Elderberry Jam: wild and wonderful!

Photos by Yvonne Wancke

Elderberries are amazing! They are also very under used. They are definitely not something to eat ‘neat’ as they are super bitter and a bit gritty. However, you can make the most wonderful jam with wild elderberries from the hedgerow. Why not have a go? It’s really worth it!

Step 1

Collect as many elderberries as you can stand. It takes a lot of them to make even a small amount of jam.

Step 2

Take the berries from the stalks and place in a bowl.

Top tip: you can use a fork to gently remove the berries, a few at a time. This is a good way to keep the berries nice and also to avoid purple fingers!

Once you have only berries you should weigh them. This will be a guide as to how much sugar to use later.

Step 3

Wash the berries by placing them in a sieve or colander and pouring cold water over them. This helps to get rid of dust and grit etc. You can also pick any bits of stalks out at this stage but it doesn’t matter too much as you will sieve these out at a later stage.

Step 4

Put the washed berries into a pan and add a little water. Cook for around 20 mins. Be careful not to have the heat too high. You should start to see a lovely purple juice coming out of the berries.

Step 5

Strain the mixture (berries and liquid) through a sieve. This can take a little while. The aim is to push as much of the lovely fruit through the sieve and to just leave the seeds and stalks etc in the sieve. Be patient as it really is worth it when you see and taste your final jam!

Keep pushing the fruit through the sieve so as not to waste anything

Step 6

Place the liquid in a clean pan and bring to the boil. Gently add the sugar.

Top tip: the sugar and berries should be in equal amounts: if your berries weighed 500g then you should use 500g of sugar.

Step 7

Mix in the sugar and keep stirring. Check the heat as it is easy for the liquid to boil over at this stage. I know as I have done it on many occasions, and it is a real pain to clean afterwards!

The timing is variable at this stage but you are basically waiting to achieve a ‘set’. I think that normally it can take around 15-20 minutes of cooking.

How to check if you have reached a ‘set’

Put a plate into the freezer for a few minutes and then take it out. Add a teaspoon of the hot liquid and place back in the freezer. Wait for a few minutes and then take it out. If the liquid has started to thicken and you can push it on the plate (it might bubble a bit) then your jam is starting to set. If it is still very ‘liquidy’ then you need to keep on heating the liquid and repeat the process in a few minutes.

  • Top tip: Be patient and confident if you can. It does take practice. However, the good news is that it can’t really go wrong. Thick jam and runny jam are both lovely!

Step 8

Pour your jam into clean jars and screw on the lids. I usually put the mixture into a jug first as it’s easier to pour and the jam will be very hot.

Step 9

Leave the jam to cool and then add labels.

Step 10


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