So off we set, with basket and scissors and over an hour or so, from several Rowan Trees on Exmoor we collected 1 large basket of berries. Although the Rowan (or Mountain Ash) is a small tree – many of the berries are high, so luckily we can never ‘over pick’ from one tree, and there are always plenty left for the birds. 

Back home we picked over &  removed any large woody stems, leaves, mouldy berries etc -   and the contents of our basket (pictured here) weighed in at : 3.5kg.



This recipe can be adapted depending on the amount of berries you collect.

It’s very simple – in a nutshell it is:

  • Cook the berries in water.
  • Drain the berries, keeping the liquid.
  • Add sugar to this liquid.
  • Boil up the sugar & liquid to setting point.
  • Pour in to jars.



  • Rowan berries
  • Water
  • Sugar – granulated or castor.
  • Sterilized jam jars & lids. (see below)
  • Jam pan – or other large pan.
  • Jam thermomter – if possible, but not necessary, just do the ‘saucer test’ (see below)
  • Wooden spoon, sieve and muslin. 


Tip your ‘picked over berries’ into a large jam making pan, and add cold water so it comes just  half way up the berries,  so in our case it is about 4 litres of water.

Bring this to simmer gently, and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, on a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let this mixture cool.

Once cool drain through a sieve lined with muslin, into a clean pan, this can be quite messy, so I sent the girls outside! Remember it is the liquid you want to keep – the pulp of the berries can be added to your compost.

rowan berry jelly  Messy work! Squeezing out every last drop... 

Measure your liquid – if you have a jam pan it’s easy to see with markings up the inside, if no markings then you have to pour it out into a measuring jug. The liquid will be a warm amber, and at this stage make sure all debris from the berries are removed from the liquid, so you will have a smooth clean jelly – you can’t do this later! 

Now add sugar: you need 800 mg per litre of liquid.

    sugar for jelly

Stir in the sugar, and put your pan on a low heat stirring until it is dissolved, making sure the sugar does not burn on the bottom of the pan.

Once it is all dissolved turn up the heat and bring it to a boil.

You want a ‘rolling boil’.  (see photo) NOTE 'scum' on the top, which can be spooned off as you go.


Once it reaches a rolling boil time it , & after 8 minutes do the ‘saucer test’ to test for setting point. (see below)

If you have a thermometer it should reach 104 degrees – setting point – but for some reason (useless hob or broken thermometer??) ours only reached 102 degrees, but by using the saucer test we were able to keep cooking until we knew it would set. (see below)

Once you’ve reached this point take your pan of the heat and carefully pour into your sterilized jars, this can be messy, so put your jars on a tray, if you have a metal jam funnel this can help, but is not necessary. A pouring lip on the pan really helps – if you have neither lip or funnel you can ladle it out. 

     wax discs                    rowan jelly 

Pouring out - watch out VV HOT!   Adding the wax discs - fiddly

While still hot seal with a wax disc, wax side down, put on cellophane covers then the lids. These 2 elements help to seal the jelly and stop it getting bacteria in and going off. BUT with Rowans as they have a large amount of sorbic acid in – which is a natural food preserver, this stage is fun to do, but not necessary. I still have some jelly from 2009 which is in perfect condition!

Let the jars cool  & label them and add cloth tops and ribbon if giving as gifts. 

EATING: Leave it a couple of weeks before eating the jelly, as the particular taste of rowan is at first too bitter, it’s not until later that the subtle flavours develop. It lasts for years unopened. 

It’s delicious with any meat or cheese, but especially with game.  


Saucer test = after 10 mins of boiling, take off the heat, drop a drop of liquid onto a cold saucer & put it in the fridge for a minute, then if the surface wrinkles when you push it with your finger it’s done – if not boil again and repeat the test.

Sterilising jars: Over the year I collect all sorts of jars and bottles, never knowing which size will come in use.

To clean: First soak them in hot soapy water to remove the labels, certain labels may need a little bit of white spirit to remove the glue from them and then wash it off with soapy water.

To sterilise:There are 2 options, either:

 1: In the dishwasher, this also cleans them and the heat from the drying programme sterilises them.

2: Or hand wash thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse and put them in the oven to heat and dry on a medium heat – not too hot to crack the glass.


 Our basket of berries made:

3.5kg of picked over berries.

Added about 4 litres  of water.

After boiling & draining this made 3.5 litres of clear amber liquid.

Added almost 3 bags of 1kg sugar (cost per bag about £1.)

Then made about 5 litres of jelly, filling 16 jam jars of assorted size.


If you like this recipe – there are more like this in my book, coming out in mid October! You can order it on Amazon: Click here to see link & read more.