Do you guys have a little list of things you’ve planned on learning for what seems like forever? There’s a bunch on mine but at the very top, second to learning to throw pottery, was learning how to can and preserve fruits and veggies.
I have family members who have amazing gardens and are canning machines and they are totally my idols. One of them, my aunt, was the one who taught me how to cook back in college but for some reason I never had her show me how canning works. Then, last year a friend of mine brought some jelly she had made out of her American beautyberries from her yard which was so delicious, and my interest was piqued immediately. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a shrub native to the southern US commonly found in woodlands and bottomlands. It happens to be one of the only native shrubs that do well in a shady corner of our backyard too. Birds LOVE the bright fuchsia berries which is why we planted it a few years ago but they’re pretty inedible raw so I was really interested in how she made it into such a delicious jelly.
Our bush made a BUMPER crop of berries this year so I figured it’d be a great time to take a stab at canning and see if I could make jelly like she did. We definitely had plenty of extra berries in case it was a total flop. I took a load of berries up to north Texas last fall and my aunt and I set out to make the jelly…and it came out amazing!! As soon as I got home I got to work doing it again.
How to Make American Beautyberry Jelly
We followed this simple recipe with just a few little tweaks which miraculously transforms these not-so-appetizing-but-pretty berries into what may be the most delicious jelly I’ve ever had, and it was a TON easier than I ever thought it would be! I know there are hundreds of great resources out there for how to can, and I’ve done this all of three times now so by no means am I an expert, but I just wanted to share how we did ours and provide some process pics on how it works with these weird little berries.
As usual, I wanted to get everything prepped and in place since many of the steps are kind of time-sensitive. All the jars and lids were washed, sugar measured out, and I lined everything up by where I was going to need it. Plus a towel underneath the jars because it can be messy. (Find all the supplies I used at the end of the post!)
The big canning pot takes for.ev.er to boil on our stove so it’s the first thing I turn on. Set all of your jars on the rack, half-filled with water so they stay put. Keeping them in here while you prep the berries keeps the jars hot and sterile before filling.
Boil your berries with the 8 cups of water while smashing them the entire time to get all the seeds out and extract more juice. You can use a spatula for this but my potato masher actually did a much better job. After boiling for a while they will start to burst on their own but there are some that don’t and I wanted as many of them smushed as possible. As the mixture boils and the skins rise it does want to boil over so just keep stirring and keep an eye on it. The water will turn into a reddish tea color and the skins will be tan/white on top.
After they’re done boiling, set up your cheese cloth sieve over a large bowl and ladle the berry mixture into it slowly. Scoop out some of the collected mush as needed so that the liquid keeps draining through. I used 2-3 layers of cheese cloth and it caught all the little seeds and skins perfectly. Once it’s all strained, you’ll measure out 2.5 cups of the extract to use for the jelly. There will be extra to use for a second batch or even to freeze for future batches. Note: it looks like it would be a yummy fruity tea…but it is not… at all… it is super bitter and yuck!
At this point, empty your jars and remove them from the boiling water canning pot and set them open-side up on your cooling rack so they’ll be ready to fill after the next couple of steps.
Put the 2.5 cups of extract back in the pot for the next steps. This part goes fast so again, make sure you’ve got everything on hand, measured exactly, and ready.
Once the extract is boiling, pour in your packet of pectin and whisk till it’s all dissolved then bring to a rolling boil (*a rolling boil is one that doesn’t stop when stirred). Whisk in your sugar until it’s dissolved and bring to a rolling boil again for exactly ONE minute then remove from heat. WATCH IT because it wants to boil over into a pink sticky foamy mess!! The color it turns after adding the pectin and sugar is gorgeous, back to the fuchsia they were before!
Pull the pot off the stove and scoop off as much of the foam as you can with a spoon. I didn’t get pics of this because it kind of needs to happen quickly since the liquid starts to thicken. The foam doesn’t hurt anything, it’s just a little unsightly in your jars so I try to get it all off (you can see some I missed in the pic below). Place your funnel in the first jar and fill it to about 1/4″ from the top (headspace) using a ladle or measuring cup.
Once they’re all filled, use a damp towel to carefully clean any jelly off the rims and threads of the jars. Careful, they’re hot! Then use the little handy magnet stick to place your lids and rims on each jar and carefully hand-tighten each one.
Use the jar grabber to place them back on the rack in the big canning pot then carefully lower the rack to the bottom. Let them boil for about 10 minutes then use long tongs to grab the rack handles and lift the rack back to the top of the pot.
Use the jar grabbers again to remove the jars and place them on the cooling rack. You should hear the little buttons start to pop which means they’ve been sterilized. If there are any that do not pop (meaning you can push on the center and it pops back up) you’ll want to keep those in the fridge and use them quickly, they did not sterilize for some reason. Once the jars are cool you can tighten the lids further.
The 5 total cups of extract makes enough jelly for about 24 of these little 4oz quilted jars which were the perfect size to be office Christmas gifts last year :) We also don’t go through jelly all that fast so this little size is good for us too so there’s not a lot wasted.
The inaugural batch of successful jelly definitely deserved some homemade biscuits! The jelly is sweet, but isn’t too sweet and still has some tangy-ness to it which I love. And the color couldn’t be more beautiful!!
I am so happy to have finally learned how this whole canning business goes down and I definitely have the itch to try other recipes, it wasn’t near as scary as I thought! I’m excited to learn some recipes for veggies and pickling more things, and of course I can’t wait until next fall when it’s beautyberry season again.
How about you guys, have you canned anything before?
Any great recipes I should try next??
This native shrub produces beautiful bright fuschia berries which make an excellent tangy jelly! Repeat from step #9 with second batch of extract
American Beautyberry Jelly
This native shrub produces beautiful bright fuschia berries which make an excellent tangy jelly!
Repeat from step #9 with second batch of extract
*affiliate links included for your convenience, click here to see my full disclosure policy
50 thoughts on “American Beautyberry Jelly and Water Canning Basics”
Beautiful photographs of the process! Makes it much easier to follow the flow of canning, I think :)
Your beauty berry bush has such fat, lovely berries. I wonder if the shrubs respond to all that salt air?
You know I need visuals :) Our bush has never had so many berries on it, we gave it quite a harsh prune last winter and maybe the heavy spring rains the last couple of years have helped? Who knows but fingers crossed it’s like this again this fall. Thank you for teaching me yet another obsession!!
Beautyberry is invasive in our area. We cut some of ours down, to control the spread, only to have them grow back twice as big and with tons more fruit than the prior years. Cutting them to the ground seems to be the best way to get a great crop. ?
Oh man, I didn’t know they were invasive anywhere! At least you can make something tasty from your problem plants, ha ;)
The plant is a native plant, so it is not invasive. It can be pervasive though.
Great jelly. I am happy to see you can freeze the berries. I have a lot of the plants where I cleared
a little forest.
I followed the directions, I thought, but ended up with syrup. Awesome syrup, but syrup none the less.
Hi Peggy! While ending up with syrup is still a pretty good problem to have, it’s definitely not what I hope you end up with :/
I went through the recipe and everything is correct, but there are a few things to make sure of that can cause the jelly to not set (and has for some previous batches…)
– once you have your extract boiling, pour in your pectin and stir till it’s dissolved, then bring to a rolling boil. Add your sugar and dissolve, then bring to a rolling boil again for exactly one minute and remove from heat
– measurements of extract, pectin, and sugar must be exact
– order must be pectin first then sugar (I did this like twice before I realized where I was messing up)
– boils must be rolling boils (one that doesn’t subside when you stir)
I’ll make sure this is all clarified in the recipe but give it another shot when you can and let me know how it goes :)
I just moved to Florida and picked my first batch of Beauty Berries . I have made countless jars of Wild Plum , Blackberry, Strawberry, Peach ,Grape all in Missouri. I tasted this Beauty Berry jelly after it set and thought it was bland , not much flavor. Followed a good recipe but I’m not sure I’ll make any more Beauty Berry jelly. If you know why mine was bland please tell me. I have enough juice to make another batch but thinking of mixing it with my Wild Missouri Plum .
I’m sorry to hear that! I do agree that this jelly does not have as strong of a flavor as other varieties, but it definitely doesn’t come out bland for me in my opinion. I would try doubling the berries in the next batch to see if that may help. It may just be a trait of that certain plant or even a difference in the berries this year in particular. Lots of reasons probably but hopefully using more solves it. Thanks for trying it though!
i didn’t get close to 48 ounces of jelly. I have maybe 30 ounces and my jelly has lots of bubbles. any tips?
I’ve definitely gotten less than 48oz in a batch too so there’s definitely going to be some variability in the yield after evaporation, variations in measurements, boiling, residual jelly…all sorts of things along the way. I just always make sure to have some extra jars on hand and just see where a batch gets me. Only tips for yield are just to watch measurements and times and *try* to be clean when pouring…as clean as you can be with jelly, ha! As far as the bubbles, I don’t have any tips on reducing the amount of them and like I described, I just do my best to skim them off before pouring into the jars :/ They don’t affect flavor at least! Hope this helps and good luck with your next batch :)
I actually didn’t have any of the foam. the jelly taste pretty good. kind of close to strawberry jelly. I wonder how much of that is just the sugar and pectin.
Add a touch of butter like half a tablespoon in the beginning of the cooking process when you add the pectin it will help reduce the bubbles
Oh awesome, I’ll have to try that with the next batch!! Thank you <3
Yes I live between va beach and outer banks they do very well here.
I rent and I looked up this plant not really knowing what it was. I was so thrill when finding I could freeze the juice. I got close to 2 gallons in the freezer. Oh yes I will be making jam very soon, just waiting for my sister to come and help me with canning. Thinking I will need more jars.
So awesome you got that much juice!! It’ll be so nice to have all that canned up and ready to go, have fun!!
I would love to print the recipe but it isn’t an option. What can I do besides highlight and copy? I have about a million of these beauty berries this year.
There should be a small green “Print” button below the image on the recipe in the post. When you click that it’ll open the recipe in a new window and your print setup window should automatically pop up for you to print from. I just checked the post and it seems to be working correct for me. If you’re still having trouble just shoot me an email and I’ll see if I can get a PDF over to you. I’m swimming in berries this year too!!
Thank you for this, I live in Louisiana and we have lots of Beautyberry bushes that grow wild. Until now, I always used the berries in bouquets and thought that only the birds could eat them.
I love your website and have already had fun exploring it a little!
A biologist? Wow! My parents got me a microscope for Christmas one year and I wanted to be a molecular or marine biologist (my dad was a deep sea diver) for the longest time. It is fitting that “food scientist” would also fit into your line of research! My mom used to work for Paul Prudhomme helping him with writing a cook book and they had a test kitchen on site at his restaurant. My mom came home with funny stories of experiments gone wrong, but the one that went very right was the “blackened fish” which became his most famous dish!
Time to jam it up Susan :) So awesome that your dad was a deep sea diver! This is probably super strange but as much as I love the water, I have a huge phobia of being in deep water, ha! It sounds like your family had quite the mix of food and science too. We learned about Prudhomme in my fisheries class in graduate school and how his blackened redfish came about…maybe one of the best inventions in the kitchen, right?!
Why did mine tuen brown?
Hmmmm, I’m not sure as I haven’t had that happen with mine as of yet. It does stay brown until the sugar step but mine has always turned back to the bright purple then. The only things I can think of that might could cause that would be using over ripe berries or maybe having too many seeds/skins in after boiling? Those are my only guesses, but hopefully if you try it again it’ll come out with that beautiful purple <3
My liquid looked brown as the berries started boiling, eventually becoming sort of a reddish brown. I took a little of the infusion and added some sugar to it, and that really tasted strange . . . kind of smoky or soil-like. I ended up tossing the whole lot instead of finishing the jelly. The deciding factor was my husband coming into the kitchen to see what smelled so awful. :-[ As I washed the infusion down the sink and it became diluted with water, there was a distinct green hue! No idea what the problem was, as the berries seemed perfect—ripe and beautiful looking when I picked them. But thanks for posting the recipe and the clear instructions, Emily!
Yes, as shown in the pics the liquid turns a reddish brown while they are boiling. The mixture does not change to the bright purple until later when the sugar and pectin are added. It looks, smells, and tastes terrible until that point :) I do hope you will give it another shot and hopefully end up with the beautiful sweet jelly at the end!
Made my first batch. Got 4 3 ounce and 3 4 ounce jars. I used the low sugar sure jell. Very pretty!
Just made my 2nd batch of beautyberry jelly. Mine crystalizes, but that’s because I used Erythrtol instead of sugar. It isn’t as sweet as regular jelly and looks more like a butter, but it is absolutely delicious. I’m finding that making the jelly has been sort of trial and error.
I used your instructions the first time and it was great. Couldn’t find them when making the 2nd batch. Put in too much pectin and had sugar candy. Heated it back up, sterilized the jars again and luckily found your insturctions. Looks very nice now. I also now have you saved for future reference. Thanks for saving my 2nd/3rd batch of jelly.
By the way, using Erythritol allows me to share my jellies with diabetic friends and family. Consider your selves friends. Erythritol is not a sugar substitute. It is a sugar replacement. It is expensive, but so are sugar substitutes and Erythritol is healthier. Read about it at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/erythritol. I was surprised and wondered why I had never heard of it before.
I’ve never heard of Erythrtol but that’s a great suggestion Evelyn, thank you!
I had no idea that American Beautyberry berries were edible. My bush was loaded with fruit this year. Next year I’m going to try your recipe!
They definitely don’t taste good right off the bush but the jelly comes out so delicious! Ours made a ton this year, I think in response to Harvey’s damage last year, so I have two bags of frozen berries to make up this winter :)
Wow! I can’t get over your load of berries! This is our first year of having a crop and am canning a batch of jelly as I type. I am so excited to find this joy produces not only a lovely landscape, but also yummy jam. Really enjoyed your post. Thank you!
Hope your jelly came out delicious!!
There is a chance if your eat too many raw betties that you will get sick, so just a warning.
Thank you! The raw berries taste absolutely horrible anyway.
Hello, I made the jelly with sure jell successfully and it was delicious. In my area, there is a shortage of sure jell and can only find certo. I tried it exactly the same way and it did not set. Is there a difference when using certo or did I just misstep when making it. Thank you!
Oh no! I’ve never made it with anything but Sure Jell so I can’t answer to how Certo does, but I hope you can track down some Sure Jell and give it another try.
I, quite by chance, received your website after I mentioned beautyberries on Facebook. I had never thought of eating them, even though our bushes were loaded this year. I asked my canning friend if she would be interested in canning jelly with my berries. She also was surprised to know they are edible. I picked about12-14 cups. We filled 15 8 oz jars with one recipe. She had enough berries left over to make at least that much for herself. I was grateful she had lots of experience (not to mention equipment and space)! She also gardens, freeze dries, freezes and cans. Our jelly is beautiful and I think tastes a lot like plum. She thought maybe elderberry. Both were exceptable. We live in Central Arkansas. Perhaps your geological location could affect the taste? I loved being exposed to canning at last. We may set a date to do it all over again next fall! Your directions were amazing. Thank you. And thanks to the person who passed on your website to me. WIN-WIN 😃
Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!! My aunt is located near Eureka and loves making it as well. So happy you guys were able to get together and make some, it sounds like such a great time :)
I am now in the process of making my 5-8 batches this season. I have given so many jars away and my friends keep asking for more. Thanks for sharing a great recipe! Do you have one for mango salsa that is canned? I use Chris’ Peach Mango salsa from the internet and it is excellent.
We live in North Fort Myers and my daughter lives in Arcadia and we have lots of berries! Next year if anyone wants some I will pick, as I picked 2 gallon bags from my daughters property and only made a small dent in what she had. Thanks again!
So happy this one has worked so great for you! Unfortunately I’ve never made mango salsa, just this jam so far.
Hi Karen, I too live in North Fort Myers. Do you have a good crop this year and do you know how to propagate them? I’d love to grow them here.
I tried your recipe and we love it! I live in SE Oklahoma and they grow wild where ever we don’t bush hog. I had no idea they were edible until I saw a post on Facebook. When I found your post on Pinterest, I had to try it. They remind us of muscadine jelly. Thank you for the easy to follow instructions!
So glad you found it! And yes, very similar to muscadine which is one of my favorites :)
Emily living in Florida we assumed this fruit was poisonous like most things. A neighbor made some Jelly which was really good so we plan on making a batch tomorrow but want to “kick it up”. Can we add dehydrated chilies or maybe ground red pepper? We would love your thoughts.
I definitely think you could add jalapeno or other chili/pepper to it! Those are some of our favorites when we get them locally.
I have seen another recipe for this jelly which includes lemon juice. What are your thoughts on adding that to your recipe? Also, if you boil the whole mixture (with pectin and sugar) for longer do you think it would made a more jam-like consistency or would it get over-boiled and ruined?
Hi Jessica, lemon juice may be good to add if you prefer it to stay a little bit tart I think. And I would guess boiling it for longer would cause issues with setting up and increased bubbles since that process is pretty sensitive, but it may be worth testing a small batch to just find out.
I’m so excited to try this! I was wondering if anyone has tried to use the low sugar Sure Jel? Do you need to adjust the recipe?
There is a comment further up in the thread who used low sugar Sure Jell successfully so it should work fine, she didn’t say if she altered any other amounts or not so may be worth testing with a smaller batch at first?