to everyone out there picking elderberries to make jelly. don’t try to “pick” the berries. cut the berry clusters off and just trim the leaves and bigger stems. take them home , place in a bag (paper is better for this) and put in the freezer. when frozen shake the bag vigorously. 90 % of the berries will fall off of the stems.
I have been making it for yrs over 100 jars usually because my kids& grandkids love it. I always went with the recipe on the sure gel box but they don’t have it on anymore. used to pick the berries off the stems but haven’t done that for yrs I wash them good then cook them with the stems on then mash with a potato masher to get all the juice. put in frig next day make the jelly never have we found any bugs. if you like sweet
& s our meatballs try it with elderberry jelly instead of grape it is by far better than made with grape jelly
When working with elderberries, after you pick the heads off, place the heads in a bag and put them in the freezer. After they are completely frozen, take them out and the berries come off the stems MUCH easier!!!!! I have found that using a large paper bag, only fill it about 1/3 full before putting it in the freezer. If you fill the bag, the berries are thawing out before you can get the whole bag done.
My mother-in-law introduced me to Elderberries years ago. She shared a useful tip to get rid of the bugs that love Elderberries. Submerge your harvested clusters in water (we use a large ice chest), and the bugs will crawl out immediately. Do this before bringing the berries inside. Then, you can easily remove the berries from the stems.
One thing about elderberries in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. There are two (2) varieties and have been known to hybridization in the wild. The RED ELDERBERRY IS NOT EDIBLE because the alkaloids concentrate in the berries, unlike the black elderberry. And I agree with one of your commenters, too much elderberry jam can cause diarrhea or stomach cramps. That being said. I loved this jam everything I was served it in other people’s home.
My grandmother made elderberry and crabapple jelly. It was simply the best jelly, ever. I have been trying to make the same, but have not been able to recreate the masterpiece, yet. Shame that the recipe is guarded by a family member, that doesn’t use it. If anyone has a similar recipe, let me know, please.
I posted an over-100-year-old recipe for elderberry jelly yesterday and got curious how it compared to present recipes. Here are the directions and recipe, attributed to my Great-Grandmother:
Cut-off & gather whole berry clusters
Wash berry clusters in water
De-stem & only use ripe berries
Press berries & cook down the juice
Immediately clean berry press
Skim impurities off cooked juice
Pour juice in jelly bag & let drip over night
Make in very small batches
Add 3-tbsp. apple juice to 1-pint berry juice
Let juice mixture boil for 5-minutes
Slowly add 1-pound sugar while stir briskly
Jar after all sugar dissolved
If interested in the background, here is the link to this page on my Blog:
Green Dean from “Eat the Weeds” says DO NOT EAT THE GREEN BERRIES. I trust him with my life. So just pick out the greenies and you will end up with some delish jelly! Blessings all.
If you include a few green berries with the rest that you are cooking, it should help the jelly set. You should definitely not eat the green berries raw. You shouldn’t eat the ripe berries raw either, though a few won’t hurt you.
If you freeze the berries first they fall right off the stems! Easy as can be. Wish I would have known this when my father was making elderberry wine as we had garbage bags full of them!
Hi Margery, every time I make elderberry jelly I have to pick out bugs from the berries. There is a particular “berry bug” that looks a lot like the berries. My concern is that if I freeze the elderberries, I’ll freeze the bugs too, and they’ll get mixed up with the berries. Right now, I can easily spot them because they move. If they are dead and frozen, they’ll get mixed in. The berry bug that is most problematic has a foul taste that can ruin a batch of jelly.
As far as the reports of issues eating elderberries, or their stems, leaves, or flowers. Cooking destroys the alkaloids that are present. If you are sensitive to it or the berries have a higher than normal amount, you can even get a stomach upset from the ripe berries. If you’re canning and boiling and whatnot, you’re destroying the alkaloids, so I wouldn’t worry so much about the bits of stem. Yes, the woodier bits have alkaloids, but if you’re cooking them, they are destroyed in the process. Just don’t eat the stems raw, or eat buckets of raw berries until you know how they affect you. I’d try a batch cooked with stem, and a batch cooked without, just to be sure it doesn’t change the flavor.
using 3 3/4 of juice for sure jell which is sold where i live made it VERY RUNNY!! I am able to use it on cottage cheese but not as jelly!
Hi Rosemarie, sometimes that happens to me too. But if you let the jelly sit for a few months (canned, in the cupboard), it almost always firms up over time.
I just made elderberry jelly but forgot to put in the lemon juice…im assuming the taste will be different and i want to know if there is anything i can do?? and what about the taste?/
Hi Rosemarie, the lemon juice is important as an acid to work with the sugar and pectin to get the jelly to set properly. If you find your jelly has not set, I don’t know what to tell you. You could just add some gelatin and turn the syrup into “jellies”. You could just use the syrup as syrup, not jelly. You could try adding the lemon juice, reheating, and re-canning to see if you get a set.
We were lucky enough to have our neighbor show up with a container stemmed elderberries for us! After we had cooked, according to your recipe, we put the juice in the refrigerator to process the next day. Over night the juice became very quick. I have two questions, is it normal for it to thicken and do we need to strain through a cheesecloth again?
Hi Sue, how lucky to have such a thoughtful and generous neighbor! Regarding the thickening, yes the juice should be rather thick because you haven’t added any water to it. If it evaporated too much while cooking though, you might want to add back a 1/4 cup or so of water.
Should never Nash with a potato masher as the seeds fragike and bitter if crushed. Just cook andcstrsin through cheese cloth.
Hi Pattie, I guess that depends on the strength of your arms! I only mash to break up the skins. I don’t work it so hard as to break up the seeds. No problem with bitterness.
Hi Elise. We get bugs here, too. I am sure some get missed, but I submerge the clusters in water for a few minutes before freezing them, which seems to work well. Most bugs come to the surface, where they can be scooped away. Then the berries need to drain for a few minutes before freezing to get rid of excess water.
This year has been an amazing year for elderberries, here (we grow them in our garden). I tried something different and hope it turns out. I cut out all the bigger stems with clips as I pulled the clusters out of the water, and just simmered them like that, just long enough to get them to drip. I got plenty of juice and the jelly is excellent.
Here is a quick and amazingly simple tip for destemming elderberries: Freeze them, stem and all. As soon as they are frozen, simply knock the frozen berries into a bowl. It only takes a few minutes to destem and entire large bucket of berries this way.
The reason I have not done that is so often our elderberries have berry bugs in them, which you can only remove if you see, and since they look a lot like the berries, you can only see them if they are moving! If you freeze the berries, the bugs will freeze too and will be difficult to spot. That said, I know many people swear by freezing the berries first.
I tell folks they taste like a cross between a blackberry and a grape with a hint of dark cherry.
How many cups of elder berries? I don’t have a scale.
Hi Jamie, the next time I make them, I’ll try to remember to measure them out. If you don’t have a scale, do you have a bag of something in your pantry that is 16 ounces (1 pound)? Try to get a rough measurement by comparing a plastic bag filled with elderberries and a bag of something whose weight you know.
My recipe from an old sure jell direction sheet says 3 C berry juice, 4 1/2 C white sugar, 1 box sureJell, 1/4 C lemon juice.
Elderberries are easy to remove by using a fork. First wash the clumps of berries in cool water. Then take a clump, hold it over a bowl, hold the main stem with one hand, and with the other hand scrape the berries off the tiny stems they are attached to. The riper they are the easier they will come off without pulling off some tiny stem pieces too.
Yes yes yes. The best method ever. Clean and super fast.
Hi Marco, I live in England and our shops are full of elderberry jam, jelly, cordial, etc. I’m not sure where you live, but would suggest you look for a ‘British Store’ and ask them to order you some. Wish I could send you some jars of the jam & jelly I made this summer (we have bushes in our garden.) Best, Louise
Thanks for this great site! I’m in the midst of making the jalapeno pepper jelly right now and am preparing to make the elderberry jelly later this week – just realized today that both the recipes i chose were from your site!
I was curious about the function of butter in the recipe. I thought I had read somewhere that butter shouldn’t be used for canning.
It’s just the tiniest amount of butter. The purpose is to keep the jelly mixture from foaming up too much and overflowing the pot. ~Elise
I live near the American river in el Dorado county and I just discovered what elderberries look like and decided to try them out since I found a few groves.
Like other people who commented, I found that freezing them right away not only preserves them and makes them easy to remove from the stems, it also helps to keep the berries round and retain their juice while being rinsed. I found that rolling the clusters between my hands released almost all of the good berries and very few of the over ripe (wrinkled and tiny or hard) and under ripe berries.
Then before quickly rinsing in a colander, I filled up a pitcher with water and 1-4 inches of berries on the bottom. Gently mixing the berries in a nearly full pitcher brings nearly all remaining hard berries to the surface as well as the blossoms, stems and less desirable berries. The pitcher can be filled the remainder of the way and the nasty stuff will flow right out with a little help.
I hope this helps some people enjoy working with elderberries more! I now have a half gallon of elderberries ready to use in my freezer and I’m ready to find more!
I have just over 2 cups elderberries from a friend who gave them to me one week ago. I tasted a few (after reading the above notes) and they do not taste bad. I was tasting them to see if they were good enough to make into a pie. They do not smell bad nor do they have any mold. They just seem a bit darker red than they were when I got them. Do you think they are ok to cook in a pie?
I’m assuming that you’ve kept them refrigerated? If they don’t smell bad or have any mold, they should be fine, especially since you will be cooking them. ~Elise
have eaten a lot of elderberry jelly down through the years. in the community where i grew up everyone used half elderberry juice and half apple juice for this recipe. it cuts the strong taste and about always jells due to the pectin in the apples. think if you find the taste just a little overpowering this will make a big difference. good luck
But apples and elderberrys do not ripen at the same time. Did they use canned Apple juice?
Hi Ari, some apples ripen in July, like Gravensteins for example. And in some places, elderberries ripen in early fall. Rather doubt canned apple juice was used, as there wouldn’t be enough pectin in it for the jelly to set.
Can anyone tell me if it is alright to eat the elderberries raw or do they need to be cooked first. Also the same with sloe berries. from Pat.
Some people are more sensitive to raw elderberries than others. A few nibbles won’t hurt, but it’s best to cook them. As for sloe berries, aren’t they plums? ~Elise
I would like to make some elderberry wine, but since I have heard that the berries are toxic if not cooked, I am not sure about making the wine from fresh berries. Does any one know if the fermentation process kills the toxic in the berries or if I have to do something different then other berry wines to kill of the toxic? Or Are there only certain types of Elderberries that may be used to make wine? I know there are different types advertized and there are wild berries, Can anyone tell be if it is oaky to make wine out of the the wild Elderberries that grow in North Carolina?
Normally to make elderberry wine, you would simmer the berries first for a few minutes. This will help with the juice extraction. It will also make the berries much easier to digest. BTW, the stems are much more toxic than the raw berries, so make sure the berries are completely destemmed before cooking. ~Elise
I love your site and am in the process of making 24 jars of Elderberry jelly and want to let the people out there know a easy quick way of getting the berries off the branches.The way to do this is freeze them and put on plastic gloves and roll them back and forth after they are frozen and the berries fall off easy as pie.
Yes, this works… BUT, you need to take only a few stems out at a time, so none thaw before you destem them. Once thawed, the berries get mushy and are a pain to destem. ~Hank
I have picked my own, frozen the heads (non-compacted) and then forked them off as mentioned above. This year, our wild elderberries were not prolific, so when a friend offered me some, I jumped at them. Her friend had frozen the heads and my friend needed freezer space and couldn’t process them. When I got them, they were frozen still but had been so crammed into the bag that they form a nearly solid mass. No forking off the berries from that block. Can I just thaw them and run them though a conical food mill? I realize stems contain an alkaloid and I don’t want to simmer them with the stems on. Do you have any advice? Thanks in advance!
I would just thaw them and then strip them away from the stems. Of course that might end up being a great big mess too. A friend of mine suggests putting them in a kitchenaid mixer to destem. I haven’t tried that but it might work. ~Elise
I discovered by accident that if you pick your berries – place them in the freezer – stems and all and wait a couple weeks, the berries almost fall off the stems as long as you work with them very frozen. Saves lots of time when making jelly. Not so good if you are making pie – you will still have to pick off each one seperately. I have everyone who likes elderberries filling their freezers when the berries are ripe and then working on them when they get the time.
Absolutely delicious!……I made a batch…set up perfectly…..3 jars are already eaten…..I am making another batch right now…..deb
How many pints do you get from this recipe?
I have eaten elderberry jelly my whole life. My mother has made it since I was little and I finally had to learn how to make it because I can’t do without it. I am pretty much in charge of making it for the whole family now. So we make a ton each year. We have always made elderberry apple jelly. The apples help lighten the strong flavor just enough and help to lighten the color. I just cut up a few apples and boil them with the elderberries. I always use sure jell, but the recipe is no longer in their instructions. You have to go on the website to get it. Luckily I have my mother’s from 10 years ago. It definately is a softer set, but that never seemed to bother us. Our tradition is eating them on potato pancakes. (This will remind of my mother the rest of my life.) Recently, I tried a new recipe. elderberry peach preserves. OH my goodness….YUMMY!!!!! With the fresh peaches in season this jelly is to die for. I am still getting the exact recipe down to make sure is has a nice set. Once I get it down, I will list the recipe. It is definatley worth it.
Thanks Robin, please do let us know about it when you get it down. Sounds great! ~Elise
I have been making elderberry jelly for 6 or 7 years. I have never had my jelly not set, but I always buy brand new sure jell pectin and I make sure I cook it for the entire minute with a real rolling boil.
As far as removing the berries from the stems…I have spent hours in years past stemming them. This year however, my husband bought me a steamer juicer from Amazon. It was $70 and it was the best money I ever spent. I made enough juice to put up 10 batches of jelly and 5 qt of juice for winter colds. And yes my family will eat it all. I made it 2 weeks ago and we have eaten 8 full half pint jars so far. And although I did not remove all of the stems before steaming it, no one has had any problems with stomach pain or other problems mentioned.
My question is—I wanted to make some elderberry jelly for my diabetic dad and I was told by Kraft foods, maker of the pectin I use, that they do not support elderberry jelly with splenda so they would not give me any amts. Do you just use the splenda in place of the sugar in the regular recipe?? The no sugar recipes have different amts of fruit and sugar than the regular recipes for those they have.
Since sugar is an essential part of the jelling processes, you need to get a special extra strong pectin that will work with low sugar recipes. Pomona pectin is one that I’ve used, it’s available online. Note that low sugar jams will only last a few months on the shelf. As for jamming with sugar substitutes, I haven’t done it so can’t make recommendations. ~Elise
Thank you so much for posting this recipe for elderberry jelly. I have never made any type of jelly before. I was offered the opportunity to pick some elderberries at a local farm and I decided to make jelly after hearing everyone talk about how wonderful it was.
I made it yesterday, and so far, it hasn’t set. It’s been over 24 hours. It is definitely thicker than it was, but not jelly like.
Having never made jelly before, I have no idea how long it takes to gel? Can anyone help me on this one? Thanks so much!
The last batch of elderberry jelly I made took a week to get a good set. The batches I made a year ago set up immediately. Same recipe, different year, different berries. ~Elise
I use to make elderberry jelly but I put rhubarb in it. I can not find my receipe. Has anyone made it this way? Please help if you have the receipe. It was the only jelly our kids would eat
I added water to my berries and followed this recipe of course it did not jell but what I would like tp know is can I salvage this by reboiling and adding more sure jell?
Maybe. I would recommend letting the canned jelly sit for a few weeks before retrying to get it to set. I found that my last batch of elderberry jelly needed at least a week to set properly. Right off the bat it was a bit soupy. But now it’s lovely. BTW, the three things you need to have for this to set properly, other than the elderberry juice, are 1) enough sugar, 2) enough pectin, and 3) lemon juice or some other acid. People sometimes skimp on the sugar, and then wonder why they don’t get a good set. Or they don’t add the lemon juice, which really helps the pectin do its thing. ~Elise
I have just made juice from the elderberries I collected. The juice has a bitter taste to it. Can someone tell me how to get rid of the bitter taste?
Elderberries need to be sweetened with sugar. If the taste is still bitter, and not something that adding sugar will help, it could be because a berry bug got processed with the berries, in which case I don’t think there is anything you can do. ~Elise
Hi Elise. Can you put the raw berries and very small stems through a Foley food mill (before cooking) to remove the seeds without the danger of getting the toxins from the stems added in? I did this and then realized that it might not be OK to do. I am a seasoned canner, but have never worked with Elderberries before. I did make a batch of low sugar jelly with them, but it is too “earthy” for my taste. I will need to find someone who likes it. Thanks much.
Great question. I have no idea. I’ve only stripped the elderberries by hand. ~Elise
I just mentioned this at Hank’s blog, too, but it seems like it is SO much easier to de-stem elderberries when they’re frozen. I only tried de-stemming a few in the field back in August. I had too many other projects going on at the time, so I just frozen the berries on the stem and de-stemmed them later. Took me 15-29 minutes to de-stem about a gallon’s worth of berries and I didn’t get my fingers stained. And they’re still waiting for me in the freezer…
I think it really depends on the batch. The last batch of elderberries I picked was from a tree up in the Sierra foothills. They were plump and ripe and fell off easily when I ran my fingers over them. The batches I got from the American river in Sacramento held on to the stems much more. I think it was because they were drier, not as much moisture going into the plant. The problem with freezing is that you really do want to rinse the berries first, to get rid of any wandering wormies, spiders, or berry bugs (every batch I’ve done has plenty of bugs). But you don’t want to freeze wet berries, so you have to let them dry out before freezing, which adds to the overall processing time. If you just freeze the berries without soaking/rinsing them first, then when you go to pluck them off their stems invariably you’ll get some frozen bugs in the bowl of berries too. Berry bugs can look a lot like the berries, they are hard to spot unless they are moving. ~Elise
I live in Eastern Canada, and I bought an elderberry bush at a greenhouse about 8-10 yrs. ago. I loved the white flowers on it, and no-one told me that the berries were edible. A Dutch friend noticed it in our yard, and told me he had never seen one in our area before. He had eaten elderberry pie years before, and told me he would make one for us to sample. It was delicious! He now gets his berries from me every year–our tree is loaded this year.
Now, I am getting my berries stemmed, and plan to make jam tomorrow. All my friends are very curious about it all, and I can’t wait to give them samples to try. Thanks for the recipe!
(I’d like to know how to prepare the syrup for medicinal purposes.)
You can also make elderflower cordial from the white flowers. As far as preparing the syrup for medicinal purposes, you don’t have to do anything beyond making the syrup. Even the jelly is medicinal, in that the elderberries are naturally anti-viral. I use a cough syrup that is basically just elderberry syrup, don’t think there’s much more in it. ~Elise
I just made my first batch of elderberry jelly. I used Splenda with(SUREJELL PREMIUM FRUIT PECTIN FOR LESS or NO SUGAR NEEDED RECIPES)
It truned out so good. Thanks for all the good info.
I also made a batch of elderberry syrup and I added a few drops about 1/4 tsp of Grapefruit Seed Extract to my syrup, good, good, good.
If you are not using sugar, then please make sure to either water bath can the jars of jelly for at least 10 minutes, or keep the jars chilled or frozen. ~Elise
Re the way to test jelly jell-ness before canning; put a saucer in the freezer. Once it is very cold, ladle some of the hot jelly onto it. Wait a moment and run your finger through it. If the jelly keeps its shape and doesn’t ooze back together, you are good to can. If it does, keep on boiling! Also, you may need to add more sugar as the pectin needs a certain amount of sugar to do its thing.
Of course! The chilled plate is what I always use when making jellies without pectin. I’ve just never had a need to worry when I’ve added commercial pectin. Thank you for offering that suggestion. ~Elise
I made one batch of elderberry jelly two years ago and 2 batches last year. The 2007 batch had a slightly burnt aroma and flavour but was eaten and while one of last year’s batches was superb, the other batch made from the same bulk berries was burnt, astringent-tasting and quite inedible.
I am an experienced jam maker and use only a microwave for heating, so the burnt flavour and aroma was certainly not due to the mix “catching” on the pan. Occasionally batches of jams are insufficiently set or over-set but I have never had the kind of taste problems described with any other jam…
Can’t believe I’m alone in this.
Has anyone experienced this and do you know the cause and cure?
I don’t know about your microwave, but my microwave heats unevenly, even with a rotating plate. It’s also harder to monitor, 1 minute in the microwave turns out to be a lot more than 1 minute on a stovetop. That might be the problem. The other thing that could cause this is the juice going in. It is possible to burn the berries when you are first juicing them, if the heat is too high and you aren’t stirring enough to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. ~Elise
In the past 2 weeks I have made 5 batches of Elderberry Jelly using the above recipe except with JEL EASE pectin. All but one batch came out a little firm. The other batch is runny. I opened the sealed jars, reboiled for another 2 minutes and recanned. Still I have syrup. Is there a way to test the hot syrup before I seal it in jars again?
My friend Hank had trouble with getting his elderberry jelly to set too. It might have to do with the ripeness of the berries. I allow a few half-green ones in the batch, just because unripe fruit tends to have more pectin. I don’t know about Jel Ease. I have found that jellies tend to firm up over several weeks, so that some jellies might be a bit runny at first, but a couple weeks later they are well set. So I don’t know what to tell you. If I were in this situation, I would just wait and see if they firm up on their own, and if not, enjoy the canned elderberry syrup (great on ice cream, good as a cough medicine, perhaps good with a little soda water added as a spritzer?) ~Elise
Thanks for the inspiration. I just finished my first batch of elderberry jelly. It turned out great!
Music to my ears, that’s awesome! ~Elise
A fork definitely works well for removing the berries, you just comb them off the stems. Last summer, I made an elderberry liqueur: 2 quarts fresh washed and stemmed elderberries put into 3 1-quart sterile canning jars. Fill the jars with 100 proof vodka, cap off, and leave in the garage for a couple of months. Strain out the (now pale green) berries and add 2-3 cups sugar to each jar. Shake every day for a week, or until the sugar dissolves. Store in a dark place for a couple more months to mature. Drink as a slightly bitter aperitif, or add one ounce to four ounces of champagne to make an elderberry-royale cocktail. I also make Italian sodas using 2 oz of the liqueur.
Another great one Elise! I used to make wine with these lovely but tedious berries but don’t have the time anymore even though they are very plentiful in my area. (The blossoms are so sweet smelling, I do still sometimes stop and grab a handful for a bouquet) My contribution is that I recently saw bottles of elderberry juice at my local health food store. They were very small bottles selling for $18.00 which makes sense since it takes so much time to harvest them. Just the fact that the juice was being sold for its health benefit was an eye opener to me. WHO KNEW?
I buy a cough syrup made from elderberry syrup for about 20 dollars a small bottle. It’s anti-viral and so far be drinking this cough syrup and taking Omega 3 fish oils I’ve managed to stop any colds for over a year. My mother reminded me about the anti-viral benefits of elderberries when I was making this jelly. Cool eh? ~Elise
Be cautious! The stems, leaves and roots of elderberry are poisonous. While eating a single stem is certainly not dangerous, crushing a lot of leaves and stems with the berries can lead to poisoning.
They are toxic which I mention in the post. ~Elise
Wonderful recipe. Elise how would you go about making elderberry preserves? I like the actually fruit with the jelly.
Good question. If you look at the booklet that comes with MCP pectin, they may have some guidelines; if you don’t have that available, treat as you would blackberries. ~Elise
Now that you know where the berry bushes are you can go earlier in the year and harvest flowers to make elderflower cordial which is very popular here in Denmark. It’s called hyldeblomstsaft.
Harvest the flowers when they have just blossomed and are at their freshest.
40-50 de-stemmed elderflower clusters
1 kg sugar
3-4 organic or unsprayed lemons, in slices
2 liters water
Boil the water with the sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then add the flowers and the lemon slices, stir around, turn off the heat and let it cool. When it has cooled down, put it in the refrigerator and let it steep for 3 or 4 days, stirring it a couple of times a day. Strain the cordial and either freeze it in plastic bottles or keep it in scalded glass jars.
(This particular recipe is from this site: http://www.blogpro.dk/?p=639)
The cordial should be diluted with 3-4 parts water before drinking. It has a delicate sweet taste that is very refreshing and is very popular in the summer here.
I just moved to sacramento and was so happy to read this post! The jam looks great! I live off of folsom, @ bicentennial circle, and am wondering where along the river you picked these?! I’m very close to the American River and went wandering the other day but didnt happen to see any!
If you go to William Pond Park, at the end of Arden Way (in Carmichael), and drive all the way to the end of the last parking lot and park in front of the trout pond, right around there, there are plenty of elderberry shrub/trees. ~Elise
Thanks for the reminder. About 35 years ago friends and I made elderberry jam, jelly and wine when we lived on a small farm back up from the coast near Moro Bay. There were quite a few elderberry bushes in the narrow canyon where we lived. You can use grated green apple or a quince (wring out well in a towel after grating to get rid of excess water) to thicken the jam. Three friends made good elderberry wines, one was dry and crisp, one was sweet as dessert Port, and the third was right in between; all had the wonderful taste of those delicious berries.
Elise, WHO knew that you could eat elderberries raw??!! I know one mother and two grandmothers who would be floored to find it out! Thank you for the great article. Here in the Deep South, elderberry time is around the anniversary of Elvis’ death; not that I was a fan, it just happened that making elderberry jelly was what I was doing at the time.
The only additional advice I have to add is that a large, paper grocery sack works great to cut into. Lean the entire plant head into the sack and snip the stem. Done and no frustrations with a floppy plastic bag…when removing from stem, you do NOT want the green berries as they produce an icky, latex sort of ghostbuster gooey slime when brought to the boil.
This is indeed a beautiful jelly; one my grandmother, mother, and now I, have made for zillions of years…and serves quite nicely for unique Christmas gifts (especially alongside a plate of homemade biscuits or rolls).
Well, from what I’ve read, if you eat too many raw elderberries, they might cause you to get sick to your stomach. Better to cook them. But a few berries in my breakfast cereal? No problem. ~Elise
I’ve never tasted elderberries, never even knew what they looked like! Now that I see them, I realize that I’ve passed them by on my quest for those wild black raspberries that grow everywhere in the woods of northern CA. Dang!
Do they have seeds in them? I’d love to try my hand at making the jelly one day.
They do have little seeds, which are barely noticeable when you eat them, but to make jelly from them, you want to strain the seeds out first from the juice. ~Elise
I am an annual elderberry picker in Pennsylvania. I have not tried this yet, but a wine maker told me they steam the berries. Then gently shake them to get the berries off the stem.
The trick I “discovered” after removing the larger stem parts and freezing them to store before using was to just shake them inside a bag while still frozen. Lots of berries get get knocked off from the small stem branches, and those that remain are easier to remove from the stems as a frozen berry.
Your jam looks so beautiful!
We make elderberry wine, and I have a couple of tips for removing the berries from the stems. The first is to freeze the entire bunch – just put the whole thing in the freezer. The hard frozen berries are easier to remove from the stems. The second is to hold the cluster upside down and use the tines of a fork to gently tease the berries off into a bowl.
Our elderberries aren’t ripe yet :(
My mum makes jelly by juicing the berries on the stems. There’s a special pot, look here: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dampfentsafter#Dampfentsafter there is no english version of the text though…
Ok, the bottom of the pot is filled with water, the middle is the actual juicer pot, and the top part is a sieve almost as large as the middle pot, you put your fruit into that. You heat the lot on the stove, the water from the bottom pot evaporates and heats up the fruit which cooks and thereby starts to drip its juice, which flows out through the little plastic hose. All the debris like stems, peel, seeds are left in the sieve.
And with the juice you can make jelly. It’s not totally effortless, but probably a lot easier than your method. Maybe you can get a pot like that in the States somewhere?
Don’t know about that approach. There are reports that stems and leaves have an alkaloid that can cause gastronomic distress (see this), so I would avoid including in the processing. ~Elise
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