Elderberry jam is a delicious and healthy spread for toasts or a topping for yoghurt or oatmeal.Jump to Recipe
I love elderberries and every year, I turn them into delicious elderberry jam and juice!
Growing up in Germany, my grandparents would drive around in the fall to find elderberry bushes and pick the berries. They would make a lot of juice from these healthy berries that we would drink as a hot punch in the winter.
Living in Northern California, I found out that the native elderberries here are a slightly different species. They mature much earlier in the year, some as early as June but some as late as September.
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Where to find elderberries
Every year, I set out to find elderberry bushes. I have identified and memorized some locations in our area where they grow in the wild. Periodically, I go and check those places.
A good friend of ours has a huge bush in his yard. Lucky for us, they don’t like elderberries all that much AND want to get rid of them. You see, when they fall on the ground, they leave dark stains. So we always get a good amount from them.
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, elderberry bushes are fairly easy to grow 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. I have successfully grown two nice elderberry bushes!
Here’s my most recent beautiful harvest, berries, leaves, stems, and all.
Can you use dried elderberris to make elderberry jam?
If you’re using dried elderberries for your jam, you will need to soak them in water overnight.
Ingredients for the elderberry jam
Next to your elderberries, you will need another few simple ingredients:
- lemon juice: 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
- 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 lesser 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: this is my “secret” ingredient. First of all, it adds sweetness. Then it adds a certain amount of natural pection. But evern more so, apple juice brings out the flavors of all fruits without tasting like apple. If you can’t find the 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.
How to pick the elderberries off the stem
Taking a fork, I carefully pick the berries of 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.
Helpful tools and equipment
This is what I use for making jam: a funnel, a jar lifter, a ladle, and of course the Mason jars (which you can never have enough of!). You can buy these items individually or get them as a set.
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 water in a big pot and boil for about 10 minutes.
How to make the elderberry jam
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 boil.
Notice how the white coating disappears as you bring the berries to a boil.
Add about 1 tablespoon of pectin. Continue to boil vigorously for about 5 mins while constantly stirring.
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.
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.
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), turn the jar on its head for about five minutes, and then let them cool down sitting upright for about 5 mins.
However, I have to admit that I don’t always do this last step.
I make sure that I fill the jar until almost full. This helps to create the vacuum necessary so that your jam doesn’t spoil.
In this article, I am exploring the method, science, and safety of not using hot water bath processing for my jams. In 30+ years I have never used this method, and neither have my grandmother and my mom.
I understand that this can be a bit controversial. However, that is why I am including a number of links and studies that I used to educate myself.
Please do your own research and decide what is best for your family!
How to eat your homemade eldeberry jam
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. Rumor has it that I eat jam straight from the jar with a spoon … Yum!!
Let me know in the comments how you like to eat your elderberry jam!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
- 4-5 cups elderberries, picked off their stems
- 1 cups sugar
- ½ whole lemon, juiced
- 2-3 TBSP frozen apple juice concentrate or ¾ cup apple juice
- 1 TBSP pectin
- 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 a process as desired, such as pressure canning or water bath canning.