Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry

Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry

Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry

Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and

A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry

Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry

Michaelmas Dumplings

October, one of my favourite months, and as John Keats so emphatically writes in his “Ode to Autumn”..….” Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”……..and indeed, for most gardeners it is a month of mellow fruitfulness – a veritable cornucopia of fruit, herbs and vegetables. And if the season is a boon for gardeners, it is even more fruitful for cooks, especially “jamming” cooks, as in preserving. I am one of those cooks; I look forward to October with anticipation, as well as with a certain amount of dread, as I know that I will be chained to the gas hob in the back room of my house, fondly called “The Jam Factory”, for several weeks.  But, once all the jars have been bought and sterilised, my fruit has been picked, washed, pitted and chopped, and my sugar supplies have been secured, I love being tucked away in the back room, sat at an old scrubbed wooden table, with a pot of tea, (or coffee) as well as my favourite music or radio shows to keep me company.

Elderberries, Hedgerow Harvests and A Cornucopia of Preserves for the Autumn Pantry


There is a sense of great satisfaction in preserving what you have grown (or bought locally), the knowledge that there will be jars of glowing jams and jellies to grace the winter breakfast table, as well pots of spiced, mellow chutney to adorn the Christmas cheese board; and, many of my home-made preserves are given as gifts throughout the festive season, with my friends and family starting to drop hints as to what they “cannot live without” well before my last quince has been picked and chopped!

Quince Jelly

Quince Jelly

Apples, crab apples, blackberries, elderberries, plums, damsons, figs, quince, raspberries, pears, marrows, onions, shallots, late tomatoes, garlic and beetroot, these are the mainstay of the autumn preserves kitchen, and I am lucky enough to have a small orchard in my walled back garden with apples, pears and quince, as well as a huge (and very prolific) fig tree, rows of raspberry canes, a bramble hedge, two elder trees and my herbs and home-grown veggies of course. Jams, jellies, fruit cheeses, chutney, pickles and relishes are planned with each basket or box of fruit or veg that is deposited (by my husband) on the kitchen table! Jam jars are lined up, sterilised, and ready to receive their autumn bounty, screw lids are to hand, as well as my “special” pen (an old calligraphy pen) with assorted “mop cap” paper covers and decorative labels. A battered old notebook records what I make each year, with dates and yields, and sundry notes next to each entry make for entertaining reading, as I record the weather, where the fruit and veg come from – so, many a “plump brambles picked by the back lane of the old school-house” has made it to that notebook for posterity!

Crab Apple and Mint Jelly

Crab Apple and Mint Jelly

I am a traditional preserver; I love recipes that have stood the test of time – lychees and raspberries with a “hint” of chilli and a “dusting” of cumin seeds may have their place in an exotic restaurant for a “fusion” dessert, but for me, traditional old recipes are usually the best. That’s NOT to say that I don’t experiment with flavours – and herbs and spices, as well as chillies, DO make it in to my preserving pan, but usually in the form of a chutney, pickle or relish. I LOVE vanilla (and other warn spice notes such as cardamom and mace) in jams and jellies, but I usually find that fruit cheeses need no adornment other than the sugar that will preserve their natural fruitfulness. One of my most requested preserve is my Elizabethan Quince Cheese, and I have a collection of old moulds and containers that I make my quince cheese in every year. Other popular recipes that emerge from “The Jam Factory” and that are on my family and friends “must have” lists for Christmas gift giving are: Quince and Ginger Marmalade with Rosewater, (the rosewater being a nod to our rich and exotic culinary past in the UK) and my Old Fashioned Scottish Apple and Ginger Chutney. My Home-made Quince Jelly is also in the Lavender and Lovage Top Ten of Preserves.

Apple and Ginger Chutney

Apple and Ginger Chutney

But one of the most bountiful of trees in my garden is the elder tree; in the spring it gives me fragrant blossom, from which I make my annual batch of elderflower cordial/syrup, as well as gooseberry and elderflower jam and jelly, and in the autumn, it provides me (and the birds) with bunches of heavy, glossy berries…..perfect for wine, and the preserves pantry. I LOVE elderberry jelly with cheese and charcuterie, but this richly flavoured jelly is wonderful when added to game casseroles and winter stews; I also make a winter tonic with elderberries and lemons, and it makes a warming hot drink on a cold evening, and is a soothing beverage when honey is added for those suffering from coughs and colds. Elderberries are a little on the bitter side when made as a “pure” jelly, so I always make mine with apples and lemons, and, I often add a splash of cassis at the end, for a boozy flourish.


Marsala Baked Figs with Candied Walnuts and Mascarpone Cheese

Another favourite ingredient for my preserving fest, is the humble and much maligned marrow; the most popular chutney recipe that I regularly make, is with marrows – my Irish Marrow Chutney is a huge hit, and the original recipe comes from a very old preserving book belong to my mum. The chutney is packed with raisins, onions, spices, root ginger, dates, figs and of course, marrow. A generous slug of Irish whiskey is added towards the end of the cooking process (I have used Scotch before too!) and although chutney are usually best eaten after two month’s “maturing” time, this chutney is mild and mellow enough to be enjoyed after two to three weeks.


Raspberry and Vanilla Jam

But, it’s my Elderberry and Apple Jelly recipe I am sharing with you today, as well as some seasonal snap shots of my garden, and my preserves. Elderberries seem to be very prolific this year, so, it is well worth making a batch or three of this delightful jelly, for winter cooking, as well as for gifts for food fanatical friends! Just a note about our birds; I NEVER “strip” the fruit from hedgerows (or the trees in my garden), I love living in harmony with wildlife, and I always make sure that I leave plenty of berries for our feathered friends, after all, it IS their pantry for winter feeding! I will see you soon with more recipes, holiday news and some seasonal decorative ideas……..I hope you try this recipe and enjoy the fruits of the autumn hedgerow. Karen

Elderberry and Apple Jelly

Elderberry and Apple Jelly

Elderberry and Apple Jelly

Serves 1.5kgs
Prep time 24 hours, 30 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 24 hours, 45 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Breakfast, Condiment, Side Dish, Snack
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion Casual Party, Christmas, Formal Party, Halloween, Thanksgiving
Region British
By author Karen S Burns-Booth
A fabulous seasonal preserve, Elderberry and Apple Jelly, makes use of the hedgerow harvest and is perfect on toast as well as a base for savoury sauces for game and meat.


  • 900g (2lbs) elderberries
  • 900g (2lbs) cooking apples, chopped, no need to core or peel
  • 180mls water
  • 2 lemons, juice of
  • 500g granulated cane sugar (approximately – depends on juice yield)


A fabulous seasonal preserve, Elderberry and Apple Jelly, makes use of the hedgerow harvest and is perfect on toast as well as a base for savoury sauces for game and meat.


Step 1 Gently wash the elderberries in a sink of cold water. Pull the berries off the stems and place them in a saucepan with the chopped apples
Step 2 Add the water, and then bring the fruit to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the apples and berries are tender.
Step 3 Spoon the fruit into a jelly bag, suspended over a large bowl, and leave to drip overnight.
Step 4 When you are ready to make the jelly, discard the fruit pulp and measure the fruit juice, then weight the sugar; you will need 450g sugar to every 550mls of juice.
Step 5 Place the elderberry and apple juice into a large preserving pan and heat gently. Meanwhile, heat the sugar in a low oven and then add the warmed (NOT hot) fruit juice with the lemon juice. Dissolve the sugar over a low heat and then when the sugar has dissolved, bring to a rapid boil and boil vigorously until the setting point has been reached.
Step 6 Remove the jelly from the heat as soon as setting point has been reached. Skim of any scum with a slotted spoon and then pour the hot jelly into warm, sterile jam jars. Cover with a disc of waxed paper, wax side down, and then cover with cellophane covers that are secured with an elastic band, or clean screw tops.
Step 7 Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place.
Step 8 NB: Setting point: I use the cold saucer method to check setting point – place 2 or 3 saucers in the freezer and then take the jelly off the heat when you want to check that setting point has been reached. Spoon some jelly onto a cold saucer and then push the jelly with your finger, if the jelly wrinkles and looks set, then setting point has been reached. You can also use a sugar thermometer; the jelly will be set when it has reached 106C on the thermometer.
Elderberry and Apple Jelly

Elderberry and Apple Jelly

(Recipe and article written by me and previously shared and published in Garlic and Sapphire)


  1. says

    What an evocative post! I will be trying that quince jelly…the colour is magnificent! I bet it tastes even better. If you have any more recipes using quince I will check them out x

  2. says

    Lovely post! I love elderberry jelly but this year is the first year I have not made some due to the proliferation of other preserves in my kitchen. But, I am very tempted to try your elderberry tonic so thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Lilly says

    wow, you are very lucky Karen, I only have a very small garden and I have been thinking about investing in 2 dwarf fruit trees, I think one has to be quince, and the other I am thinking cornelian cherry if I can find a dwarf variety, I didn`t know you can successfully grow figs in England. You inspired me to go pick some blackberries… I am making wine.. he he he I wanted to mix elderberries but I wasn`t sure if they can be consumed without cooking. Great post, when I feel brave enough I might give preserving a go !

  4. says

    I’ve been so obsessed with all the wonderful autumn fruit that’s been so successful this year, I was forgetting how much I love elderberry jelly. Lovely recipe Karen – thanks! Vohn x

  5. says

    I love Autumn too, (October in particular as its my birthday month!). All your preserve traditions look great and follow the same line of thought as my own. I used to make hampers of jellies and chutneys for friends and colleagues, but this year I have only managed some apple chutney and elderberry cordial (so good for winter colds and fevers as you said) but am off to Oklahoma for a couple of months and will now miss the rest of this ‘fruitful’ month. It makes me sad to think of all the apples lying in waste on the ground! Oh well, the birds can have them to themselves this year!

    • says

      Oh what a shame Angela, maybe you can wrap some up in newspaper before you go and the birds get the rest? Love the sound of your chutney and cordial, such wonderful gifts to make and receive. Karen

  6. Angela says

    Having made 2 batches of bramble and apple jelly, I noticed lots of elderberries when walking in the woods and had been wondering what I could do with them.
    Think that will be today’s job.
    I have also been wanting to try making chutney so might give the apple and Ginger one a go too, thanks for your timely post x

  7. Joy Morris says

    Oh Karen what a delightful post. so many lovely photos with lots of great recipes. I am new to the idea of doing my own jams and jellys, but am happy to try something again.

    • says

      THANKS so much Joy! I was VERY impressed with your crab-apple jelly on face book, you must be a natural in the preserves kitchen! Karen

  8. Mere Frost aka Jelly says

    Elderberry Apple Jelly recipe please!!! This is my favorite thing in the world! Jelly, jam, preserve, etc., and I am entranced by these photos!!!! I just picked the last of the elderberries…those that I was able to gather after those little beastie sparrows have either eaten or pooped on! Grrrr….I need to get a boat horn…seriously! They never used to bother with them! Now they have taken up residence! They get under the netting and take seige! I don’t mind sharing…but they clean them off the stems when they are still green! Just like the chokecherries! Thanks for the lovely photos! Sincerely, Jelly sigh…..

    • says

      THANKS so much Jelly, I DID actually think of you when I was writing this post, and remembering your lovely comments on facebook about what you have been making lately….with elderberries too! Karen

  9. Mere Frost aka Jelly says

    Oh Lordy! I just saw the recipe above! sorry! Will copy now! Thanks ever so much! I am rushing this am!!! LOL Garden work. jelly making, and cleaning out the barn and spa today! Yikes! (((hugs))) 😀 Ta ta!

  10. says

    so many lovely jams it’s such a gorgeous and warming autumnal post Karen… as I was driving down to London yesterday I saw loads of people pulled up on the side of the lanes picking elderberries… so sweet x

  11. says

    What a lovely post. Your range of preserves are amazing, such a choice and all look delicious. I’ve been making elderberry wine and cordial (when I had a cold recently a mug of warm cordial with lemon added was so comforting) but very tempted to make your jelly, it looks wonderful.

    • Mere Frost aka Jelly says

      I am done for the day!!! My Elderberry Apple Jelly came out great!!!! And I made some Hot Pepper Elderberry Jelly today as well! I had some Serrano Peppers so I used them in one batch of Elderberry Jelly! Pssst hot! And delicious!
      I like the apple with the elderberries! Nice flavor! Alas…I have no quince…sigh…and that quince jelly looks heavenly!
      p.s. I used mine wine bag instead of my jelly bags! Easier for me! Works great! 😀 Now I am going to put my feet up and have a nice glass of wine and some crackers and Brie cheese with some of my Elderberry Apple Jelly!!! I sooo deserve it!!!! 😀
      Thank you!

  12. says

    Great post, I have found an abolute glut of elderberries along a path jut at the bottom of my road, this will be an ideal use for them!

    You mentioned your Marrow Chutney… I have been given some rather huge ones that I was thinking of doing something similar with. I’d love a peek at your recipe if you can share?

  13. Tracy Nixon says

    Fab ideas – I have been out blackberry picking with the kids so am on the look out for inspiration! We have mad blackberry jam a few times but thought I would be more adventurerous! Wish me luck!

  14. says

    Your jelly looks delicious. I haven’t ever tried elderberries so I’ll have to look out for some to use in this recipe which I’m sure would be a real treat.

    Quick question – Do you actually dissolve the sugar with the fruit juice in the oven or do you move the pan out onto the stove top? I would’ve thought on top of the stove but wanted to be sure.

    • says

      Thanks Sean – I may change that step slightly as it is not clear, sorry! But, you add the warmed sugar TO the warmed juice and then proceed to setting point! Do try this recipe, as it is wonderful with meat and poultry as well as when spread on toast! Karen


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