Canning Elderberries - Easily! With Step-by-step Directions, Photos, Ingredients, Recipe and Costs
This month's notes: May 2016: Strawberries have a very brief season; and the start in early April in the South, don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions
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Yield: 7 to 9 pint jars
Click here for a PDF print versionCanning your own elderberries is also quite easy. Here's how to make it, in 12 easy steps and completely illustrated. These directions work equally well for regular sugar, low sugar, fruit juice-sweetened and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)-sweetened jam.
For more information about elderberries, see Elderberries.
- Fruit - fresh elderberries - any quantity - the crunch down some, so you'll need about 1 and 1/4 pints raw per pint jar finished.
- Lemon juice - either fresh squeezed or bottled. Alternatively, Citric acid (brand name, fruit fresh).
- Sugar - About 3 cups of dry, granulated (table) sugar. See step 6. It is possible to make low-sugar, fruit juice-sweetened, or Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)-sweetened fig jam; I'll point out the differences below.
- Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)- Big box stores and grocery stores sometimes carry them; and it is available online - see this page. It's a tremendously useful to put jars in the canner and
take the hot jars out (without scalding yourself!). The kit sold
below has everything you need, and at a pretty good price:
- 1 large pot; I prefer 16 to 20 quart Teflon lined pots for easy cleanup.
- Large spoons and ladles
- 1 Canner (a huge pot to sanitize the jars after filling (about $30 to $35 at mall kitchen stores, sometimes at big box stores and grocery stores.). Note: we sell canners and supplies here, too - at excellent prices - and it helps support this web site!
- Ball jars (Grocery stores, like Publix, Kroger, Safeway carry them, as do some big box stores - about $7.50 per dozen pint ounce jars including the lids and rings)
- Jar funnel ($2 at Target, other big box stores, and often grocery stores; and available online - see this page) or order it as part of the kit with the jar grabber.
- Lids - thin, flat, round metal lids with a gum binder that seals them against the top of the jar. They may only be used once.
- Rings - metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. They may be reused many times.
- Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water where you sanitize them. ($2 at big box stores or it comes in the kit at left)
Directions - Step by Step
This example shows you how to make canned elderberries. The yield from this recipe is about 7 pint jars per 9 pints of raw berries.
Step 1 - Pick the elderberries! (or buy them already picked)
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones!
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy, don't require pesticides and they make beautiful landscaping plants with red/gold leaves in the Autumn - but that does take some space and time.
As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen elderberries (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Choose ripe, sweet berries with uniform color. At left are elderberries almost ripe! If you want to pick your own, here is a list and links to the pick your own farms.
Step 2 - How much fruit?
Canned elderberries can be made in large or small batches - you can can one jar at a time if that's all you have.
Step 3 - Wash the jars and lids
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam. Some newer dishwashers even have a "sanitize" setting.
Step 4 - Get the lids warming in hot (but not boiling) water
Lids: put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine)
water (or on the stove in a pot of water on low heat) for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean and sanitize the lids.
Need lids, rings and replacement jars?
Step 5 -Wash the berries and sort!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water. (yes, these are pictures of blueberries; my camera died when I canned the elderberry)
Then you need to pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy berries. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the berries as they float. With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy berries get caught in your fingers.
Then just drain off the water!
Step 6 - Make and heat the syrup
Depending upon which type of sweetener you want to use (sugar, no-sugar, Stevia (but you will have to experiment with amount, each brand of Stevia is a different concetration), or Splenda, or a mix of sugar and Stevia (or Splenda) or fruit juice) you will need to use a different syrup from below. Adding syrup to canned fruit helps to retain its flavor, color, and shape. It does not prevent spoilage of these foods. Heat the syrup to near boiling in a pot.
Most people prefer the medium syrup (highlighted) or elderberry juice with added sugar!
Sugar syrup proportions for 7 to 9-pint jars of elderberries (double it for 9 quart jars)
Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (tm)
|2||no calorie sweetener||7||0||0||1/4 cup|
|3||Fruit juice (white grape or peach juice works well)||0||7||0|
|4||Reduce calorie / fruit juice||4||3||0|
|5||Fruit juice and Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda)||0||7||0||1/2 cup|
|6||very low calorie||7||0||1/4||1/4 cup|
|7||very light (10% sugar)||7||0||1||0|
|8||light (20% sugar)||6||0||2||0|
|9||medium (30% sugar)||6||0||3||0|
- Nutrasweet (aspartame) will NOT work - it breaks down during heating).
- Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda) (sucralose) substitutes exactly with sugar BUT even the manufacturers of Splenda will tell you that you get best results if you just use a 50-50 mix; half regular sugar and half Stevia (or if you prefer, Splenda).
- Sugar not only affects the sweetness, but also the color and flavor. It does not affect the preserving or spoilage properties - that has to do with acid and the processing method.
- you can use "no sugar" pectin in place of "low sugar" pectin - you can still add sugar or other sweeteners.
Step 7 - Add the natural preservative to the jars
Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice per quart jar or 1 tablespoon per pint jar to each of the jars. Alternatively, you may add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid (also goes under the brand name "fruit fresh") per quart or 1/4 teaspoon per pint to the jars. This is to increase the acidity and help prevent discoloration and spoilage.
Step 8 - Fill the jars with elderberries
Fill jars with elderberries, gently tapping the bottom of the jar on the countertop to help pack the elderberries down gently (tapping does it without breaking the elderberries).
Note about "hot packing" vs. "raw packing". You may have noticed that some recipes or canning directions call for the berries to be heated in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to several minutes before filling the jars. That is the 'hot pack" method. We're using the "raw pack" method (no preheating) because most berries are delicate and would be adversely affected by the preheating, and being small, it isn't needed to ensure uniform heating in the canner!
Step 9 - Fill the airspace in the jars with syrup
Add the hot syrup from step 6, leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe any spills jam off the rim of the jar.
Step 10 - Put the lid /rings on and put in the canner
Seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy! Place them into the canner
Step 13 - Process the jars in the canner (either boiling water bath or pressure canner)
You can use either a boiling water bath canner or a pressure canner, since there is sufficient acidity in berries. In the water bath canner, keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling.
The processing times are shown for each type of canner in the tables below!
To adjust, process according to the recommendations in the table below:
Recommended process time for raw pack Elderberries in a
|Process Time at Altitudes of|
|Jar Size||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 - 3,000 ft||3,001 - 6,000 ft||Above 6,000 ft|
Recommended process time for raw pack Elderberries in a
|Canner pressure (pounds of pressure) at altitudes of|
|Jar Size||Processing time||0 - 1,000 ft||1,001 and above|
|Pints||8 min||5 1b||10 1b|
|Quarts||10 min||5 1b||10 1b|
Step 14 - Remove and cool the jars - Done!
Lift the jars out of the water in the water bath canner (wait till pressure is zero in a pressure canner) and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last about 18 months. After that, the get darker in color and start to get runny. They still seem safe to eat, but the flavor is bland. So eat them in the first 12 to 18 months after you prepare them!
From left to right:
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Home Canning Kits
This is the same type of standard canner that my grandmother used to make everything from applesauce to jams and jellies to tomato and spaghetti sauce. This complete kit includes everything you need and lasts for years: the canner, jar rack, jar grabber tongs, lid lifting wand, a plastic funnel, labels, bubble freer, and the bible of canning, the Ball Blue Book. It's much cheaper than buying the items separately. You'll never need anything else except jars & lids (and the jars are reusable)! There is also a simple kit with just the canner and rack, and a pressure canner, if you want to do vegetables (other than tomatoes). To see more canners, of different styles, makes and prices, click here!
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Canning & Preserving for Dummies
The Ball Blue Book of Preserving
This is THE book on canning! My grandmother used this book when I was a child. It tells you in simple instructions how to can almost anything; complete with recipes for jam, jellies, pickles, sauces, canning vegetables, meats, etc. If it can be canned, this book likely tells you how! Click on the link below for more information and / or to buy (no obligation to buy)
Summary - Cost of Making Home Canned Elderberries - makes 7 pint jars, 16 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2006||Source||Subtotal|
|Elderberries||11 lbs (about 2 gallon, or 4 dozen large elderberries)||$8.00/gallon||Pick your own||$8.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||7 jars||$7.50/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$7.50|
|Sugar||1 cup||$0.50||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$0.50|
or about $2.30 per pint jar
* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars! If you already have jars or reuse them, just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!
Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
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