Recipe of the Month: Blackberry Syrup

- for coughs, colds, chills and sore throats

I've seen this recipe, or something very similar, in a number of old recipe books. It's been suggested as a suitable bedtime drink as well as one for sore throats but, since I'm someone who always falls prey to every cold virus out there, I was most intrigued by its promise to relieve cold symptoms. So two winters ago, in a fit of pique at my third cold of the season and a sudden enthusiasm for all things ancient, I whipped up a batch. I confess I felt a little witch-like, standing over a cauldron with, let's be honest, a fairly foul-smelling potion brewing, but when my efforts produced an effective and soothing, if not entirely tasty, cold treatment I was entirely converted. I'm not going to suggest  that this tastes lovely, it doesn't. But it doesn't taste that bad and, assuming you have the kind of colds and sore throats I do, you'll probably try anything to make things a little easier. I doubt you'll get children to take it, but you never know. Yours may be more tolerant than the ones I know. I've foisted it on reluctant stricken family and friends and they all say it helps, so I've now whipped up a second batch.  You might not want to make this right before you have visitors - the scent will linger  a while. But  its advantages - it does relieve my cold symptoms, my sore throat and still my coughing  - are sufficient for me to tolerate the mild unpleasantness of its manufacture.

Please note that measurements are British and this means that a pint is 20 fluid ounces and not 16!


1 lb blackberries - fresh are better but thawed, frozen berries are ok

1/2 pint white wine vinegar

1/2 lb sugar

4 oz honey - runny is easier

Place the blackberries in a bowl. It's best to use a pot, glass or perspex bowl since a plastic one will likely be stained beyond redemption and the vinegar smell may be difficult to remove. Pour the white wine vinegar over the berries and leave to stand for at least 24 hours. Thankfully, unlike our ancestors, we have access to cling film or plastic wrap and I suggest that you seal the bowl with it.
Over the next 24 hours stir and press the fruit with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. This will extract the juices and is a very important part of the process.
Strain the liquid - if necessary allowing it an hour or so to thoroughly drip through and assisting it with spoon or masher. Pour into a large saucepan or a preserving pan and bring to the boil. 
Add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Add the honey, strirring well. Bring back to the boil and boil hard for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before either bottling and sealing in a sterilised bottle or freezing in ice cube trays.

It won't look terribly promising, but don't worry

When you need it, dissolve up to one tablespoon (I use a full two teaspoons) of the gel-like syrup in a mug of hot water.