Easy Elderberry Jam Recipe (No Pectin)

Elderberry Jam spread onto a piece of bread

Here is one treat you won’t buy in a grocery store – elderberry jam! Elderberry is not only good for your health, it also makes a delicious jam you can eat on a cheese platter, spread onto a breakfast toast, or just eat with a spoon!

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Texture. The jam has seeds in it which are responsible for the crunch you get with each spoon.

Flavor. Elderberry tastes like blueberry and black current in a jam, yet it has its own flavor that is hard to describe!

Unique recipe. You won’t find this kind of jam in a store! Yet, elderberry is easily found in the wild and you can even grow it in your backyard.

Easy to make. This recipe is pretty straightforward, doesn’t require pectin, and doesn’t take too much time to complete!

What are Elderberries?

When I moved to Europe I noticed that people drank a lot of elderberry syrup, yet, I had no idea what elderberry was. Turns out, elderberries are small black berries that grow on trees that sometimes can reach the height of even 20 feet! However, while some elderberries can be used for syrups, jams, and jellies, others are toxic and can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. It is fairly easy to find edible elderberries in the wild or even in your own backyard!

The Health Benefits of Elderberry Jam

Elderberries are good for you because they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. It is said that elderberries can help lessen flu symptoms, relieve stress, and aid in heart health.

By making jam you are decreasing the number of antioxidants which makes elderberry jam less effective in healing, yet, the heating process doesn’t kill all of the good stuff. So, you can scoop a spoonful with peace of mind and enjoy it with a cup of warm tea!

Can you eat raw elderberries?

No, you shouldn’t eat raw elderberries as they can cause diarrhea and nausea if consumed in a bigger quantity.

Where Can You Find Elderberries?

Elderberries are widely present in the US and in Europe. You can spot them along riverbanks, in the woods with high humidity, or even in the open fields. Sometimes you can notice that a tree or two is growing in your backyard already!

The Easiest Way to Pick Elderberries

You might need a ladder as some elderberry trees will grow as high as 20 feet! But as soon as you get a hold of a branch it becomes very easy to snap a cluster of berries off of it. Gather the berry clusters into a bucket or a bag and then run a fork through the stems to get the berries to drop into the bowl without all the extra mess!

Do You Need to Remove the Seeds for the Jam?

I don’t recommend trying to get rid of the seeds as it is a lot of extra work and the seeds don’t taste bad at all! I actually like the crunch they add to the jam. The seeds are not bitter (in my experience) as some might claim, so go ahead and make that elderberry jam with the seeds in!

How Do You Prepare Elderberries?

You need to separate the red (unripe) berries from the bowl as well as all the leaves and stems that sneaked in! Make sure to wash the berries before cooking them.

How Long Do Elderberries Need to Be Cooked?

You need to boil elderberries for about 20 minutes to get rid of all the toxic elements.

Do Elderberries Contain Natural Pectin?

Elderberries are very low in pectin, so you can add some apples and lemon juice that are high in pectin to help thicken the jam. This recipe is made without pectin and that is why it is important to incorporate those ingredients that are going to provide enough natural pectin to create an even and enjoyable texture. If you are, however, considering to rather add pectin to your jam, check out this article that helps you understand the benefits of using pectin.

Can I Use Cornstarch Instead of Pectin?

Yes, the general rule is to use 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per 4 cups of elderberry, so, in this recipe you will need 3 ½ tbsp of cornstarch. If using cornstarch be mindful to stir your jam while cooking to prevent burning!

Is It Necessary to Water Bath Jam?

It is not necessary to water bath jam. A lot of websites will suggest that you do need the water bath process in order to prevent mold growth, however, you can avoid this step and rather sterilize your jars in the oven.

To sterilize the jars in the oven, preheat it to 350F/175C with the jars in and let them stay inside for 20 minutes (place the lids into the oven as well but don’t put them onto the jars). This will sterilize the jars and lids and allow you to skip the water bath step. Another step you can take in order to make sure the lids are sterilized is to turn the jars upside down right after filling and sealing them.

What Does Elderberry Jam Taste Like?

The jam tastes like black current and sometimes you can notice notes of blueberry flavor. If you add apples and lemon juice then you will add both sweetness and sourness to the jam to make it slightly tart. You can alter the flavor by balancing the amount of sweet and sour add-in ingredients!

Elderberry Jam in a Small Jar with a Spoon Inside
You can place jam into small jars in order to open them in small batches and this way prolong the shelf life!

Substitutes and Swaps

Lemon Juice – there are plenty of substitutes for lemon juice like apple cider vinegar, white distilled vinegar, lime or grapefruit juice, and some others. Check out this list of lemon juice substitutes for jams!

Sugar – you can use honey or maple syrup but use a thickening agent like cornstarch or pectin if you are swapping sugar as both honey and maple syrup add liquid to the jam. If using honey substitute ¾ cup for every cup of sugar. If using maple syrup use 2/3 cup for every cup of sugar.

Apples – you can skip the apples if you want, but they add to the jam’s flavor and texture. On the other hand, you can swap apples for other fruit you like or have on hand (pear, apricot, peach, etc.). I have not tried this recipe with other fruit and can only guarantee great results by using apples!

How to Make Elderberry Jam

Step 1 – Sterilize the Jars

Place the washed jars and their lids (not screwed on) into the oven and heat the oven to 350F/175C. Let the jars sit in the hot oven for about 20 minutes. Do this first, so that by the time the jam is ready your jars are ready, too!

Jar and lids in the oven for sterilizing process
Leave the lids unscrewed for more efficient sterilization

Step 2 – Prepare the Fruit

Wash the elderberries, picking out any stems or leaves that got into the bowl. Wash and chop up the apples and discard the stems, seeds, and cores. Cut the apple into small pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Juice the lemon and discard the seeds.

Washing the elderberries in a bowl with water
You can rinse the apples in a bowl with water and strain it
Apples chopped up into small cubes
You can chop your apples smaller or bigger, it doesn’t matter too much as they will soften and be easily broken with a potato masher later on.

Step 3 – Cook the Fruit

Place the elderberries and water into a pot with a thick bottom (to prevent burning), I used a dutch oven, and let them cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Press the berries down with a potato masher to break them up and allow the juices to flow. Add the apples and cook until the apples are soft (about 10-15 minutes). Then add the lemon juice and sugar, stir, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

Skim the foam off of the jam if it comes up during boiling in order to ensure a clear color and to get rid of extra air bubbles. If the foam doesn’t form because of stirring, it is ok, your jam will not be significantly affected by it if you followed all the other safety instructions well.

FAQ: Do I need to stir jam as it is cooking? If your pot is thin-bottomed you might need to continuously stir the jam, however, in a dutch oven the berries did not stick or burn. I don’t see a need for continuous stirring if you are using a thick-bottomed pot!

TIP: if your jam is too thin you can add cornstarch. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch and cook the jam for about 5 minutes. If the jam is still too thin, add 1 more tablespoon!

Step 3 – Jar the Jam

Use kitchen gloves for this step to protect your hand from the heat! Take out the jars and their lids from the oven and fill them up with jam leaving ½ cm (¼ of an inch) of empty space at the top. Screw the lids on tightly and place the jars upside down on the counter.

FAQ: Why do jars need to be placed upside down? Placing jars upside down ensures sterilization of the lids and the creation of a vacuum inside the jars which provides a better seal. Leave the jars upside down for about 15 minutes.

The jam will keep unopened in the pantry for about 12 months and once opened for about 1 month in the refrigerator. If you don’t can your jam then it will last for about a month in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer!

Elderberry Jam spread onto a piece of bread on a plate
Elderberry jam tastes great on toast!

Serving Suggestions

You can spread elderberry jam onto toast, add it to a cheese platter, eat it with crepes, pancakes, and even muffins, or just simply eat it with a spoon along with a warm cup of tea. Elderberry jam goes well with plain yogurt, and vanilla ice cream, and is frequently used as a pie filling.

Elderberry Jam spread onto a piece of bread

Easy Elderberry Jam without Pectin

This jam is not found in grocery stores, yet, it is full of vitamins and nutrients. Elderberries are often found in the wild and that is why this jam is really cheap to make if you spot an elderberry tree!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Jarring Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Jam, Side Dish
Cuisine American, European
Servings 4 jars
Calories 200 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 heavy-bottomed pot (I used a dutch oven)
  • 1 potato masher
  • 1 knife
  • 1 cutting board
  • 5 medium-sized jars
  • 1 Ladle
  • 1 large bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 950 grams (6¼ cups) ripe elderberry
  • cups (323 grams) sugar you can use honey or maple syrup, see post for instructions
  • 200 ml water
  • 580 grams chopped apples slightly unripe
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice fresh

Instructions
 

  • Place the washed jars and their lids (not screwed on) into the oven and heat the oven to 350F/175C. Let the jars sit in the hot oven for about 20 minutes. Do this first, so that by the time the jam is ready your jars are ready, too!
  • Wash the elderberries, picking out any stems or leaves that got into the bowl. Wash and chop up the apples and discard the stems, seeds, and cores. Cut the apple into small pieces (about 1-inch cubes). Juice the lemon and discard the seeds.
  • Place the elderberries and water into a pot with a thick bottom (to prevent burning), I used a dutch oven, and let them cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Press the berries down with a potato masher to break them up and allow the juices to flow. Add the apples and cook until the apples are soft (about 10-15 minutes). Then add the lemon juice and sugar, stir, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  • Skim the foam off of the jam if it comes up during boiling in order to ensure a clear color and to get rid of extra air bubbles. If the foam doesn’t form because of stirring, it is ok, your jam will not be significantly affected by it if you followed all the other safety instructions well.
  • Use kitchen gloves for this step to protect your hand from the heat! Take out the jars and their lids from the oven and fill them up with jam leaving ½ cm (¼ of an inch) of empty space at the top. Screw the lids on tightly and place the jars upside down on the counter.
  • The jam will keep unopened in the pantry for about 12 months and once opened for about 1 month in the refrigerator. If you don’t can your jam then it will last for about a month in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer!

Notes

TIP: if your jam is too thin you can add cornstarch. Add 2 tbsp of cornstarch and cook the jam for about 5 minutes. If the jam is still too thin, add 1 more tablespoon!
FAQ: Do I need to stir jam as it is cooking? If your pot is thin-bottomed you might need to continuously stir the jam, however, in a dutch oven the berries did not stick or burn. I don’t see a need for continuous stirring if you are using a thick-bottomed pot!
FAQ: Why do jars need to be placed upside down? Placing jars upside down ensures sterilization of the lids and the creation of a vacuum inside the jars which provides a better seal. Leave the jars upside down for about 15 minutes.
Keyword Easy Elderberry Jam, Elderberry and Apple Jam, Elderberry Jam No Pectin

What’s Next?

Have you made elderberry jam? I would love to see your results! Please, share your experience and ask questions in the comment section below.

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