Elderberry Jelly

Do not double this recipe. Make one batch at a time.

  • Prep time: 1 hour
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Juice straining time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Makes 5 to 7 8-ounce jars


  • 3-4 lbs ripe elderberries
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 packet MCP or SureJell pectin*
  • 4 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter

*If using a different brand of pectin, follow ratios on package instructions for making blackberry jelly.

Special equipment:


1 Rinse the elderberry clusters: Rinse elderberry clusters thoroughly. I find the easiest way to do this is to put them in the basin of my kitchen sink, and fill it up with water.

If you've picked your own elderberries, often there are little squash bugs or spiders that will come to the surface, so keep an eye out for them.

2 Strip the elderberries from their stems: Working over a large bowl, work on one small cluster at a time, gently raking your fingers or the tines of a fork across the clusters to dislodge the berries from the stems.

elderberry-jelly-method-1 elderberry-jelly-method-2

Use mostly berries that are completely blue or black. A few underripe green berries are fine; they have more pectin and including them will help the jelly set.

For each batch of jelly, collect 3 lbs of de-stemmed elderberries (about 8 to 10 cups).

3 Put the elderberries in a pot and bring to a simmer: Place berries in a large pot and crush with a potato masher to release some of the juices. Turn the heat to medium and continue to crush as the mixture heats up to a boil.

Once the berries and their juices reach a boil, reduce the heat to low and let the berries simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

elderberry-jelly-method-3 elderberry-jelly-method-4

4 Strain the juice from the elderberries: Place a large fine-mesh sieve, or 4 layers of cheesecloth, over a pot.

Slowly transfer the mashed berries and juice over the sieve to strain the juice out into the pot. Let strain for an hour.


5 Prepare jars for canning: You'll need 5-6 8-ounce canning jars and lids. Rinse out the jars and place on a baking sheet, top up, in the oven. Heat for 10 minutes at 200°F to sterilize the jars.

To sterilize the lids, bring a kettle of a couple cups of water to a boil. Place lids in a shallow bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

6 Measure out the juice: You will need 3 cups of juice to make one batch of jelly if using MCP or SureJell pectin.**

Any amount more than that you can reserve for making syrup, or add to another batch for jelly.

7 Add elderberry juice, lemon juice, pectin to a large pot, bring to a boil: Place 3 cups of juice into a large, high sided, wide pot (8-quart). Add the lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a boil on high heat.

8 Add sugar, butter, bring to a boil again: Add 4 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil again. Watch the pot as the mixture will foam up considerably. You may need to lower the heat a bit to keep the foam from boiling over the pot.

By the way, the reason we add a small amount of butter is that it helps keep the mixture from boiling up as high.

9 Boil the mixture, then pour into canning jars: As soon as the mixture reaches a rolling boil that you cannot diminish by stirring, watch the clock.

elderberry-jelly-method-6 elderberry-jelly-method-7

At exactly 2 minutes, remove from heat and pour mixture into canning jars to 1/4-inch of headspace from the rim.

10 Secure canning jars with lids: Wipe rims with a damp paper towel. Place lids on jars and rings to secure.

If you want, to ensure a good seal and to protect against mold (any potentially harmful bacteria will already be destroyed by the sugar concentration of the jelly), you can process the jars in a water bath for 5 minutes.

To do so, put a steaming rack at the bottom of a large, tall pot. Fill the pot halfway with water (enough to cover jars with an inch or two of water when in the pot), bring to a boil, gently place the jars in the pot (helps to use a jar lifter, tongs, or be wearing rubber gloves), boil for 5 minutes, and remove.

Let cool. As the jelly cools you should hear a popping sound as the lids seal.

**Note these are the guidelines from the pectin box instructions. I found that sometimes even half as much pectin will cause the jelly to set, though perhaps not as firm as the whole amount.

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  • Jeanne Coleman

    This may sound silly but I fill a large cooler with water & 1/2 c. or so of salt and drop the elderberry clusters in for an hour or so. It seems to get rid of bugs and still makes good juice.


    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jeanne, thanks for your comment! I tried that (without the added salt) and it worked to get rid of the bugs, but I found that the elderberries absorbed too much water, and lost some of their flavor. So no I just submerge them in water to rinse them, and look for any bugs that come to the surface. They usually come out pretty quickly!

  • Leannes

    I have 10 cups of elderberry juice, can anyone help me figure out the ratio of ingredients for jelly.

    • Carrie Havranek

      Hi Leannes. Right in the recipe, in step six, Elise says that 3 cups of juice are needed. So you can likely triple the recipe for a triple batch, or try to make other things out of the juice, as she suggests and offers links to in the recipe. Thanks for your question! Good luck!

  • Donna

    This recipes is excellent. Hers a tip for picking the berries. I cut the cluster off the bush and “neatly” place the clusters in plastic bags and freeze for a day or two. It’s so much easier said to remove those little frozen berries than fresh off the stem!


  • David

    Good info.

  • Danielle

    Hi Elise,
    Was the 3-4lbs measured with or without stems?

    Thank you!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Danielle, good question! 3 pounds without the stems should give you the yield noted in this recipe. Never hurts to have some extra though, since it yield really depends on the batch. For what it’s worth, I typically try to pick 4 to 5 pounds, including stems, per batch.

  • Lorraine

    I usually make elderberry jam, which doesn’t use pectin, but I wanted to try jelly this year as my husband complains that the seeds in the jam get caught in his teeth. I could not find a recipe for elderberry jelly in my ball canning book or in the Sure Jell instructions so I looked on line an found your recipe. Love it! It couldn’t be easier and the results were excellent! All the seals ‘popped’ and I now have enough jelly to enjoy and share with friends. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • Elise Bauer

      Thanks Lorraine, I’m so glad you liked it! I just made another couple batches this week. Lots of work to get all those little berries off their stems, but after that the process is easy. So worth it!

  • Colleen

    Thanks for the recipe, but wanted to note for anyone reading completely through – and for you since you occasion eat them on your cereal… You really should not eat raw elderberries! They contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside that can cause you to become quite ill. Cooking them for 20 minutes completely destroys the glycosides present in the seeds/fruit, AND increases the beneficial concentration of polyphenols and anthocyanin (the beneficial components that make elderberry so effective against the flu and colds. But eating them raw is a mistake, so hoping folks read this! Thanks!

  • Kim

    I live in Northern Michigan…where can I get elderberries? They are hard to find right now.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Kim, I’ve never seen fresh elderberries for sale anywhere; at least around here one must forage for them. The season for elderberries ranges from late June through September, depending on where you are. By late October, it’s probably well past the season for Northern Michigan. I would talk to someone at a local nursery to ask about the elderberry season where you are.

  • Melinda

    Thank you Elise, I did cook them first and then started to try the food mill. I found the food mill ground up the seeds somewhat making the pulp coming out of the mill gritty from the grinding of the seeds. So I ended up still draining through cheese cloth for a more desirable consistency. I love using the food mill for other sauces (like tomatoes) but the elderberry seeds stay brittle even after the cooking. Might invest in the steamer strainer. A good thing since I have a beautiful big elderberry tree.
    Thanks for you help. I hope this answers anyone else inquiring the use of the food mill for this.

  • Melinda

    instead of mashing and straining berries could you use a food mill. I also read somewhere not to put in food processor as it could cause it not to set. What do you think

  • Tina Humphries

    Would we be able to use dried elderberries this recipe? We haven’t had a chance to go picking this year, but it’s one of our favorites!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Tina, I answered this question earlier in the comments. I know you can use dried elderberries to make syrup (just Google it), so I’m guessing that you should be able to turn that syrup into jelly. No idea on the taste. I would always rather work with fresh fruit.

  • Julie

    Thanks for this excellent recipe! I’m starting my third batch of the summer right now. It’s been our go-to immune booster for the summer colds (which come with preschool…) and my parents love it, too Thank you from a Davis family. :)


  • Michelle

    Great recipe!! My whole family loves it. We decided to make extra jelly this year, as it didn’t last long last year.


  • Patricia

    If my stems are not still green have I waited too long to pick the berries?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Patricia, as long as the berries aren’t dried out, you should be fine. The berries I use come from stems that are both green and red.

  • Bonita

    If my jelly didn’t set and I used 2 cups of water to 4 cups of dried elderberries, then finished recipe, should I redo with more dried elderberries or wait and see if it sets?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Bonita, since this is a recipe using fresh elderberries, not dried elderberries, I don’t know what to tell you. I’ve never tried making this jelly with dried elderberries.

  • Anne Marie

    We comb our elderberries with a dinner fork to stem them. It’s just like combing hair. Super easy and fast.

    • Audrey

      So glad you mentioned this, I was going to myself. No reason to spend more than just a few minutes getting berries off of stems, using the fork method!

  • Rose

    Can you use dried elderberries to make jam?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Rose, good question! I know you can use dried elderberries to make syrup (just Google it), so I’m guessing that you should be able to turn that syrup into jelly. No idea on the taste. I would always rather work with fresh fruit.

  • Eugenia Kunkle

    I printed off elderberries jelly recipes made jelly exactly as stated and waterbath 5 minutes. Jelly did not set just syrupy this morning. followed every single thing to detail what would have gone wrong? used surejell pectin. did not squeeze lemons used lemon juice concentrate would that have been reason for not setting up?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Eugenia, some years this happens to me too. It must be something to do with that year’s batch of elderberries. I just let the jelly sit in the cupboard for a month or two and eventually it sets.

  • Donna

    Made this for the very first time, we are hooked!! I’m blessed with a large bush of elderberry near me.. I did notice though, the jelly was setting as I was ladeling it hot into the jars.. is the pectin necessary for jelly??

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Donna, awesome that you made the jelly! Yes the jelly does need added pectin in order to set. There isn’t enough natural pectin in elderberries to have the jelly set on its own. If you don’t use pectin you’ll have a delicious elderberry syrup though, that you can pour over ice cream or add a little salt and use as a sauce for pork or duck.

      • Valerie

        This was 100% my experience as well- it set well quicker than the concord grape jam I make every year when those come in season. Wondering if I could use less next time, as I’m anticipating it being nearer to jello texture than anything else.

  • doneva fellows

    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.

    • Judy

      Is there any degradation to the flavor when you freeze the berries first?

  • nell

    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

  • Ronda Jungbluth

    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.

  • Karen McCaa

    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.

  • Kathy M Chambers

    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.

  • Beth

    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.


  • Stephen H. Smith

    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:

  • Karen

    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.

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

  • Margery

    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!

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

      • Chrissy

        When you harvest the clusters of berries, submerge them into a water-filled ice chest and you will get rid of the bugs. Pull out and let dry before bagging. Should be bug-free, clean and easy!

        • Elise Bauer

          Great idea Chrissy! With all the rain we are poised to have a bumper Elderberry crop this year, so this will help!

        • Patricia

          Shoot, missed this comment, did not let them dry and my bags of frozen berries do not shake off.

      • Judy

        Yes, I used the freeze method once to make a batch and it did not taste as good as not freezing. I originally thought it was because I picked later in the season, but now I am thinking it is because I froze first. Maybe it was the bugs that caused it?

        • Elise Bauer

          That’s why I don’t freeze the berries. Every time I make a batch of jelly there are bugs. Depending on the bug they can negatively affect the taste, let alone the ewww factor.

  • Janet

    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.

  • Rosemarie Perenic

    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!

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

      • rosemarie perenic

        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?/

        • Elise Bauer

          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.

  • Sue

    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?

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

  • Pattie

    Should never Nash with a potato masher as the seeds fragike and bitter if crushed. Just cook andcstrsin through cheese cloth.

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

  • Dave Cottrell

    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.

  • Dave Cottrell

    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.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Dave,
      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.

  • Dwayne

    I tell folks they taste like a cross between a blackberry and a grape with a hint of dark cherry.

  • Jamie

    How many cups of elder berries? I don’t have a scale.

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

    • Sue

      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.

  • debbie

    Absolutely delicious!……I made a batch…set up perfectly…..3 jars are already eaten…..I am making another batch right now…..deb


    • Ari

      How many pints do you get from this recipe?

  • Tracey

    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


  • miriam

    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.

    • Julia

      Yes yes yes. The best method ever. Clean and super fast.

  • Louise

    FTO: Marco

    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

  • julia

    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

  • Joel A.

    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!

  • Laura Vreeland

    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

  • jane harris

    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

    • Ari

      But apples and elderberrys do not ripen at the same time. Did they use canned Apple juice?

      • Elise Bauer

        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.

      • Kari Radke

        My mother-in-law used crabapple juice. Both fruits are ripe at around the same time but I have also used frozen crabapple juice with equally good results.

  • Patricia

    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

  • Rebecca Rogers

    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

  • terry pierce

    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

  • Rachael

    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

  • Beth L

    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.

  • Robin

    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

  • Beverly Moore

    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

  • Sheila

    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

  • Barbara Branstetter

    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

  • barbara

    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

  • Mike B.

    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

  • Jersey Girl

    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

  • Chris

    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

  • grace

    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

  • Hazel Higdon

    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

  • Kari

    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

  • John L Scott

    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

  • Dorothy

    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

  • Jim

    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.

  • Sharon

    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

  • Amanda

    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

  • noel

    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

  • Rebekka

    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.

  • Tawni

    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

  • George Strong

    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.

  • pat

    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

  • Susan

    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

  • Pam

    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.

    • Jeff LeBlanc

      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.

  • Georgiaberry

    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 :(

  • nicole

    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