Spiced elderberry and apple jelly - recipe

PUBLISHED: 16:48 13 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:48 13 October 2015

Freshly picked ingredients (Photo by Lisa Osman)

Freshly picked ingredients (Photo by Lisa Osman)


Lisa Osman creates a fabulous spiced jelly that showcases two classic English autumn fruits

An autumnal jelly made with the gem-like fruits of the elder is the perfect accompaniment for game dishes. According to The Woodland Trust, the elder takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’ translated as ‘fire’, as hollow stems of young branches were used to blow air into the centre of the flames. Planted close to your doorway this tree is said to keep the devil away, but unfortunately this does not work with my larder. As soon as my back is turned jars of elderberry jelly mysteriously disappear - the only evidence is sticky mitts and jelly-stained chops!

When picking, leave some berries on the tree for wildlife. Use scissors to snip the stems of each umbel (berry cluster). Once home, remove the berries by holding the stem of an umbel in one hand and use the prongs of a dinner fork to push the berries from the stalks. Rich in vitamin C, the sour tasting elderberries are toxic when raw and should always be cooked before eating. 


• 900g Bramley apples - washed but not peeled or cored, cut into quarters with any bruising removed

• 450g elderberries - washed and removed from stalks

• 900ml water

• 1 cinnamon stick and 5 cloves tied in muslin

• Granulated cane sugar (450g sugar for every 600ml of liquid)

• Equipment: preserving pan, muslin or jelly bags, some sterilised jam jars (recycled are fine, just buy new lids online or from a cook shop) 


1 Put the fruit, the spices bag and water into your preserving pan. Place the pan on the boiling plate or conventional hob. Bring to the boil and then transfer to the simmering plate of your AGA or reduce the heat on your hob, gently cooking the fruit until soft.

2 Using the back of a wooden spoon crush the fruit to extract the juice. Transfer the pan to the AGA simmering oven or continue cooking on your hob until you have achieved a soft pulp. Discard the bag of spices.

3 Place the pulp in a jelly bag or muslin tied with string, and suspend this over a large jug or bowl allowing the juice to drip steadily. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, you are aiming for a crystal clear liquid not a cloudy sludge! Leave the suspended bag to slowly drip in a cool place overnight.

4 The next day, measure the beautiful clear juice and allow 450g cane sugar for every 600ml of liquid.

5 Pour the juice into a clean preserving pan, add the sugar and place on the simmering plate or over a low heat on your conventional hob. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar, then transfer to the boiling plate, or increase the heat to bring to the boil, until setting point has been reached (see Cooks’ Tips). If necessary skim the jelly at this point; then pour into sterilised jars and seal straight away, or cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and allow to cool completely before sealing.

Cook’s tips

• To sterilise jars: Use the hottest wash on your dishwasher cycle or hand wash and place in the AGA simmering oven, or at 120°C, for 20 minutes until completely dry.

• To test jelly for setting: If you are using a sugar thermometer the jelly needs to reach 105°C.

• Flake test: Use a clean wooden spoon to stir the jelly until well coated, hold the spoon above the jelly and see if a flake appears. This should not drop off the spoon until you shake it.

• Saucer test: Simplest of all drop a teaspoon of jelly onto a cold saucer (chilled in the fridge). Once it cools see if the jelly wrinkles when pushed with your finger.


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