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Why I Can't Sell You Elderberry Syrup

Posted by Liz Farrell on
Why I Can't Sell You Elderberry Syrup
Photo credit: Douglas Hampton-Dowson © Fat Stone Farm LLC

THE QUESTION:

We always try to keep our prices down for folks. One of the ways we *thought* about it was to make a REAL, TRUE Elderberry SYRUP.

Why not? Lots of you know Elderberry Syrup! Everything I read about our competitors says that Elderberry Syrup tastes great!

Please note, I did not set out to make elderberry syrup from a D-I-Y kit using dried elderberries. I am not criticizing these kits at all here. I was attempting to use juice from our whole elderberries and some simple ingredients in order to scale it up in our commercial kitchen for sale.

THE REQUIREMENT:

I had 2 important goals in my recipe development:

1. It would be food safe. The syrup would need to have a low-enough pH to avoid the development of potentially dangerous microbes. Pulled out the pH meter for this experiment.

2. It would be thick! The FDA REQUIRES that a syrup is 60% solids. Like a syrup you pour on your pancakes. That is something called a "standard of identity". Rice has to be rice, olives have to be olives, and syrup has to be syrup. We have a small device to measure the thickness, so I could be very precise here.

If we could make a delicious elderberry syrup, we could reduce the amount of elderberries that we normally press for our Shots, and keep the price low for everyone. Our Elderberry Apple Shots is 55% pressed elderberries by volume. If we could get something lower, customers would still get their elderberry, but just not as much. If this worked, I'd tell you exactly what you were getting of course! And you'd probably still choose the Shots, but at least you'd have a choice.

THE EXPERIMENT:

Version #1: using cane sugar syrup. I had to use more than 4 times the amount of simple syrup/sugar water as the amount of elderberry juice, plus some lemon to reduce the pH. Then it reached both requirements #1 and #2. It was thick and food-safe. But it tasted horrible and the more I diluted it in water or sparkling water, the worse it got. I probably should have added cinnamon or cloves..... I'll stick with my aunt's famous elderberry jelly which is more or less the same ingredients but tastes so much better. Only trouble is that she doesn't make it anymore.

Version #2 using honey. I had to use about 3 times the amount of honey as the amount of elderberry juice, plus some lemon. This was required to reach goals #1 and #2; it was food-safe, and reached the FDA Standard of Identity for syrup, but it simply tasted like honey with elderberry flavor. Could be okay in tea, but you gotta be a honey lover to enjoy it. If I made something like this for you, I'd call it Elderberry Honey. It definitely needed some spices to balance out the (sickly) sweetness. It would likely have 1/4 the amount of elderberry goodness in each serving compared to Shots. So you'd need to consume 4 x as much to get the same elderberry, and that's not really saving $.

CONCLUSION:

While I was hoping for some terrific product that I would feel great selling to you at a lower price than our Shots, I didn't get it. I did get more dedicated than ever to our Elderberry Apple Shots. And did someone say "what about plain elderberry juice?" -- stay tuned.

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