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To misquote The Fast Show…. this week I have mostly been making oxymel. Despite the hideous name it has little to do with acne and laboratory preparations but everything to do with health and homespun goodness. Obviously!

I’m a prolific elderberry cordial maker at this time of year but have only recently discovered oxymels which are old-fashioned remedies blending vinegar, honey and fruits or herbs. Anything in my pantry needs to be useful as well as tasty and if at all possible beautiful and these drinks tick all the boxes. Those of you who share virtual coffee and cake here regularly will know that if a recipe allows improvisation it’s also good. Win again!

In its simplest form an oxymel is made by mixing 4 parts honey to 1 part vinegar and pouring onto fruit or herbs to infuse. You can also mix 1 part vinegar, 1 part water and 2 parts honey, boil it down and skim off any scum if you want to make work for yourself. Or you can go your own way – as I almost always do. 

So here’s my contribution to getting you all facing the winter in tip top condition….  two of my favourites.

Blackberry Oxymel…good for children with coughs and colds

Put a few handfuls of blackberries into a clean jar and cover with cider vinegar. Leave for about 2 weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain through muslin, squishing out as much of the juice as possible. Pour into a sterilised bottle and store in the fridge. Use 2 – 4 tsps in boiling water and sweeten with honey. Drink slowly when warm.

Keeps for 1 year in the fridge. Substitute the blackberries for raspberries if you prefer.

Elderberry and Ginger Oxymel

Mix equal parts honey and cider vinegar. Put a small handful of elderberries, one slice of lemon and two slices of fresh ginger into a sterilised jar and pour on the honey and vinegar mix. Leave a little room at the top. Store in the fridge. Drink a spoonful before and after meals for heartburn; dilute a tablespoonful in hot water as a cold remedy or sprinkle on your salad.

You can substitute blueberries for the elderberries if you prefer.

Quick, easy, home remedies using what’s seasonal and ready just when your children get their first sniffles of the school year.And  if anyone can come up with a better name than oxymel I’d be very grateful!