Elderberries have a very short season, and they barely have time to ripen before they’re gobbled up and carried away by the birds. If you have a keen eye and watch closely, elderberry bushes produce huge harvests of medicinal berries each year. Those berries make a quick and easy elderberry jelly that preserves their goodness all year long.
We often preserve them as elderberry oxymel, which is a honey-based probiotic cough syrup for winter colds. Elderberry mead is another one of our favorites. Both of those aren’t the best for young children, so this year I made a special batch of elderberry jelly for my jam-loving babies.
Though I made it for the little ones, elderberry jam is now one of my very favorites. It tastes like a cross between blueberry and blackcurrant jam, with the sweet berry notes of blueberry, and then something a bit deeper and earthier like black currant.
The hardest part about making elderberry jelly is stemming and juicing the elderberries. If you pop the bundles of elderberries in the freezer for a few hours, the frozen berries fall from the stems with a quick comb of the fingers.
Since the berries are frozen, they won’t mash as easily and you’ll be less likely to stain your hands purple. This is optional though, and you can simply comb the berries from their stems while fresh.
Once the berries are stemmed, they need a quick simmer to extract the juice. This year I juiced the elderberries in my instant pot because I could set it and forget it.
Add 2-3 pounds of stemmed berries to the instant pot, along with 1 cup of water, and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. You can also juice elderberries on the stovetop.
Either way, now you have juice mixed with pulp and seeds. At this point, the quickest way to extract the finished juice is with a jelly strainer stand and jelly bag.
Pour the mixture in, suspended over a bowl, and allow the elderberry juice to strain overnight. A jelly bag is efficient and will result in a very clean jelly, but it requires patience.
For the impatient, try using a fine-mesh strainer and a spatula. Press the berries into the strainer screen and stir them around until all the juice and pulp goes through but the seeds remain.
When you use a fine mesh strainer instead of a jelly bag, the result is more of an elderberry jam than a jelly. Much of the elderberry pulp ends up in the juice, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
At this point, all you need to do is simmer the juice with a bit of sugar, add pectin and can it up!
Elderberry jelly, like most jams and jellies, needs a headspace of 1/4 inch. That means you’ll be filling the jars very near the top before capping with two-part canning lids and processing in a water bath canner for 5 minutes.
For sweetener, you have a few choices. A honey-sweetened elderberry jelly makes sense from a medicinal perspective, but cooking the honey kills most of the benefits. Still, honey is a tasty choice which will add a lot of flavor to your jelly.
White sugar or maple syrup also works as a sweetener. For the cleanest flavor, go with white sugar because any other sweetener will add its own flavor to the finished jelly.
I generally use Pomona’s Pectin because it works with any sweetener, and it’s flexible for low sugar recipes. While most pectin types require high sugar levels to activate gelling, Pomona’s is activated by the addition of calcium water that comes with the pectin powder. It’s all-natural and citrus-based, so that’s a plus too.
The thing I don’t like about Pomona’s pectin is that the recipes included tend to make a rock-solid jelly that you have to chip out of the jar. I like a looser, spreadable jelly. I want it to still hold together on the spoon, but I don’t want to be able to cut it with a knife like jello.
The “make your own recipe” instruction has you add 4 teaspoons of pectin to every 4 cups of juice, which is way too much in my opinion. I’ve ruined a few batches of grape jelly following that instruction. I cut that in half and it makes the perfect jelly.
Elderberry Jelly Recipe for Canning
This elderberry jelly recipe goes from juice to canned in no time.
- 4 cups elderberry juice (from 2-3 pounds elderberries)
- 2 cups sugar, honey or maple syrup
- 2 tsp Pomona's Pectin Powder
- 2 tsp Calcium Water Included with Pomona's Pectin
Juice the elderberries by simmering them with a bit of water and straining them overnight through a jelly bag. It takes roughly 2 pounds of stemmed elderberries to make 4 cups of juice. You can also add a bit of water or other fruit juice to reach 4 cups.
Add 4 cups of elderberry juice to a pot and bring it to a boil along with half the sugar. Add the calcium water included with the Pomona's pectin and Simmer for a few minutes.
Mix the pectin powder into the remaining sugar, honey or maple syrup. If you add the pectin directly to the juice it will clump, so this is an important step.
Add the pectin and sugar mixture into the simmering juice and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
Pour the jelly into prepared canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes.
Recipe yields 4 half-pint jars.
My elderberries are all frozen. Will this make any difference to the recipe? Thanks!
Frozen elderberries will work wonderfully in this recipe!
I followed this to the letter but it went 5min longer in the water bath. Doesn’t seem to be setting up. Does jelly take longer to set than a jam? First I’ve made this and I don’t want to have ruined it!
Sometimes jelly can take 48-72 hours to setup, so I’d be patient with it. If it’s 3 days in and not set up, then something went wrong, but honestly, given that the recipe uses a really dependable pectin I’m not sure what that might be. My best guess is the calcium water maybe was forgotten? Beyond that I don’t have any ideas, this should be a pretty foolproof recipe.
The humidity on that day may make a difference. You can recook
I’m having the same issue I don’t think mines setting but I followed the recipie to a t. Hoping by tomorrow night it will be set!
How many elderberries would I use if I want to leave them whole and make a jam? Thanks.
Good question…I’d try using the same recipe but just skip the filtering step. I haven’t tried that personally, but if I were going to do it, that’s what I’d do.
What can be used in place of ‘calcium water’
The calcium water is needed to activate the Pomona’s Pectin and if you are using Pomona’s the calcium water comes with it.
Could I use this recipe with sure jell
For sure jell, you’d use 4 cups juice and 4 cups sugar to one box of pectin (1.75 oz). Sure-Jell requires at least 50% sugar to set, so you have to use equal amounts (or more, up to 6 cups sugar to 4 cups juice). Add the juice and pectin together, bring to a boil, then add the sugar and return to a boil for 1 minute before pouring into canning jars.
I am unable to buy pectin where I live , would lemon or orange peel be suffient to help setting. Tony.
Here is a link to an article on the blog about using lemon seeds to make homemade pectin. I would be interested to see how it works out for you.
I wanted an elderberry/wild blueberry chunky jam, so I used 3 cups of each berry. I had both frozen, as I knew I didn’t have the time to make the jam when I got the fresh elderberries. (I washed, plucked and froze the elderberries ahead of time.) I followed the recipe, skipping the straining part. I brought the berries to a simmer for about 5 minutes, then added the first cup of sugar as directed in the recipe. The only other change was using 1 heaping teaspoon of Pomona’s Pectin instead of 2, cause I know the whole fruit has some pectin in it and I also don’t like the jello consistency of some jams. The results were awesome ~ good berry taste, the right amount of sweetness and the consistency of spreadable whole berry jam.
That sounds lovely Susan. Thank you for sharing.
Do you think using dried elderberries and allowing them to boil longer would work?
You could definitely use dried elderberries. I would try about a cup of dried berries with about 6 cups of water and allow then to simmer for about 15 or 20 minutes. Some sources also recommend allowing the berries to soak overnight to rehydrate.
Just made some jelly. Will let you know how it works out. Love the Pomona Pectin but it definitely does need to be lightened up or you will be chipping the jelly out of the jar. I use a steam juicer to get the juice out of the elderberry. I freeze a ton of elderberries during the season. Then I just pop them in the juicer. I have elderberry for syrup, jelly and tincture all year long. Simple as can be. Thanks for the recipe.
I have completed following the recipe to a T, and my jelly never set up….I have no idea what I did wrong, as I so looked forward to jellies and jams with less sugar. Can I correct this, by opening the jars and reheating for a longer cooking time??? Any suggestions….I have read and re-read the instructions and did not skip any steps and followed as directed????? HELP!!!! good flavor, but thin as juice…
I’m so sorry that happened to you! I’ve never had pomona’s pectin not set, so I’m not entirely sure how to advise you here from experience. I did find a troubleshooting guide for pomona’s pectin, and it has a bunch of solutions for fixing jelly that didn’t set, depending on what happened, hopefully this helps: https://pomonapectin.com/jell/
Just was wondering about the comment that her berries were frozen and she puts them in a juicer. Can you consume the peelings????
If you use a jelly bag to strain the mixture there won’t be any peelings but the peelings won’t hurt you.
According to USDA you need more sugar than elderberry juice. 2 cups juice to 2.5. Cups sugar. Otherwise you risk botulism.
The ratio in this recipe is right in line with the ratio listed on the Pomona’s Pectin website for their low sugar pectin. It calls for 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of juice. This recipe is actually on the high end of that. Do you have a link to where you saw this information?
I’m on the verge of trying elderberry jelly from elderberries that have been in the freezer since I harvested them, and was going to use your recipe….found a couple of articles that point to how unsafe elderberries are for canning, and the 2nd site mentions botulism dangers for foods that are low acid. I do have a pressure canner and could go that route, but am still thinking about it. It seems that elderberries are low in acid, so I’m not sure how safe my steam canner would be..
I’ve been using Pomona Pectin for years, sweetening preserves with no sugar (honey only), and am anxious to make use of some of the elderberries besides the usual elderberry/honey syrup.
I have not heard of this study before. If you’re concerned about the low acidity, a better option may be to keep the berries frozen and make the jelly as you need it and keep it in the fridge.
Terri A. Dillingham
Hello, I’m going to be making this soon and I’m increasing the sugar from 2 cups to 3 cups. I’m still using 4 cups of juice. Should I still use 2 tsp of pectin and 2 tsp calcium water?
Yes, if you’re just increasing the sugar amount, the pectin would stay the same.
Have you tried the Ball no sugar pectin? It worked very good with the Blackberry jam I made with no sugar added. You can use it with low sugar too and already has the Calcium in it.
That would work with this recipe too?
Yes it should work just fine. I haven’t personally used the Ball brand. We usually use Pomona’s Pectin as a low sugar/no sugar pectin.
Can this recipe be doubled or tripled?
It usually isn’t recommended to double or triple jam or jelly recipes. It tends to affect the way that it heats up which can keep it from setting properly.