Keep Germs at Bay with Immune-Boosting Jam

Ditch the Germs with this Immune Boosting Sugar-Free Elderberry Jam! Super Easy and Deeeeelicous!

{It’s fall. Germs are EVERYWHERE–sniffles, colds, and the flu seem to pop up in families at record pace this time of year. Thankfully, today we have Melanie with us from Herb Geek (she really is just that–so if you want to learn about herbs, go and check out her site) to share a fabulous way to keep these bugs at bay–Immune Boosting Elderberry Jam.  I can’t think of a better way to ward off sickness, can you :)? By the way, the post is mainly Melanie’s, but I’m chiming it occasionally and the affiliate links are mine. If you end up purchasing raw materials for your Jam-Making Adventure after clicking through from here, then I might make a commission.  Feel free to share some jam with me as well :).

It’s absolutely that time of year again when a simple visit to the playgroup, daycare, or classroom can put the whole family under the weather for a week.

And every time this happens, I chide myself for not having dosed us all up sooner with a generous helping of Elderberries, or any of these other immune boosting herbal recipes for kids.

Hands down my favorite go-to plant for staying healthy during cold and flu season, Elderberry is a powerful little berry jam-packed with antioxidants, and well studied for its protective effects from viruses. A smart little berry indeed, Elderberry flavonoids trick flu viruses by binding to the proteins on their viral envelopes. Those nifty proteins are the ones that viruses use to bind to our cells and cause infection. Successfully duped, the viruses are thus deactivated from reproducing in the body, and are then easily flushed out by our body’s natural immune defenses.

Clever berries.

Although I love Elderberry, and although my little one will readily consume anything tasting even remotely sweet, I’m not quite thrilled about pumping my child full of sugar in order to get this lovely berry to do its job. Furthermore, sugar has been shown to lower the body’s immune response, so it just seems silly to give an overly sugary syrup to a sick child.

I’m also not a huge fan of vegetable glycerine – it’s a highly processed and refined product, and there’s no guarantee which plant it’s derived from, with soy, palm, and coconut being likely contenders. Furthermore once questions around GMO safety arise, I start looking for more natural solutions.

Although there are many ways to introduce herbal preparations to child, I particularly appreciate food-based herbal recipes that are also low on the glycemic index. Hence my quest for the perfect sugar-free Elderberry jam recipe.

A Few Important Notes about Elderberries and This Recipe

1.  First and foremost, Elderberries must always be heated, since in their raw form, they contain a constituent similar to cyanide. Although some sources say that fully ripe elderberries and dried elderberries are okay to consume raw, I prefer to be on the safe side and treat my berries to a nice, hot bath.

2.  Ripe Elderberries are lovely to the point of being intoxicating, however they can be hard to source unless you know your plants, and are confident with your identification skills. {Hmmm…From  Adrienne: I’m thinking it would be easy to pick a poisonous berry instead. No thanks. I just bought these Organic Dried Elderberries a few months ago and will be using them :)!} Luckily, Elderberries retain much of their potency when dried, and can easily be rehydrated to make a delicious jam.

 

Jam that makes you healthy? Check out this Elderberry Jam. It's sugar free, easy to make, and has AMAZING immune-boosting properties!

Dried Elderberries–Just waiting to be made into jam!

 

Ditch the Germs with this Immune Boosting Sugar-Free Elderberry Jam! Super Easy and Deeeeelicous!

Elderberry Jam–All done and ready to fight germs–deliciously!

Variations

1.  Juice Substitutions

Apple juice is a popular choice for making jams, and will also serve as a natural sweetener for your juice. I would also recommend juices such as pear, mango, and grape. My juices of choice are unsweetened berry juices because they are high in antioxidants, and give the jam a deep purple color.  However, unsweetened berry juices will generally result in a jam that is less sweet.

 2.  Sweetener Options

A couple of low-glycemic syrups are yacon syrup (glycemic index of 5) and Brown Rice syrup (glycemic index of 25). Stevia is also a great choice since it has a glycemic index of 0, but this will also impart its own flavor to the jam. I personally don’t like the taste of stevia, but most people don’t seem to mind. Another great option is to sweeten your jam with a dried fruit paste, which can easily be made with dates, apricots, figs, or raisins.

The popular agave syrup has been featured in numerous reports questioning whether it is indeed a safe and healthy choice. Although it has been shown to have a low glycemic index, questions have surfaced around whether its effects on the body are actually equivalent to that of high fructose corn syrup.

Furthermore, agave nectar is produced through a highly refined chemical process in which the starch of the root is reduced to syrup; it is not actually derived from the natural sap of the plant, as the word “nectar” would have us believe. Since there are lots of other safer and more natural sweetener options, I generally steer clear of this one.

{Note from Adrienne:  Jerusalem Artichoke Syrup is another GREAT choice.  I’ve read it is a pre-biotic sweetener (helps your body’s gut) and has a glycenic index of only 6.  I haven’t tasted it yet, but I am going to buy it soon!

Wondering where to find Elderberries?  Check out Mountain Rose Herbs for one source, or use the Amazon link in the recipe above.}

What do YOU use to boost your immune system?

Herb Geek - Melanie Pulla BioMélanie Pulla is an herbalist, mamma, radical homemaker, and entrepreneur. She has a BSc in Wellness and Alternative Medicine, holds several diplomas in herbal medicine, and is the founder and editor of Herb Geek, an online educational resource for natural healing. Mélanie is happiest when spending time with her family, exploring the natural world, crafting herbal recipes in her kitchen, and sharing her herbal musings with the wor

Shared at Food Renegade, Skip to My Lou, The Better Mom, Real Food Forager, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, Time Warp Wife, Chef in Training, Intentionally Domestic, Nap Time Creations, We Are that Family, Frugally Sustainable, The Nourishing Gourmet, and The Prairie Homestead.

Comments

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  1. This recipe sound awesome!Thanks for sharing!

  2. Are you aware that the link for sugar free pectin takes you to a product with aspartame as an ingredient??? It seems you wouldn’t promote such an awful ingredient to be a part of your wholesome recipes ….

    And I wonder what an alternative is and where I could buy it.

    I’m new to jam/jelly making. Would like to keep refined sugar free and artificial sweetener free.

  3. Where in the world do you get elderberries? I gave my son some elderberry syrup last winter and he started itching. I have wondered if it is the berry or something else in the syrup that did it.

    • There’s a link in the post to the ones I bought :). I would be careful about allergies.

      • Oh sorry! I didn’t notice it was a link. Yes, allergies are a big thing in our family. Always on the alert:-)

    • Hi Linda,
      Mountain Rose Herbs is a great source for elderberries (http://www.mountainroseherbs.com). Eating uncooked, fresh elderberries can cause allergic reactions, which is why it’s important to cook/boil your fresh elderberries. Dried elderberries don’t carry the same risk as the fresh berries, but my jam & syrup recipes always involve boiling elderberries regardless of whether they’re fresh or dry.
      Melanie :)

  4. Mary Ann Martin says:

    I’m curious if there would be a way to thicken with chia seeds instead of the pectin and date paste? I suppose the date paste helps sweeten…

    • Hi Mary Ann,
      Yes, chia seeds would make a great thickener. I haven’t tried it myself, but I think 2 Tbsp of Chia seeds would do the trick for this recipe. That said, if you’re going to omit the date paste, then I would recommend substituting it with some other kind of sweetener because unsweetened Elderberry jam won’t taste very good! :)
      Melanie

  5. I’m sorry I didn’t see the comment box when I looked at your post from my IPhone:)
    So, I sent an email with these questions.
    Do you store jam in freezer or fridge? Or do you can the jars? How long will this stay good?
    Also, how many jars does this make and what size of jar?
    I want to try this..sounds great :)
    Thank you!
    Kay

    • I am wondering these things, too! I can’t wait to try it. :)

    • Hi Kay and Jill,
      Excellent questions! The recipe will yield 16 ounces of jam, and canning the jam is ideal. I would recommend dividing the jam into four 4 ounce jars so that you always have a small amount on reserve when you need it most. This will also ensure that you finish every jar and avoid wasting any precious preserves. An opened jar will last about two weeks in the fridge. You can also freeze your jam immediately after you’ve made it; frozen jam will keep for up to one year in the freezer. Happy jam-making!
      Melanie

  6. I have a couple of friends who have elderberry trees, and happily gave me them. I have them in the freezer, and next Saturday I will be making a syrup, and exliar with a friend who has all the canning supplies. I will be using raw organic honey for my sweetener, It’s nice to see different recipes. Pinned to my canning board.

  7. I would recommend using Pomona’s for a low sugar pectin (I see that’s what you have now). It works great. And there’s no way I’m paying $24/lb for elderberries. I just buy Frontier’s natural berries for half the price at Vitacost.com, and free shipping on $50 orders.

    • Hi Amy. That link was for organic berries. I just changed the other link to show conventional which is a much lower price :). Thanks for the comment – that was helpful.

  8. I use elderberry syrup now. One year we did find an elederberry bush in our neighborhood, which we harvested and made into elderberry applesauce. You should try it!

  9. Kammie @ Sensual Appeal says:

    I’m a big fan of jam as it is and if it also helps boost my immune system? Consider me sold.

  10. This summer was my first year making jams without any pectin. I am sold. They are so much more vibrant. They use way less sweetner. I used coconut sugar and sucanat and both worked great. The recipe is 1 cup per pound of fruit plus 2-3T lemon juice. I bet this would work with this as well. Cant wait to try.

  11. I absolutely love this idea!!! We don’t have elderberries locally so I will have to hunt some down. I would love it if you would link up with us at Healing With Food Friday!

  12. I haven’t worked with elderberries, this totally intrigues me! Featuring this post this week!

  13. Jewel Kohnke says:

    Are the Elderberry seeds edible?

  14. This is sooo fabulous, Adrienne. Sharing this week on AFW!!!

    xo,
    –Amber

  15. james salvatire says:

    Use honey instead of sugar use 1/4 less by volume than stated in jelly recipes it worked for me

  16. So, when I make syrup it seriously reminds me of tobacco (my kids don’t really like the smell either, though they will happily drink it in juice. Does the juice you add cover that up? I mean I can barely bring myself to down the stuff!
    i think partly it is the Dried aspect, I would really like to find some fresh ones this year. I wonder if I can “can” a bunch of syrup as well as jam if we like it.

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