Can you pressure can elderberry syrup?

Elderberry syrup has become an increasingly popular natural remedy in recent years due to its potential health benefits. It is commonly used to help support immune function and treat cold and flu symptoms. While elderberry syrup can be purchased pre-made, many people choose to make their own at home using fresh or dried elderberries, sugar, and water. This allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor.

Once elderberry syrup is made, some people choose to can or jar it for long-term storage. This raises the question – can you pressure can elderberry syrup? Let’s take a closer look at the do’s and don’ts of canning this homemade remedy.

What is Elderberry Syrup?

Elderberry syrup is made by cooking elderberries with water and sugar to extract their beneficial properties. The berries contain compounds like anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The syrup is sticky and thick with a deep purple color. It can be taken directly off the spoon or mixed into water or tea.

Elderberries have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, but modern research is still ongoing into their potential medicinal applications. Some studies suggest elderberry syrup may help:

  • Shorten duration and reduce symptoms of colds and flu
  • Boost immune function
  • Have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties

However, more research is still needed to fully confirm these possible benefits. Talk to your doctor before using elderberry syrup medicinally.

Is Canning Elderberry Syrup Safe?

When it comes to canning elderberry syrup, safety should be your top priority. Improper canning can result in syrup spoilage and put you at risk for foodborne botulism poisoning.

Botulism spores are present in the environment and can contaminate low-acid foods like syrups. Canning provides an oxygen-free environment where the spores can grow and produce a dangerous toxin. Pressure canning kills botulism spores by exposing food to 240°F temperatures.

Elderberry syrup has a pH above 4.6, making it a low-acid food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) explicitly states that elderberry syrup MUST be processed in a pressure canner to prevent botulism. Simply boiling in a water bath canner is not sufficient.

If you choose not to pressure can, elderberry syrup can be safely frozen for long-term storage. It also keeps for 2-3 weeks refrigerated. But pressure canning is the only approved method for shelf-stable canned elderberry syrup.

Selecting Equipment for Pressure Canning

Pressure canning elderberry syrup requires some specialized equipment to reach the high temperatures needed. Here is the basic equipment you will need:

Pressure Canner

You will need a pressure canner, NOT just a standard boiling water bath canner. Pressure canners allow temperatures to reach 240°F by creating pressurized steam inside a locked pot. This high heat kills botulism spores that standard canners cannot.

Look for a pressure canner that has:

  • A rack to keep jars lifted off the bottom
  • An accurate dial or weighted gauge to monitor pressure
  • A vent port and lid lock to seal in pressurized steam
  • Sufficient room for pint or quart jars

Modern pressure canners have added safety features and backups to prevent accidents. Follow manufacturer instructions closely.

Canning Jars

You will also need pint or quart sized mason jars and self-sealing two-piece lids specifically designed for canning. Do not reuse lids since the sealing compound degrades over time. Be sure to inspect jars for cracks before use.

Other Supplies

Have ready:

  • A jar lifter for safe handling of hot jars
  • A bubble releaser or plastic utensil to release trapped air pockets
  • Lid bands to secure lids during processing
  • A clean towel or rack for the canner to rest on

Use a kitchen timer for keeping track of processing times. A food thermometer can also be useful for checking water bath temperatures.

Step-By-Step Guide to Pressure Canning Elderberry Syrup

Once you have your equipment ready, follow these detailed steps for safe pressure canning:

1. Make the Elderberry Syrup

First prepare your elderberry syrup using a trusted recipe. Be sure to make a thick, concentrated syrup with a high sugar content and cook thoroughly. This creates conditions less favorable for botulism and maximizes how long the canned syrup will keep.

2. Sterilize Jars and Lids

Wash jars, lids, and bands in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Place upright on a baking sheet and sterilize by baking at 250°F for 10-15 minutes.

Leave jars in the oven to keep hot until filling. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water, and simmer gently. Do not boil the lids. Keep lids hot until use.

3. Fill and Seal Jars

Remove jars from oven and ladle in hot elderberry syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. Slide a bubble releaser down the insides of jars to release trapped air pockets. Wipe rims with a clean damp towel.

Remove lids from hot water with tongs and place on jars. Screw bands on finger tight. Follow manufacturer instructions for your type of jar.

4. Load Canner

Place sealed jars on the rack in the pressure canner, spacing so steam can flow around each one. Add 2-3 inches of hot water to the canner.

Lock the lid in place but keep the vent port open. Turn heat to high and allow a full stream of steam to vent for 10 minutes to evacuate air from the canner.

5. Pressurize Canner

Once fully vented, close the vent to pressurize the canner. Allow pressure to build and follow manufacturer guidance for maintaining it at 11 PSI for your altitude.

Start timing once 11 PSI is reached. Process pint jars for 20 minutes, quart jars for 25 minutes. Do not interrupt or reduce pressure during processing.

6. Cool Canner and Jars

Turn off heat and allow canner to naturally depressurize and cool. Wait until the pressure gauge reads zero before carefully unlocking and removing the lid.

Leave jars in the canner to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing. Let jars sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours to fully seal.

7. Test Seals and Store

After sitting, test seals by pressing on the center of each lid. It should not flex up and down. Lid centers should also be concave, sucked down from the vacuum seal.

Wipe any stickiness from the jars and label with the syrup name and date. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Tips for Delicious Pressure Canned Elderberry Syrup

Follow these tips for getting the best flavor and texture from your homemade canned syrup:

– Use ripe, deeply pigmented elderberries for the richest flavor
– Add cinnamon, cloves, or other spices to the syrup for extra flavor
– Use Mason jars designed specifically for canning for a good seal
– Make sure headspace and processing times are followed precisely
– Allow syrup to rest undisturbed once removed from the canner
– Store in a cool location away from direct light to retain quality

Pressure canning does require extra equipment and some learning. But with the right know-how, you can safely preserve homemade elderberry syrup to enjoy all year long.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to water bath can elderberry syrup?

No, water bath canning is not a safe method for elderberry syrup. The syrup must be pressure canned to reach 240°F internal temperatures needed to kill botulism spores.

Can I use Mason jars not designed for canning?

It is not recommended. Standard glass food jars are more prone to breaking under high heat and may not provide an adequate vacuum seal. Use Mason jars specifically made for home canning.

How long will properly pressure canned elderberry syrup last?

If canned correctly, the unopened jars should keep up to 1 year in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate after opening and use within 2-3 months. Discard any jars with signs of spoilage.

What are signs of spoiled canned elderberry syrup?

Do not use syrup if the jar lid is loose or bulging, if any mold is visible, or if you see gas bubbles indicating fermentation. The syrup should appear thick and retain its dark purple color. An unusual odor, sliminess, or white film on top are also warning signs.

Can I double or triple the syrup recipe when canning?

Yes, but take care that your pressure canner is large enough to hold all jars with room for steam flow. Process times stay the same regardless of batch size. Leave space between jars and make sure the canner vents for 10 minutes before pressurizing.

Should I sterilize jars before pressure canning?

Pre-sterilizing jars in the oven helps ensure no spoilage organisms are present before filling jars. However, pressure canning itself sterilizes the contents sufficiently as long as proper times and pressure are followed. If short on time, you can skip pre-sterilizing when pressure canning.


Pressure canning is the only safe method for long term storage of elderberry syrup. Improper canning poses a severe risk of botulism due to the low-acid nature of the syrup. With the proper equipment and by following validated pressure canning procedures, you can safely preserve homemade elderberry syrup and enjoy its flavor and potential health benefits for up to a year after canning.

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