Elderberry Jelly Recipe for Most Delicious Toast

Making jelly is easy when you follow the directions supplied on the box of fruit pectin. Different brands of fruit pectin may be favored by some people for certain jellies or jams, but I don’t have enough experience with using different brands to recommend one over the other. The brands of fruit pectin that we find in our grocery stores are Sure-Jell and Certo. Each little box contains enough fruit pectin to make 5 to 10 cups of jelly or jam, depending on the kind of fruit that you have available and on whether you’ll be using the fruit itself to make jam or just the juice to make jelly.

We figured that elderberries were most like the drupelets of a blackberry drupe, so we followed the recipe for blackberry cooked jelly from the Sure-Jell Premium Fruit Pectin directions.

For the elderberry jelly we cut enough elderberry clusters to half-fill a five gallon bucket. The bucket made to easy to carry scissors into the field and to carry out the elderberries without losing any of the ripe berries that fell off the clusters.

We plucked the berries from the clusters with a twisting motion and collected the berries into a large bowl. From having done this once before I knew that we needed 8 cups of berries for the cooked jelly recipe. We probably didn’t have to remove all the berries from the clusters for making jelly, but at that point of the process we were undecided whether we’d make jam or jelly. Since elderberries have a sizable seed, we decided to make jelly.

For crushing the berries we used a potato masher and crushed about one cup at a time. The berry mash was transferred into cheesecloth that was draped over another large bowl. The cheesecloth was gathered up and hung from a cupboard door to let the elderberry juice drip into the bowl.

Dripping elderberry juice.

Elderberry juice dripping into a large bowl. Use metal bowls instead of plastic – the plastic ones get sticky from the elderberry juice. Photos taken 15 August 2008.

Set aside most of a day to finish making jelly. It takes a bit of time to collect the juice and inevitably you’ll have to get your hands purple when you squeeze out the last of the juice from the berry mash. It’s ok, it washes off fine with soap and water.

We measured out 3 3/4 cups of elderberry juice into a large Dutch oven, or 6 quart pot, on the stove and added the contents of the fruit pectin packet. Heat was turned on medium-high and the mixture was stirred with a large spoon until the fruit juice-pectin mixture boiled.

Once the boiling was rolling, 4 1/2 cups of sugar was added all at once. With constant stirring the sweetened mixture was brought up to a rolling boil again and left to boil for one full minute.

Jars that had been run through a light cycle in the dishwasher were set up on the counter. Lids were placed in a skillet and boiling water poured over them – they were left to set in the hot water until needed.

Hot elderberry jelly.

Hot elderberry jelly just taken off the heat and sterilized lids in skillet.

Once the jelly mixture was boiled for a minute, heat was turned off and the hot jelly was ladled into the presterilized jars – one at a time. A jar was filled to within 1/8 inch of the top, the rim and screw threads were wiped clean, the lid taken out of the hot water, excess water was shaken from it, then the lid was placed on the jar. The screw band was screwed onto the jar and the jar was tipped over onto its top. Note: tipping jars is not a recommended method of sealing jars, and instead, one should use a canner to give a proper heat seal.

Once all jars were filled, the jars were placed upright in an area where they would not be disturbed until the next day. As the evening went on we heard the lids pop as they became sealed.

The next day we checked that each lid was sealed by pushing firmly on the top of each lid. Any of them that clicked were promptly placed in the refrigerator to be eaten first. The jars that were sealed were labeled and stored in the pantry. Our recipe made 3 pint jars and 4 half-pint jars.

Next August, here’s the supplies that you’ll need to make cooked elderberry jelly:

8 cups elderberries taken off their clusters
potato masher to crush berries
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
string or clamps to tie up the cheesecloth
large bowls
liquid and dry cup measures
large pot to cook in
large spoon for constant stirring
sterilized jars with lids and bands
skillet for lids
boiling water to sterilize lids
paper towels for wiping the jar rims
ladle for adding hot jelly to jars
jar labels

The major brands of fruit pectin do have reduced sugar or sugarless versions, so if you’re diabetic there is still a way for you to enjoy elderberry jelly or jam.

Give it a try and have some fun! The small half-pint jars make great gifts!

36 thoughts on “Elderberry Jelly Recipe for Most Delicious Toast”

  1. It’s been years since I made jam as a youngster in the UK & I’m now resettled in New Zealand ready to relaunch these skills. Your information makes it seem a lot less daunting! Many thanks

  2. Hi Kate,

    In your part of the world are you getting ready to find berries for your jam?

    What will you try to make first and, I wonder, do you have elderberries in NZ?

    In Pennsylvania we’re just now looking to see the trees start their Spring budding and the crocuses are blooming.

    Thanks for chiming in!

  3. If you want the correct mixture go to the Sure Jell website and they will provide you exactlly with what amount of sugar, lemon juice, berries that you will need to either make jam or jelly. There is a diference in the final taste outcome. I’m a male and have been producing my own jellies and jams for years for something to do in my spare time. I remember my mother making these from all my “finds” as a child. With the advent of frozen fruits in the grocery stores many of these fruits are cheap if you can’t locate fresh items and turn out just as good. Just make sure you buy unsweetened. Peaches, strawberries, mixed berries, blueberries, all work great.

  4. Hi Ed –

    I checked out the Kraft Foods/Sure-Jell website and sure enough there’s a recipe for elderberry jelly which is very similar to what I did except they simmered the berries before straining out the stems and such with the cheesecloth.

    Thanks for the tip!

  5. I discovered this year, by accident, an easy way to seperate elderberries from thier stems. After picking, place them in a large plastic bag & place in the freezer. After they are frozen, shake the bag hard. I droped mine onto the floor several times. Pour into a large container & shake which will bring the stems to the top so that they may be picked off.

  6. Redcrane,
    My friend has already called you her hero! Last year she spent 8 hours one day cleaning a 5 gallon pail of elderberries from their stems. Since she was laid up at the time it gave her something to do, but she was not looking forward to the same chore again. We’ll give it a try when we make some jelly next week.
    Thanks for your tip!

  7. I make elderberry jelly every year. We have some trees (tall bushes) in our yard. I use grape juice with small amounts of sugar to sweeten. BALL (brand name) makes a No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin that is great! The package says to try adding Splenda, but I may try stevia root this year. My elderberries are boiling as I write this. Oh… about the stems… I simply cut the bundles off, hold the stem in one hand and twist the fruit with the other. It should fall right off. You don’t even need to watch what you’re doing! It’s easy and quick. If I had room in the freezer, I’d try that tip too. Here’s to elderberry jellies and jams!!!! I plan to try elderberry wine one of these years.

  8. Hey Paula,
    I’ll be making some jelly in the next few days and I’ll look for the No Sugar Needed pectin. Adding grape juice for a sweetener seems perfect.
    Thanks for chiming in!

  9. Great photos and article Wilde!

    I made Elderberry/Grape/Apple jelly last night, and WOW is it great!! It was a shot in the dark type of recipe since I found out I didn’t have enough Elderberries to make jelly, but didn’t want to waste the berries I did have as the frost is coming now, and the birds have been eating them. My concords are almost ripe, so I decided to pick enough to make up the difference. Boiled it all down, still didn’t have enough juice, so added 1/4 cup of apple juice. It was PERFECT.

    To separate the fruit from the stems, I held the stem in one hand, and rolled the berries between my fingers with the other, versus trying to pick them off. They just fell right off. De-stemming 1 lb. of berries took about 10 minutes. I tried the fork method that’s posted on the internet, but all that did was make a mess.

    I used the Sure-Jell pectin – 1 box. I ended up with 5 cups of juice, and 7 cups of sugar, and I followed the Sure-Jell directions for Grape jelly.

    The jelly is sweet but tart with a full, rich flavor, and a gorgeous reddish/black color. The concords I used were about 75% ripe. Still some bright red color to them, and tart to the taste. I wouldn’t use deep purple, fully ripe grapes, as it would be too overwhelmingly sweet.

  10. VMH, thank you for such nice comments – your jelly sounds yummy! I’m going to have to make some ‘mixed fruit’ jelly – that’s always the type I choose at a restaurant breakfast, so why not make my own?

    We totally appreciate your directions – telling how you made it, with the proportions and all!
    Stop by again!

  11. I’ve eaten my mom’s elderberry jelly for years, and make my own now. I want to know: WHy do we remove the stems? I tried a batch last night by just throwing the entire stems and berries into my big pot and mashing and boiling. I will compare flavors later this week when I make the jelly if I don’t find some compelling reason to omit the stems. Sure saved a lot of time this way…

  12. An update on my own comment – Have found on some official-seeming websites advice to not eat stems – too much of the cyanotoxin – really much better to stick with the berries alone, and do take the bother of pulling them off the stems. I can’t freeze them , as some advise, because my freezer is already chock full of raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.

  13. Hi Sue,
    That’s great advice to remove all the stems prior to juicing or cooking the elderberries. We only want to eat the god stuff! I don’t know if the taste would be different or not, but let us know if you detect anything strange with your first batch of jelly.

  14. Why does everyone who has posted use commercial pectin. I always use natural products like lemon juice etc. and have never had any trouble getting my jelly to set. Am I missing something?

  15. Hi Laura,
    I’ve wondered that myself…if the fruits that we are preserving have pectin naturally in them, why do we need to add commercial pectin? I guess it comes down to the amount of pectin? Adding a known quantity of pectin should ensure that the fruit gel sets, especially if overripe or watery fruit have been used. If you simmer the fruit and lemon juice for a few minutes it will remove enough water so the jelly sets. The trick is getting to know when the fruit mash has cooked long enough.

    Care to share the ratio of lemon juice to fruit that you use for making jelly? What kind do you like to make? Does the lemon impart a taste that overpowers some fruits?

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. Thanks for the recipe, I hope to try it this summer! A note about pectin, you might try “Pomona’s Universal Pectin”. Found in natural food stores and Whole Foods carries it too, or buy online. No sugar needed! You can add whatever amount of sugar tastes best to you, or use honey or other sweetener. Tried it for the first time with raspberry jam this year and works great!!!! Happy Jamming!

  17. One thing that I’d like to add is that a funnel placed in a jar works wonders to speed along the jar-filling step. It also makes it unnecessary to wipe the rims of most of the jars.

    It’s a simple thing, but so appreciated when you have one!

  18. Picking the elderberries off their stems is easy. Use a fork and gently comb some off into a little bowl, checking for throw-outs (green berries, larger stem pieces), then toss from the little bowl into your larger container. Repeat until done!

  19. Hi D. Baker!

    I tried the fork method of removing the berries, but I’m afraid I made more of a mess that way. I used my hands in a kind of wringing motion to strip the berries from the stems.

    We made two batches of elderberry jelly this year! The second batch was a little bit more than 1/4 cup shy of providing the exact quantity of juice called for, so we added apple-raspberry juice to make up the difference. Taste-testers couldn’t tell the difference between the first batch (pure elderberry juice) and the second batch.

    So, if you don’t have quite enough elderberry juice, try a combination with apple juice or another berry-type juice.

    How did your jelly turn out?

  20. I used rubber gloves with ribbed finger tips. Can you use dried elderberries and rehydrate them and use juice?

  21. Hi Jean,
    The ribbed gloves sound like a neat idea!

    I don’t know about using dried elderberries or rehydrating them. It might be worth a try though. Let us know how you make out!

  22. Heard many stories of elderberries being notorious for not jelling but becoming suryp. mine have been in freezer and Im ready to make jam. Any tips? I saw a rec. with vinegar. What do ya’l think?

  23. Hi Skippy!
    I think if you just cook your syrup long enough it will jell. Try the plate test by dropping a spoonful on a small plate and then tilting the plate. If it’s very runny, then cook it some more. If it seems to jell upon cooling, then it’s time to get out the jars.
    Let us know how you make out, ok?

  24. I love elderberry jelly, my favorite! I use a stainless steel juicer steamer to juice my berries. I just trim the larger stems down with my kitchen shears and put the berries in still attached to the stems and it eliminates a lot of work. No purple hands…well, not much anyway. Thanks for the recipe, I used the Ball liquid pectin recipe with 7 cups of sugar and I think it’s too sweet. It also turned out too runny, so now I am going to have to boil it down. I had 3 brands of pectin: Certo powder, Sure-Jel and Ball. I don’t know why Ball uses so much sugar and lemon juice. I am going to try Pacific Pectin next. It comes in bulk, so is much cheaper in the long run. If you can get a group together for a large bulk order, you can save even more.

  25. Hi Ceseme!

    I can see why you’d want to use a juicer on the elderberries. It does take time to handle them, doesn’t it? I read that using a juicer to make juice from berries will break down the fruit a little too much which has the effect of making the jelly hard to set. Perhaps that is why you are having yours turn out too runny. Maybe you could try freezing them? That seems like the easiest way to de-stem the berries.

    Good luck with your pectin search. Acid from the lemon juice is supposed to help the jelly set properly, although cooking for a longer time will do the same.

  26. I am very interested in making this elderberry jam but I don’t have fresh elderberries anywhere around me. What If I want to use dried elderberries? How would that work?
    Thank you for posting this VERY healthy recipe.

  27. Hey Louise,
    I haven’t tried to work with dried elderberries, so I’m afraid I would only be guessing on how it would work to make jam. I suppose I would use the dried berries in sauces or cooking instead of testing out the jelly recipe with them. I’m wondering what is your source of dried elderberries? Do you use them in other ways?

    How far are you from PA? We have lots of fresh elderberries here. If you do go ahead and use the dried ones, please let us all know how you make out!

  28. I loved these suggestions Ive been foraging like wild fire this year then the tornado hit and lost my frozen things so now I’m making bottled preserves. Its awesome to know there is so much information out there on these things thanks soooo much

  29. Hi Deborah!
    So sorry to hear you lost all your frozen goodies! That’s terrible to have to experience the effects of a tornado, whether you lost everything or whether you lost electricity long enough to lose the food items that you took time to preserve in the freezer. We’d love to hear more about the bottling of your preserves. Sounds like a great idea and one that could easily be used for elderberries!

  30. the way its said easyest to remove elderberries is hard to understand i cant picture the way that is mentioned

  31. Hi Rosemarie!

    We just hold a stem in one hand and roll the berries between fingers and thumb with the other – doing this over a large bowl. Else, another way is to first freeze the berries, stems and all, in plastic bag. Once frozen take out of freezer and then give a shake to dislodge the berries from their stems. The elderberries should come off easier.

    Hope that helps!

  32. The amount of berry juice, 3 cups vs. 3 3/4 cups, depends on whether you use lemon juice and on the taste you’re going for. Either will work fine if you’re using the pectin. The Sure-Jell site uses 3 cups prepared elderberry juice plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice. We didn’t use lemon juice at all.

    Give it a try and let us know how you do!

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