Elderberry syrup

I have a questions about elderberry syrup for the flu. All the recipes I have found on line start with either fresh or dried berries. I have a ton of juice I steamed and canned. Do you make syrup and if so, can you advise me about how to make it with juice? Sure hope all is well and you are staying warm. Loved the picture of Hondo on Will’s shoulder.

Sheryl Napier
Newport News, Virginia

Sure! Elderberry syrup is easy to make from your juice. Just pour the juice into a stainless steel pot and add cinnamon, cloves and ginger to taste, and as much raw honey as you wish.

You’ll just have to add some and then taste. If you use ginger root, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, chop the ginger root and put the other whole spices in a spice bag then heat to simmering and hold for a few minutes, tasting as you go, adding honey to taste. Some folks like lots of spices and not so much honey; others the reverse.

Once you reach your desired flavor, remove the spice bag and pour boiling syrup into hot jars. I’d recommend half-pints or pints. Water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. Now you’re good to go when you feel a cold or the flu coming on.

Yep, we’re nice and cozy warm. Our winter has been so good so far, unlike parts of the East Coast. — Jackie

Candied dill pickles

Do you have a recipe for Candied Dill Pickles?

Lois Lara
Boring, Oregon

This is my grandmother’s recipe for candied dill pickles. Nearly all candied dills are made from already processed dill pickles. If you add too much sugar right off to cucumber pickles they’ll shrivel badly.
Candied Dill Pickles

1 quart whole dill pickles
2¾ cups sugar
½ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling spice

Drain the pickles, cut them into ½-inch slices, and place them in a deep glass bowl or ceramic dish. Refrigerate. Mix sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Place the pickling spices in a spice bag and tie it closed with a string. Add the spices to the vinegar/sugar. Let the mixture stand covered at room temperature until sugar is dissolved, approximately 4 hours. Remove spice bag. Pour vinegar mixture over pickles, mixing gently but well. Place in a quart jar, cover and refrigerate. They will be ready to eat in about a week and will remain good in the fridge for a long time. — Jackie

Growing sweet potatoes

I live in Ohio. I read your articles all the time in Backwoods Home Magazine. My wife and I like to grow our food and can it. Every year I like to try something new. This year I would like to grow sweet potatoes and have done research online on how to start them from the potato. The question I have and could not find online is when should I start the potatoes in the water? I don’t want to start too early and then not be able to transplant them outside.

Marcus Howell

Although I have certainly started sweet potatoes in water by inserting four toothpicks into the “waist” of the potato and letting the bottom hang in the water with the toothpicks holding the whole potato from falling down into the water, I’ve begun starting my sweet potato slips by filling ice cream buckets 2/3 full with good potting soil or rotted compost, laying a pair of sweet potatoes on the soil, then covering by an inch or little bit more of soil. Water well (punch a few holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage). Water well and place in a very warm, sunny window location. The sprouts seem stronger via the soil method. When they are nicely grown, cut the bunch of sprouts free, separate them and plant out into warm soil, after all possible danger of frost is past. We have to use hoop houses and black plastic to keep sweet potatoes growing. You can usually start your sweet potatoes about 7 weeks before you plan on setting them out. — Jackie


  1. Thanks Jackie and Gen. When I was reading the old post for Ask Jackie I came across the question about these. It sounded really tasty which is why I wanted to ask about them. I really appreciate the recipes.


  2. I forgot to say I lost the origin of this recipe, we’ve been making them for over 15 years and I somehow lost the book I found this in. I regained the recipe because I had shared it with my dad and some friends.

  3. Candied Dill PIckles
    1 gallon sliced cucumbers
    3/4 – 1 C pickling salt

    3 C apple cider vinegar
    9 C water
    1 1/2 T alum
    1 1/2 tsp turmeric
    1 1/2 C cider vinegar
    1 1/2 C water
    6 C sugar
    1 1/2 tsp dill weed
    1 tsp mixed pickling spice

    Slice small (not tiny) cucumbers 1/4″ thick. Place in a large pan, add salt and cover with boiling water. Let stand over night. Drain, rinse and drain the cucumbers.
    Put cucumbers in a large non-reactive pan and simmer for 30 minutes in the vinegar, water, alum and turmeric solution. Drain, rinse and drain cucumbers again.
    Put cucumbers in hot prepared jars and keep warm.
    In a large non-reactive kettle bring vinegar, water, sugar and spices to a boil. Ladle over the cucumbers in the jars, leaving a 1″ headspace. Wipe rims clean, put on prepared flats and rings, finger tight. Put in a WB canner that has already warm, not quite simmering, water. WB can for 15 minutes.
    Remove jars, set on folded towels and let cool overnight. Check seals, remove rings, wipe jars off with wet cloth.
    *I like to put dill seed and pickling spice in a tea ball, and remove just before jarring the pickles, and I also like to put a head of dill in the jar before sealing. If the spices don’t bother you, they can remain in the pickling brine.
    We make nearly 36 qts of these pickles every year, they are my, and my grandchildren’s, favorite pickles. They are most definitely ‘candied’, but the dill flavor is all there, too.

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