Saturday, August 14, 2010

elderberry syrup

More good things! It's time to harvest elderberries. We are so blessed- and I mean ridiculously blessed to have free access to this treasure. We have many elder trees all around our home and even more on the lonely country roads around Floyd. We watched these blossom in June and had to exhibit restraint from harvesting the elder blossoms then. They make a wonderful tea, and have several benefits. But for those who wait- there comes the berry. (I have copied some information about the benefits of the elderberry at the very bottom.)

So, the other day we harvested as many berries as we could. For those of you who aren't ready to abandon your respective city-fied lives- fear not. Get thee to your nearest Whole Foods or local overpriced tiny health food store and buy the dried elderberries. (or look online). This is an excellent, and quite necessary addition to your medicine chest. And it's honestly super-easy.

So here's how it went down...

Pick the branches, drooping heavily with delicious dark, ripe berries. (But do not eat raw).
Admire the loveliness.
Admire the loveliness even more.
Set the family to work. (And admire the lovely tomato bounty in the background!) :)
Get your lovely niece to sit and pick and talk.
My children, though often "wild" were so fastidious with this chore.

De-stemming the berries is a bit tedious, but fortunately, I have many hands and helpers and the job was done quite fast.
We picked only the darkest black and purple berries, trying to separate the green and red unripe berries as well as the overripe and stony berries.
Many hands make light work. :) Especially if you really love all the many hands.
That's Blair's hand, not mine- for those of you who were momentarily confused, and perhaps concerned.

While we have several cups, I am freezing most of it only making small batches at a time. Without a preservative (alcohol), the syrup won't be at it's most benefical for more than a few weeks in the fridge. So my plan is to make a batch with alcohol (which will last about a year) and also to make smaller batches every month or so.

So for the following recipe, I am using one cup of fresh elderberries.... (if using dried berries, use a half a cup)
Cover with two cups of fresh mountain water.
Bring to a boil, and then let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour...
Pause to look down next to you and smile at your breathtakingly adorable baby who is hard at work in his own little kitchen....
Remove berries from stove and pour through strainer.
Press/mash thoroughly to squeeze out every last drop of heavenly goodness. A potato masher would have been much better, but who has that when you need it? Forks can come in handy for an astonishing number of things in life- not the least of which, mashing elderberries.
Pour one cup of honey into a jar. In our case, we are so fortunate to have a local supply of honey. So local, in fact, that it often comes from the bees in our "own" fields. Please be sure to wipe off any excess drips down the side of the jar and thoroughly lick your fingers. (very important step)

Pour the strained elderberry juice over the honey into the jar.
Cover. Shake. Pause and give thanks for health, goodness, and provision from God for both.

Here's to health! And a fruitful August.

Latin Name:

Sambucus nigra

Common Names:
Elderberry, Black Elderberry, North American Elderberry

antioxidant, diaphoretic, diuretic, laxative, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory

Immune system boost, coughs, colds, flu, bacterial infections, viral infections, tonsilitis, lower cholesterol, improved vision and heart health.

Indicated for:
Cancer, HIV, asthma and bronchitis, reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.

Infusions of the fruit are said to be beneficial for nerve disorders, back pain, and have been used to reduce inflammation of the urinary tract and bladder.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

smart view, august

We love to go to this place and hike at least a few times each month. It's right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it is so refreshing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

stitching and sewing...

My daughter, Hayden's 5th birthday is coming up in just a few weeks. I intend to blog the whole process later, as I am trying to be good about taking pictures of the steps. I am really into embroidery right now, so I am combining the two. Here is a little sneak peek of what I have been working on...

rainy days, sunny days...

As August rolled in with the brief reprieve of rain and cooler temperatures. (Brief.) These are my absolute favorite days...heavy fog, chilly air, constant rain, gray skies, etc... I've always called it "castle weather." Something about days like this are incredibly calming. Years ago, in sunny South Florida, I used to savor days like this because it felt like the world was forced to slow down. Everything seems less frantic and fast. But it definitely takes on a new dimension in the mountains. Other-worldly. In these pics, I was trying to capture a full, gorgeous rainbow right out front, but it disappeared in the time that I ran for my camera.

When it warmed back up, there are/were several days when it was cooler outside than in the house by evening-time. Roll-in-the-grass time.

I cannot seem to orient this picture. Hayden is such a good big sister. She takes such good care of Gilead.

Happy Mid-Summer to you!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I have been so behind with blogging. Mostly because I neglect to bring my camera and document our doings...then I feel like it would be quite boring to read so many words without pictures. :) So, reaching back into the last month, I wanted to share some good days. Some summer memories that I managed to capture, even briefly, and so catch up with the Watkins'....

Early in the month, a friend of mine introduced me to a beautiful blueberry patch. The kids loved this as much as we did, and ate through the paths with earnest.

Connor devised a setup with two containers attached to his belt for easy picking and handling.

Blueberry eyes...

We went twice, and picked several gallons both times, thinking that we would freeze some, eat some bake some, etc...and that we'd be eating berries in December. Okay, who were we kidding? They're gone. Gone! They lasted maybe 3 weeks in this house. The amount of food we go through is astonishing.

And a blueberry pie for Mama R's birthday. With berries that we picked earlier in the day...

While I don't have any pictures, we also gathered buckets full of wineberries (wild raspberries) along hidden paths and country roads (that don't get much traffic). Those were some sweet evenings. Blair would get home from work and we'd eat and relax. Then, around 7 or 7:30, we'd take a gorgeous drive just a few miles, and pick a sweet spot, and all get out and pick all we could. (Read:eat all we could) By the time we were done and driving home, it would be dusk (my absolute favorite time) and the fireflies would just be coming out. Sweet summer nights.

My niece, Kayla, joined us later in the month (and is still with us) which has been so nice. The day after she came, we went for a short drive along Shooting Creek to a sweet spot with a great place for the kids to play and splash in the water and walk along the rocks. Under the canopy of trees, and in the icy cold water, you completely forget that it is 90 degrees outside.
Kayla and Connor...

Gil loves loves LOVES water. In fact, the way he crawls is actually the perfect form of a butterfly stroke, so Kayla has nicknamed him "Baby Phelps".

Clean water, salamanders, crawdads, and a million microscopic wonders...

And a little video to take you there...