Recipe for Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly - a delicate topping for toast, cakes, and desserts
| |

Elderflower & Vanilla Jelly Recipe

Recipe for Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly - a delicate topping for toast, cakes, and desserts #jelly

Recipe for a sweet soft-set jelly infused with Elderflowers & Vanilla

Usually Elderflowers bloom in early to mid-June and they’re a wild food that is relatively easy to spot and forage. This year they’re just now beginning to show so there’s ample opportunity for you to gather your own to make fragrant and delicious cordials, champagnes, desserts, and preserves.

For those new to Elderflowers, the flavour of these delicate flowers is sweet, intensely aromatic, and  traditionally paired with fruit like gooseberries and strawberries. Recipe for Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly - a delicate topping for toast, cakes, and desserts

Though I love these combinations, I often find that the fruit flavour takes centre stage and I wanted to instead create a preserve that had Elderflower at its heart. With the subtle aroma of vanilla bean, this recipe results in a jelly that is a perfect blend of sweetness and perfumed bouquet and is ideal for spreading on toast, muffins, pancakes, vanilla ice cream, or anything that takes your fancy. In fact it’s so good that you’ll probably be tempted to just eat it from the jar!

Elderflower & Vanilla Jelly Recipe

Makes approx. four 450ml Jars

Herbal Courses To Choose From

10-12 Large Elderflower Umbels (approx. 135g of flowers once removed from the stalks)
1 Litre / 4 cups Boiling Water
1 Kg / 4 cups Jam Sugar*
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (juice of one large lemon)
1 Vanilla Bean Pod
1/4 tsp / 2g powdered Pectin**
Sauce or Preserving pan
Jelly bag or muslin or Jelly Strainer Stand with Bag
Sterilised Jelly Jars with Lids

* Jam sugar can be found in many grocery stores and it’s essentially just plain white sugar combined with a bit of citric acid and Pectin, a natural gelling agent. If you can’t find Jam Sugar for this recipe, you can use 4 cups of ordinary white sugar and 8g (approx. 1 tsp) of powdered Pectin. The extra 1/4 tsp of Pectin in this recipe is in addition to that amount.
** This amount will give a soft-medium set. For a firmer set, add 1/2 tsp powdered Pectin

1. Locate and pick your Elderflowers.

This time of year on the Isle of Man there seems to be at least two small trees flowering with umbels of white flowers: Rowan and Elderflower. Rowan isn’t poisonous but it doesn’t have the flavour and aroma that Elderflowers have so have a look at the image below to make sure that you have the right one. If you’re wondering about where to look, Elder trees can often be found along the edges of forested areas, fields, and hedgerows, and there are varieties that grow in the UK, Europe, and parts of North America.

2. Clean and pull the flowers

Leave the flowers outside for an hour or two after picking so that any tiny insects that may have been hiding inside have a chance to escape. If the flowers were collected in a bag or basket then it’s also a good idea to take them out and spread them around on a table or large plate to encourage those little guys to find a new home. I’m sure that neither you nor they want bugs in your jelly!

After you’re confident that most if not all of the insects are gone, pull all the tiny white blossoms off of the green stalks and place them in a large sauce pan. Some people use a fork to pull the flowers off but I just use my fingers since I find it easier and a good way to spot any remaining bugs. You also want to make sure to discard the thicker green stalks but don’t worry too much about the tiny ones that attach to the flowers.

3. Infuse the flowers

Pour one litre (4 cups) of boiling water over the flowers, cover the pan and then leave it to sit for a couple of hours. Once that time has passed, pour it through a jelly bag or muslin to separate the liquid from the flowers. While other jelly recipes will warn you against squeezing the bag, it’s perfectly okay to do it for this recipe. So go ahead and try to squeeze out every last drop of that delicious Elderflower infusion.

4. Infuse the Vanilla

Rinse the pan and then pour the Elderflower infusion back in. Now turn up the heat to medium and scrape the inner part of your vanilla bean into the liquid – throw the empty pod in for extra flavour. Put the lid back on the pot and simmer for five minutes before fishing the empty pod out. Have a look at your liquid to make sure there aren’t any bits of the pod floating inside but don’t strain the liquid since it would only remove all of those gorgeous little vanilla seeds.

5. Add the lemon juice & pectin

Now add your lemon juice to the infusion and bring it to a boil. Adding lemon juice will intensify the colour but more importantly it will enable your jelly to gel. Without a bit of acid, Pectin won’t be able to work its magic and you’ll be boiling for ages without coming even close to the setting point. If you’re wary of the lemon flavour affecting the jelly, don’t worry since you can’t really taste it.

Once the Elderflower-Vanilla-Lemon infusion comes to a boil, add your sugar and Pectin and stir until both are fully dissolved. Some fruits have natural Pectin that allow them to gel without adding anything extra but neither vanilla or Elderflowers bring it to this recipe. There’s some in the lemon juice but not enough to set the  liquid into a jelly so you’ll need to use Jam Sugar and a little extra powdered Pectin to get a soft set. If you want a firmer set then you’ll need to add a bit extra Pectin (read the note at the bottom of the ingredients list).

6. Bring the jelly to its setting point

Keep your jelly mix at a rolling boil until it reaches the setting point. There are a couple of ways to determine this but the method I use is to place a small plate in the freezer for ten to fifteen minutes to get it really cold. Once I’ve boiled the mixture for about ten minutes I take the plate out and place a generous drop of jelly on the plate. Wait a minute until it’s cooled and then poke at it with your finger – if it’s gel-like and/or crinkles up you have setting point. If not, put the plate back in the freezer and test again after another five minutes. For this recipe I boiled the jelly for twenty minutes before it was ready but the time will vary based on your own stove, elevation, and other factors.

7. Pour the jelly into jars

Once you’ve established the setting point, take the pan off the hob and allow it to cool for a few minutes. This will allow a skin to form on the surface that can be easily pushed to the side, along with any foam, and then scooped out of the pan. After you’ve done that, pour the jelly into warm, sterilised jars and screw the lids on tight. Leave them to sit on the counter to cool and eventually they’ll all seal with a loud pop. If you don’t hear the pop then either refrigerate the jelly and try to use it within a couple weeks or process the jars in a hot water bath, taking the lids off first to make sure that the inner seal is in no way damaged.

I need to note that water bathing jams and jellies is not common in the UK and that traditionally they’ve just been sealed with wax paper circles on the jelly’s surface. In the USA water bathing/processing jams and jellies is the standard and considered a safer way to preserve high acid foods. Please look into this topic for yourself and choose whichever method that best suits you and your family.


  1. This sounds really lovely. I don’t have access to fresh elderflowers. I do have dried ones though. Think I could use the dried in lieu of fresh?

  2. Each year since I tried this, I cant wait for the elderflowers – this is the BEST RECIPE EVER!! Thank you. I use it with meat, with ide cream, and even on its own on a muffin. Cant thank you enough

  3. I made this last year for the first time after discovering wild elderberry on our pasture’s edge. Although it had a very soft set, that didn’t matter because the taste was divine. The flower heads are about to open again and this time I will be ready to harvest and hopefully make more than one batch of jam/syrup. Although we left some flowers to mature into berries, somewhere in the summer that didn’t happen. Birds, maybe? Thrilled that the plants came back and t his year we roped them off to keep the horses away. Can’t wait!

  4. Thanks for this lovely recipe, Tanya. I especially appreciate the photos showing the differences between rowan and elderberry, such an easy mistake to make for a non-forager! I walked past an elder last week at our City Farm – the smell from the flowers was so distinctive and beautiful. I doubt I'll be able to take flowers from their tree but will probably be able to find some on Hampstead Heath – would quite like to give this recipe and some cordial a try!

    1. Ha, funnily enough I picked some on the Heath today, and then found this site when I was looking for recipes :)

      I should probably go and see how the piglets are doing at the City Farm too.

  5. Tanya, I have just made this and it smells and tastes lovely. One slight problem and it is probably me, I don't appear to have any vanilla seeds left in the jelly. They were there even after I added the sugar and pectin, but I think they all got stuck in the scum when I removed it. What I do seem to have is tiny blobs of undissolved pectin, I had great difficulty getting this to dissolve so maybe another time I might use the sugar with pectin in.

    1. I'm really sorry to hear of your difficulties! If you'd like an easier Pectin, why not try the stuff that comes in liquid form? It's a bit more expensive but at least the pectin is dissolved.

      The disappearing vanilla seeds is a bit strange too. They probably wouldn't have all floated up into the scum so maybe they got stuck in your pectin globs?

  6. We have a ton of elderflowers growing around here (I live in Maine). The other day, I was driving with the windows open and, as I passed a large swath of them, their heady scent permeated my car. "Oh, my. I wonder if you can make jelly out of those?" So, this morning, I sat down to research this and came across your entry! I love it when that happens! And, of course, I love that there's vanilla in this. My kid tells me that I put vanilla in everything. "Mom, you're going to have to branch out and try new flavours." Maybe the elderflower will satisfy that. (Ha.) Thanks again for the beautiful post.

  7. Think I shall have to give that a go. I usually make Elderflower Cordial and freeze it in 1pt plastic milk cartons. Love the flavour of the flowers (and the smell).

  8. If I cook gooseberries I always put an elderflower cluster in with them as it give them a delicate flavour. But I hadn't heard of your other recipes – shall try them when the elderflower is out.

  9. Wonderful. I keep looking out of the window at the elderflowers in the back lane and wishing I had a good recipe for them, as we don't really ever drink cordial. But jam, oh yes, we like jam, so I shall definitely give this one a try. I'm off to find an old envelope to write down the recipe on (all my very best recipes are on the backs of old envelopes I think). Thank you for sharing this.

    1. I had to laugh when I read your comment…I have a massive wad of recipe envelopes stashed away in one of my kitchen cupboards. I've started copying some of them out into a cookbook but I have a feeling there will always be a few sneaky ones lying about the house.

      Enjoy making and eating the jelly :)

    1. It's a late year for them Tanya but keep an eye on them. The tree I picked my flowers from had tons of flower buds but only a few that had blossomed. I imagine that it will be a matter of days before the rest of them pop open.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


No problem