Elderberry jelly is easier to make than some older or modern Internet recipes would indicate. In those recipes the elderberries have to be washed, picked by hand; then boiled, smashed, cooked down and strained or sieved in some way to extract the juice for jelly.
Once the juice has been extracted the real business of jelly making commences. Many modern recipes use either liquid or powdered pectin. Older recipes use no pectin; just equal parts sugar and juice boiled to a jelling point.
I don’t recommend making elderberry jelly by those methods unless you want a messy, time-consuming and finger-staining early 20th century kitchen experience. If you just want beautiful, sparking elderberry jelly without the drama, I’ve got an easier and much faster way to get it.
My secret to perfect and fast homemade elderberry jelly (or just about any jelly for that matter) is the use of a stream juicer. Sure a steam juicer is an expensive piece of kitchen equipment. But if you do a reasonable amount of jelly or juice making, a steam juicer will pay for itself the first summer that you own one. I would live without a toaster and an electric mixer before I’d forego a steam juicer in my kitchen.
Here’s my recipe for elderberry jelly. Try it my way once, and I promise you’ll never go back to picking berries by hand. Or spend another hot July night listening to boiled juice drip through a flannel cloth all… night… long…
GET THE JUICE
The first thing you need to do is to gather elderberries. Only collect ripe berries. Never use green berries or eat raw green berries unless you want to poison yourself.
For jelly I usually cut and gather enough elderberry clusters to fill a 5-gallon bucket. Once the berry clusters are cut, rinse them well with cold water and pick out any bugs or leaves.
Place the rinsed elderberry clusters in the colander part of the stream juice. Fill the bottom part of the steam juicer pan with water and then place the collection pan on top of it.
Next stack the colander pan over those two pans and put the lid on the entire assembly. Put the steam juicer on the stove and turn the heat on. I always keep the collection tube of the steam juicer in a jar or cup while the juice is being extracted. Even with the clamp on the tube sometimes juice will dribble out.
Depending upon exactly how ripe the elderberries are, it will usually take about 1 hour to extract the juice into the collection pan. Once the juice is extracted the jelly making can commence in earnest.
ELDERBERRY JELLY RECIPE
Makes 7 to 8 Half Pints
4 cups prepared elderberry juice
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
7 cups of cane sugar
1 pouch of CERTO liquid pectin
Gather and assemble clean jars, lids and bands. Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse and dry well. If you are going to use a water bath canner start to heat it now. Cut the top off of the liquid pectin pouch and set it in a glass or cup near the stove.
In a 6-8 quart pan measure out the 4 cups of elderberry juice. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and sugar until well dissolved. Put the pan on high heat. Stir the mixture constantly and bring it to a full rolling boil. (a rolling boil is a boil that doesn’t stop when stirred). Quickly stir in the liquid pectin and return the pot to a full rolling boil while stirring. Once a rolling boil is returned, time the boil for exactly 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to rest for about 2 or 3 minutes.
Skim the foam off of the jelly mixture with a cool metal spoon. Rinse the spoon in cold water between skimmings. Ladle the hot jelly mixture into the ½ pint jars and leave a ⅛ head space.Wipe the rim of the jar.
Apply the lid and band. Process the jars in a hot water bath if desired. If you don’t want to water bath the jars, invert them on a towel for 5 minutes.
Water Bath Processing Time
|0-1,000 ft.||5 minutes|
|1,000-3,000 ft.||10 minutes|
|6,000-8,000 ft.||20 minutes|
|8,000-10,000 ft.||25 minutes|
After processing time is complete remove the jars from the water bath and place them well out of the way of drafts. Allow the jars to cool for 8 to 12 hours. When cool remove the bands and check the seal. Wipe off the jars and label and date them. Store in a dark, cool dry location.
JELLY MAKING TIPS
- Wear a long sleeve shirt.
- Use an oven mitt while stirring hot boiling jellies.
- Old-fashioned jelly glasses covered with a ¼” layer of paraffin will seal jelly if lids are scarce.
- Use cane sugar.
- Shallow wide bottom pans work best for jelly making.
- Don’t increase the recipe. Make jelly in single batches only.
- I don’t always water bath process my jellies. If I’m short on time I’ll just invert the jar for a couple of minutes. I have found that inverting a jelly jar will sometimes result in a lid and seal failure in about 6 months. Water bath processing on the other hand usually gives a 100% seal rate.