Wild Elderberry Jelly
Recipe provided by Kelly Cohen
In the wintertime, you can find me in the mountains scouting, shooting, and just out exploring nature. Last winter, a plant I never really paid any attention to caught my eye because they were EVERY WHERE! It is called the Elderberry plant, and after I did a little research I found it can be used to make wine, jelly, syrup and cough syrup, and are supposed to be good for medicinal purposes as well. So I ended up picking over 40 lbs! After a few rounds of trial and error, I have finally mastered the jelly recipe.
3-4 lbs Elderberries, which you will use to make 3 cups of juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 packet Sure-Jell powder pectin; Divide into 4 equal parts. ¼ of pectin will be used per batch made, which equal out to 1 tbsp + ¼ tsp
2-1/2 cups white granulated sugar
Half-pint mason jars, lids and rings
Cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer
Canning pot, funnel and jar lifter
1) Prepare the Elderberries
Working over a large bowl, work on one small cluster at a time, gently raking your fingers or the tines of a fork across the clusters to dislodge the berries from the stems. Use mostly berries that are completely blue or black. A few under ripe green berries are fine.
Rinse the berries thoroughly. I find the easiest way to do this is to put them in a large pot, fill it up with water and let leaves, stems and other debris float to the top. If you've picked your own berries, often there are little squash bugs or spiders that will come to the surface, so keep an eye out for them.
Place berries in a gallon zip lock bag and remove as much of the air as possible. Use a rolling pin and go over the bag to smash the berries. Empty them into a large pot.
2) Make the Juice
Once all berries are in a large pot, use a potato masher to release some of the juices. Turn the heat to medium and continue to crush as the mixture heats up to a boil.
Once the berries and their juices reach a boil, reduce the heat to low and let the berries simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place in a large fine-mesh strainer to strain the juice; you can also use 4 layers of cheesecloth. Slowly transfer the mashed berries and juice into the strainer to strain the juice out into the pot. Let strain until there is no more juice draining out.
You will need 3 cups of juice to make one batch of jelly if using Sure-Jell pectin.
Any left over juice can be reserved for making syrup, or add to another batch for jelly.
3) Prepare Jars
You'll need 4-5 (8-ounce) canning jars and lids. To sterilize jars, place them in a large canning pot and fill jars and pot with hot water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes.
(You can also place clean jars on a baking sheet, top up, in the oven. Heat for 10 minutes at 200°F.)
To sterilize the canning lids, place briefly in hot water; don't leave them too long, as it can break down the rubber.
4) Cook Jelly
Place 3 cups of juice into a large, high sided, wide pot, add the lemon juice and pectin. (Tip: To prevent foam, you can add a tablespoon of butter to the mix.) Stir and bring to a boil on high heat. Add 2-1/2 cups sugar.
Bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down and boil for exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour mixture into canning jars using a canning funnel, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace from the rim.
Wipe rims with a damp paper towel. Place lids on jars and add rings to "finger tight". Don't make them too tight, or it could cause the lids to buckle in the next step.
5) Canning and Sealing
Using a jar lifter, lower jars into large pot of boiling water (the same pot and water from step 3), add a lid and process in the water bath for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, leave lid on and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner using a jar lifter and let cool.
As the jars cool, you should hear a "popping" sound indicating the lids are sealed. Once sealed, jelly can be stored in the pantry.
If you don't want to process in a water bath, you can store jelly in the freezer.