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Kay's Elderberry and Apple Jelly

On an autumn walk, we were coming down into Buckie Braes from the back of Craigie Hill Golf Course, when I was struck by the bushes covered in elderberries either side of the path.  Berries glowing like black jewels in the autumn sunlight.  There were so many, the branches were bowed down.  My mind started working – what could I do with this bounty?

Returning home, an internet search threw up recipes for elderberry jelly and spiced elderberry cordial.  But I also discovered that not only do elderberries contain lots of flavonoids and free radical-scouring antioxidants, they also contain 87 percent of the daily value in vitamin C and high amounts of vitamin A, potassium, iron, vitamin B6, fibre and betacarotene.  They have also been used for treating a range of ailments, including conjunctivitis, cold and flu symptoms, reducing congestion, relieving arthritis pain, soothing stomachs, relieving gas and for detoxification.  So these tiny black berries are little pellets of goodness all round.

Inspired, husband and I headed back to Buckie Braes the following day armed with buckets, gardening gloves and secateurs.  It was so easy to fill those buckets and still leave loads for any other foragers to find. The golden rule of foraging is to only take what you'll use, and to be mindful of others who will follow.

A good wash to remove dust, leaves (and beasties), stalks removed and into the preserving pan with enough water to cover. Simmered until the berries released all their fragrant juices then into the Jeely Bag to strain overnight.  In the morning, with the Jeely Bag stained a beautiful shade of purple, the juice was measured out.

A short aside about the Jeely Bag.  Jim, my husband and co-forager, made this for me out of several layers of muslin sewn together.  Goodness knows how many times I have set up the A-frame clothes dryer with the loops of the Jeely Bag attached to it and juice dripping into a big bowl on the carpet below.

The first batch of elderberry jelly was in progress.  Unfortunately, despite boiling to the required temperature, the mixture refused to turn to jelly so I ended up with several jars of very tasty syrup, but not what I was after.  Disaster. Back in the pan and boiled it up again.  The result was more akin to jaw sticker toffee.  More disaster. Discouraged by this time, I kept out enough of the remaining juice to make the cordial and poured the rest into a clean ice-cream container and put it into the freezer.

I did have Better success with the spiced elderberry cordial as it turned out as I wanted and made lovely warming drinks leading up to winter.

Skip forward to early September this year, a bag of apples from a neighbour’s tree and the memory of elderberry juice languishing in the freezer.  I have made apple jelly before and it has always been successful, so I thought, why not just mix the two? I realised that the low pectin content in the elderberries was possibly the cause of the problem, so adding apples should resolve this.

Another session with the Jeely Bag to get the juice from the apples and we were off.  This time it worked!  Four jars of Elderberry and Apple Jelly. 

Elderberries are ripe and ready for picking just now, and brambles are just about there too, so why not have a go at foraging for these glorious autumn fruits and make some of this great jelly?  Alternatively, if that’s too much work, get an elderberry or bramble fix from a bottle of Cairn O’Mohr wine.  Less work, but all the pleasure.

I hope you enjoy, Kay X

Preparation Time:
30 minutes
Cooking Time:
2 hours
Serves: 4 - 6 Jars


  • 1 kilo elderberries
  • 1 kilo of Apples
  • 1 kilo of Sugar (try jam sugar for a firmer set)
  • Juice of a lemon
  • Also 4 - 6 Jam Jars with screw on lids or waxed circles and cellophane covers


    • Give the berries a good wash to remove dust, leaves (and beasties), woody stalks removed. Don’t worry about totally stripping fruit from stalks.  Apples simply quartered. No need to peel or remove pips.
    • Place all fruit in Jeely Pan and add enough water to cover.
    • Simmer gently until the berries release all their fragrant juices and the apples go mushy.  (A potato masher can help to break the fruit down) then into the Jeely Bag to strain overnight. 
    • Do not squeeze the Jeely Bag or the jelly will end up cloudy.
    • In the morning, with the Jeely Bag stained a beautiful shade of purple, measure the juice and for every 500 ml juice, add 500 g of sugar and the juice of a lemon.
    • Dissolve the sugar thoroughly over a low heat, then boil, stirring occasionally, until setting point is reached, which is 106C, 220F using a sugar thermometer, or when a little jelly, placed on a cold plate, wrinkles when pushed with a finger. 
    • When setting point is reached, skim off any scum and pour into sterilised jars. 
    • Seal immediately with a screw-on lid, or place a wax circle (wax-side down) onto the hot jelly, then cover.

    The prep wtime will be about 30-60 minutes depending on how much fruit and prep needed.

    Allow up to 30 minutes to soften fruit, 7-10 hours to strain the juice and around 1 hour to dissolve sugar and boil to setting point.



    The spiced elderberry cordial uses the same basic juice and sugar ratio, as well as some lemon juice, a stick of cinnamon broken into two or 3 pieces and about 12 cloves. 

    Again, dissolve sugar over a low heat then boil for around 10 minutes.  Allow to cool, strain out the spices then bottle.  Great to give as presents in a pretty bottle. Add hot water to taste, or, warm some red wine, add cordial and you have some instant mulled wine. 


    My pal Kay makes amazing jam and jeely. I called her looking for a plum chutney recipe but after a wee trip round to her house for a blether and a Sunday morning sample of her Apple and Elderberry Jelly on fresh-from-the-girdle pancakes this was the recipe we chose. 

    Gill was especially pleased when Kay arrived for pics with a jar of jelly AND some pancakes!  

    I'm short and sweet this week becasue Kay tells her tale of foraging for berries and her accidental jelly so beautifully.

    We'd love to know what you do with your foraged autumn fruits - or your autumn preserve recipes (still looking for that plum chutney!). Leave your comments here and share your tasty ideas.

    And as always, we love your pics - make it, snap it, share the love. Tag it with a #PerthLoveFest and send them into us!