How to Make Elderberry Jam

You will love the irresistible flavors of elderberry jam. Full of antioxidants, this yummy spread brings healthy goodness to your table.

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If you love elderberries as much as I do, you might be interested in turning them into delicious elderberry jam or elderberry juice.

Most people know and love the black berries from elderberry syrup. Full of vitamin C, this syrup has become very popular since it can help boost the immune system. The deep purple color tells us that it is full of antioxidants. It is a good idea to take this wild food regularly during the flu season. There are a lot of traditional recipes that make a tasty syrup that even children like to take.

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What are the ingredients

All you need are a few simple ingredients:

  • Elderberries: The main ingredient in this delicious jam is also called Sambucas nigra. Caution: while the ripe cooked berries have numerous health benefits, the raw elderberries, leaves, and stems are toxic.
  • Lemon juice or citric acid: I like to add the juice of about 1/2 big lemon to my elderberry jam. It adds extra acidity but also a more complex flavor. If you don’t have it, you can use a small amount of citric acid.
  • Sugar: most likely you will need sugar since elderberries are pretty tart on their own. How much sugar is a bit of a matter of preference. You can start with a smaller amount and gradually add more if you like.
  • Pectin: while it is entirely possible to make jam without any added pectin, I like to add it. Its addition helps the jam set sooner so that you don’t have to boil it for so long.
  • Frozen apple juice concentrate: Whenever possible, I like to use natural sweeteners. Apple juice concentrate adds a certain amount of natural pectin. But even more so, apple juice brings out the flavors of all fruits without tasting like apples. It also makes this a low sugar recipe. If you can’t find frozen apple juice concentrate in your grocery store, you can use regular apple juice. In that case, you’ll have to adjust the amount of sugar and pectin a bit, and possibly the boiling time of the jam.
cluster of elderberries in bowl with canning jars

Useful tools and equipment

This is what I use for making jam: 

  • A funnel, a jar lifter, a ladle, and of course canning jars (I either use Weck jars or Mason jars). You can buy these items individually or get them as a set. Some people like to use a potato masher but I find that the elderberries easily pop on their own once you’re boiling them.
  • For juicing the lemons, I like to use a stainless steel citrus juicer.
  • I sterilize the jars and lids in a 225˚F hot oven for 10-15 minutes and use the jar lifter to take the jars out of the oven. Alternatively, you can submerge the jars and lids in boiling water for about 10 minutes.
funnel, mason jar, jar lifter, and ladle

Where to find elderberries

Every year, I set out to find elderberry bushes (Sambucus nigra). I have identified and memorized some locations in our area where they grow in the wild. Periodically, I go and check those places. The time of the year when the elderberries will ripen will depend on your particular area. Here in Northern California, I often get the first ripe elderberries in June to late August but in Germany, we used to have to wait until the fall.

I suggest that you drive around your area. Elderberry bushes thrive near farms and homesteads. But they also like to be close to rivers. Once you find a few bushes, you will be able to identify good spots for them. But don’t be surprised if people keep the location of those bushes a well-kept secret 😉

Interestingly enough, it’s fairly easy to grow an elderberry tree in your garden. You can buy small plants in nurseries. Or do it as I have done: simply chop off a good-sized stem and stick it in the ground in the late fall. This way I have been growing my own elderberries for years!

Here’s my most recent beautiful harvest, berries, leaves, stems, and all.

elderberry cluster on elderberry bush

Substitutions and variations

  • Other fruit: Elderberries have their own flavor that some people don’t like. However, you can add other fruits to your elderberry jam: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Pectin: If you’d like to avoid buying pectin, you can use the natural fruit pectin of apples. https://www.thespruceeats.com/homemade-apple-pectin-1327832
  • Sugar: Using apple juice or apple juice concentrate is a bit of a two-punch. However, you can use organic cane sugar instead and add some pectin and/or lemon juice or citric acid.
  • Other sweeteners: most often I use organic pure cane sugar. Sugar is a natural preservative. If you will be eating your elderberry jam fairly soon, you could also use maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or even stevia.
  • Elderberry jelly: the ingredients are the same as for this elderberry jam recipe but you’re only using the elderberry juice. For that, I have been using a steam juicer. Depending on how many cups of juice you get, you might have to adjust the amount of sugar and pectin
elderberry jam on spoon over jar

Tips to pick the elderberries off the stem

Taking a fork, I carefully pick the raw berries off the stems. I let them drop right into my medium size pot.

Alternatively, you can freeze the elderberry clusters for a few hours beforehand. I simply put them on a cookie sheet. Once they’re completely frozen they will just fall off the little stems.

How to serve

Spreading it on my bread or toast is how I love to eat my elderberry jam! You could use it as a topping for your yogurt, your morning oatmeal, or ice cream. 

You can also use it as a topping for cake, muffins, or cheesecake

Rumor has it that I eat jam straight from the jar with a spoon … Yum!!

elderberry spread on a slice of bread with knife

Can you use dried elderberries to make elderberry jam?

Yes! If you can’t find fresh elderberries, you can absolutely use dried elderberries to make jam. You can easily find them online, at amazon.com for example, or at Mountain Rose Herbs.

If you’re using dried elderberries for your jam, you will need to soak them in a large bowl of water overnight.

3 jars of elderberry jam with a spoon

Other recipes you might like:

How to make Elderberry Juice

Simple Elderflower Syrup

Best Tips for Picking More Blackberries

How to Make Rhubarb Jam

Homemade Rosehip Jam

Home canning and Botulism

Successful Canning At Home

Watch it on Youtube:

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How to make the elderberry jam

  1. Once you have picked all the elderberries off their stems, add them to a medium-sized pot. I started with about 4-5 cups of elderberries. Add the lemon juice, about 1 cup of sugar, and about 2-3 tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate or some apple juice. Bring everything to a full rolling boil.
  2. Notice how the white coating disappears as you bring the berries to a boil. 
  3. Add the pectin. Continue to boil vigorously for about 5 mins while constantly stirring with a wooden spoon.
  4. You might like to add more sugar until it has the desired sweetness. Elderberries are quite tart on their own so experiment with your desired level of sweetness. 
  5. To test for doneness do the spoon test: drop a bit of jam on a cold plate. If it gels, it’s ready. If not, keep boiling for another 5-10 mins and retest.
  6. Using the ladle and the funnel, I fill the jam into the jars (leaving about 1/4 in from the top). Then I screw the lid on with a towel (remember the jar and the lid might still be hot) and turn the jar on its head. I let them sit like this for about 5 mins before turning them upright again. I always check to make sure the jars have a good seal. Filling the jar top about 1/4″ from the top helps to create the vacuum necessary so that your jam doesn’t spoil.
raw elderberries in pot
cooking elderberries in pot
how to make elderberry jam
Print Recipe
4.75 from 12 votes

Elderberry Jam

Elderberry jam is a delicious and healthy spread for toast or a topping for yogurt or oatmeal.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 jars
Calories: 250kcal
Cost: $4

Ingredients

  • 4-5 cups elderberries, picked off their stems
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ whole lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 TBSP frozen apple juice concentrate or ¾ cup apple juice
  • 1 TBSP pectin

Instructions

  • With a fork, pick elderberries off their stems. You can freeze them beforehand to make this easier.
  • Place the elderberries, lemon juice, apple juice concentrate, and sugar in a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium heat until the elderberries are mostly popped.
  • Add the pectin, stir well, and continue to boil for another 5 mins.
  • Do a gel test: drop a bit of jam on a cold plate. If it gels, it's ready. Otherwise continue boiling it or adding a bit more pectin.
  • Fill in sterilized jars, leaving about 1/4 inch to the top of the jar. Put lids on and process as desired, such as pressure canning or water bath canning.

Notes

  • If you can’t find fresh elderberries, you can also use dried elderberries. In that case, soak them in warm water overnight.
  • Some people don’t like the seeds in the jam. You can press the elderberry mash through a fine sieve to make elderberry jelly.

Nutrition

Calories: 250kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @ourgabledhome or tag #ourgabledhome!

Let me know if you have any comments or questions!

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How to Make Elderberry Jam

53 Comments

    1. If the elderberries look pretty clean to me, I don’t wash them. However, you can always do that over a strainer to catch the berries that fall off.

  1. Can I used store bought elderberry juice concentrate to make this as I don’t have enough berries?

    1. Interesting! I haven’t tried it myself but don’t see a reason why not. If you end up doing that, keep us posted on your results ~ Anja

  2. Anja, this is lovely! I’ve made elderberry jelly before, but I’ve been hankering to make a jam. Thanks for this recipe! I’m going to try it as soon as our elderberries are ripe for the picking!

  3. Thank you! We picked some elderberries late last summer and they’ve been frozen while I figure out a recipe to make!

  4. I am looking at a recipe that calls for 6 (six) cups of sugar, now looking at your recipe that calls for 1 cup of sugar. Do you know why there would be such a difference?? Health wise I would rather use only 1 cup of sugar. Just want it to taste good! 🙂

    1. Without seeing the other recipe, it’s a bit hard to say. Generally speaking, American recipes tend to be sweeter than European. Also, sugar is a preservative. You could experiment and see how you like the results ~ Anja

  5. 4 stars
    Wish I had read your article and recipe first. Cleaning/de-stemming the berries is quite a chore. The freezer tip makes so much sense. I had to rinse them a lot, and the berries had a fair amount of liquid/juice, taking a lot longer to cook down. If I make this again, I’ll try the freeze technique. Also, I may separate out much of the seeds.

      1. ANJA, you are a talented cook and I would like to learn new recipes from you. Where could I find an Elderberry branch here in Larkspur and stick it in my yard for next year?
        Danke u schoene Woche. Ingrid

  6. 5 stars
    Still waiting for my elderberries to ripen, they are a deep purple with still some green ones but they have not glazed over like your picture, this is the first year mine have produced, deep in south Texas

    1. Elderberries do not always get that whitish coating, they can also just be black. But you definitely want them ripe, ie.black. Hope this helps ~ Anja

  7. 5 stars
    Iv just got dried Elderberrys , im not sure what amount i need to make jelly, I normally use fresh, but iv moved to the highlands of Scotland and they just don’t ripe up here,

    1. If you’d like to use dried elderberries, you can rehydrate them in cold water or boiling water. Just cover them and wait until they’re plumped up. Then you can proceed as if you had fresh berries. Hope this helps ~ Anja

  8. 5 stars
    This looks so delicious and so easy to make! I just got my dried elderberries yesterday. I’m making this recipe this weekend for sure. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. 5 stars
      This recipe sounds amazing, I don’t water bath either. I have a dumb question tho, when do you remove the seeds? We absolutely love elderberry anything, and thought I would give your recipe a try. Everyone does things different and maybe I missed it in the reading.
      Great article, thank you.

  9. Great article! I haven’t used elderberries as much as I should; this article really makes me want to plant a couple on my property in the coming year. The recipe looks wonderful, too! Thanks!

    1. I have only tried elderberry syrup but I am hoping to get a elderberry bush or two next spring and will keep this in mind!!!

    2. Oh, it would be delicious on yogurt for sure! I haven’t tried using coconut sugar but I am pretty certain you can use it ~ Anja

  10. 5 stars
    I am brand new to elderberries and canning and only have made elderberry syrup, but I love this recipe! Sounds delicious and easy. Thank you for sharing!

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