Giulia’s elderflower jelly

elderflowers soaking in a lemony sugar syrup
elderflowers soaking in a lemony sugar syrup

Making a jelly from flowers has an alchemic feeling to it. It ‘s not the same as making a jam from fruit. It’s more like making a perfume, except you can eat it.
Flowers are ephemeral creatures and so is their scent.
The scent we so love is not made for our own pleasure. Actually, it ‘s designed to vaporize into the warm spring air in order to attract pollinators. When its function is accomplished it will disappear together with the flowers.
A flower jelly is a way to capture this evanescent pleasure inside a sugar syrup. To collect the scent you need to follow your senses more than a measuring cup. Here is what you need to know:

  • Pick flowers that are fully opened with petals still firmly attached to the stem. Full bloom will assure maximum emission of scent.
  • Choose flowers away from roads and dust and keep them in a large container so they are not crushed. Washing and mechanical damage will remove most of the scent.
  • Be gentle with heat when extracting, otherwise the scent will boil away. Dip flowers in hand-warm sugar syrup and cover to prevent evaporation.
  • Don’t over-extract. After more than a couple of days the flower-syrup mixture will start fermenting and you will have to discard it as it has a foul taste.

I have been given this rare and wonderful recipe of elderflower jelly by my pal Giulia of Locanda della Valle Nuova.
Here is her original recipe. She uses dry flowers while I use fresh ones. Either way I can assure you this is a spectacular jelly, with a flowery fragrance similar to honey. It’s lovely on toast, on my  ricotta mousse  but also with some aged pecorino. Or just out of the jar, if you must.
For the syrup:
1/2 liter ( 2 cups) water
200 gr (1 cup and 3/4)  sugar
15 elder flowers
1 organic unwaxed lemon
For the jelly
800 ml (3 and 1/2 cup) elderflower syrup
800 gr (3 and 1/2 cup) sugar
liquid or dry pectin according to package instructions
Using a large shallow pan bring the syrup-water and sugar to near boiling point to dissolve the sugar, then cool until warm but not scalding. Add the flowers head down, the juice of the lemon and the two squeezed halves as shown in the picture above.  Cover and let them soak for 24 hours.
Filter the syrup into a tall pan making sure to squeeze off any liquid from the soaked flowers and lemon. You can use some warm water ( 100 ml/ half cup) to remove additional syrup from the flowers.
Follow package instructions to make a jelly using pectin, the syrup and the additional sugar. Transfer into clean jars and seal.
Use after at least one month.
Makes approx. 2 and one half  1 pint jars.

a fragrant elderflower


  1. What a coincidence! I had never even heard of using elderflowers until a week ago when I tasted it first in a sparkling water and next in a saboyan during a cooking class. We have had three large elderberry bushes in our yard for the last 20 years but I had never harvested them until Friday. I have them infusing on my counter right now. Thanks so much for the tips. I learned more about this beautiful flower from your post today and will definitely try your recipes.

    • One of the things I love about cooking is discovering new ingredients. Until I moved up here in Assisi I never had elder plants and I had no idea what to do with it. After a couple of summers looking at all those little berries getting wasted I started making elderberry jelly which is delicious. The flower jelly is even easier and tastes even better. My friend Giulia, who is mentioned in the post, uses the dry flowers to flavor cakes. There is so much to learn!

  2. I am impatiently waiting for our elderberry bushes to bloom out so I can make this jelly! Meanwhile, I am thinking of ways to use it. Thanks, Giulia, for developing this recipe and thanks, Letizia, for sharing it. You know I will update you later. Ciao! Amos

  3. Thank you Amos! In fact you can use this jelly in substitution of honey, I would not cook it though as it is quite delicate. It’s wonderful with some aged cheese!

  4. Sublime! I obtained 600 ml flower syrup and added 800g jam sugar (containing pectin). (The jam sugar quantity can be adjusted depending on the amount of flower syrup.) I also added one tablespoon of liquid pectin and the jelly set in 5-10 minutes, about 1200ml/2 pints produced in total, 4 jars. I make a variety of jams and jellies, but this excels in its flavour and uniqueness. Perfect on warm croissants.

  5. Hello, I hope you are still taking comments. I made the syrup with fresh elderflowers. There is no scent. Is that typical? Could I add some dried flowers and let it steep again? My flowers are done now.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Melody, you need indeed fresh elderflowers. The only explanation I have for the lack of scent is that you might have used water which was too hot and boiled away the scent, do you think this might be the case? if you have no fresh flowers left, I would definitely try to steep some dry flowers but only if they are every fragrant.

      • Hi. I don’t think I had the sugar water to hot. After I made sure the sugar was dissolved I let it cool , then added the flowers, let them steep overnight. Maybe not long enough ?

        • Hi Melody, I am sorry I did not see your reply! I steep the (fresh) flowers for 3 days, just one night seems to short for me. I hope this is useful for next year.

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