Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chokecherry Jelly Recipe

We are swimming in chokecherries this year! The large dark drupes of berries are weighing down the trees and just begging to be picked. 

Our local variety is Prunus virginiana, and it can be used for both food and medicine. The bark can be used as a powerful cough sedative - especially useful for those dry spasmodic coughs. My friend Kiva Rose uses an alcohol tincture of the fresh flowers as a relaxing nervine. 

Chokecherries especially shine as food. If you've ever popped one into your mouth you'll have an immediate understanding of astringency. The astringent sensation is that dry mouth feel you get if you eat a too ripe banana or drink a strong brew of black tea. 

You'll notice they are called CHOKEcherries not TASTYcherries or CAN'TWAITTOEATTHEMcherries. But, they do have some sweetness to them. The trick for making them more palatable is to harvest them when they are super dark - almost purple in color. The bright red chokecherries aren't quite ripe enough and will have a much more astringent taste.

Chokecherries are high in antioxidants. I mean really high!

Noni berries and acai berries have been heavily marketed as an exotic natural food that is especially high in antioxidants. They are generally sold as processed food beverages at a high price. Well move over exotic fruit!

Chokecherries have an astounding amount of antioxidants, and can be conveniently found just outside our door! 

Other ways to preserve the chokecherry harvest

In the past we have preserved chokecherries in a variety of ways. My husband likes the more primitive method of pounding the berries and drying them into cakes. You can read more about that at his blog by clicking here

A couple of years ago we also made chokecherry wine which was a big hit! 

This year we made chokecherry infused vinegar as well - but I haven't tried it yet so I can't comment on the taste. (Update: it is very delicious with a nice sweetness to it.)

I've also made chokecherry jelly before, but this year we decided to make lots and lots (gift spoiler alert for friends and family!) and also to use the Pomona Universal Pectin, which is a low sugar pectin. 

We LOVE the results! Tart, tangy and oh so delicious! 

Recipe for 12 jars of Choke Cherry Jelly

8 and a half pounds of berries
7 cups water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2.5 cups sugar
9.5 teaspoons of pectin
9.5 calcium water

Bring the berries and water to a boil and then lower to a simmer. 

Continue to simmer for fifteen minutes while crushing the berries with a berry masher, potato masher or large spoon. 

After fifteen minutes of mashing, strain the berries through a jelly bag using a large wooden spoon to squeeze out the juice. 

This gave us roughly 9 and a 1/2 cups of juice

Next, add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the berry juice. 

And then add the calcium water to the juice. (Follow the directions on the Pomona box).  

In a separate bowl mix the pectin and sugar. (Note we did use honey for one batch but it never set up. Perhaps we didn’t use enough honey. Now we have delicious chokecherry and honey syrup!)

Next, bring the juice to a boil and add the sugar mixture. 

Stir the mixture vigorously for a couple of minutes. 

Turn off the heat and put into sterilized jars and proceed with a 10 minute water bath.

Have you made chokecherry jelly or other chokecherry treats? I'd love to hear about your chokecherry delights! Let me know in the comments below! 


Kate Sinon said...

I don't have any chokecherries nearby but I was lucky enough to come across a nice bush when we stopped for a picnic on our way home from Montana. I only have about 4 cups of them so I think I will make a chokecherry-rosehip jelly. We'll see how that goes!

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

Kate! That sounds delicious. let me know how it turns out!

Kate Sinon said...

It turned out great! The rose hips made the juice thicker and more viscous so it is not clear like most jellies (more like a fruit butter) and it's a light pinkish-salmon color.

I use honey instead of sugar and all three flavors are melded but kind of distinct, too.

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

Thanks for letting me know Kate - it sounds delicious!!!

Renee said...

I don't know if this site is still active, but I'm going to try (this afternoon, in fact) making chokecherry jelly with Pomona's, stevia, and xylitol. I'm not a big fan of white sugar. I may also put in some soaked chia seeds, haven't decided yet. I will let you know how it turns out, if you like.

Rosalee de la Forêt said...

I'd love to hear how it turns out. I don't like the taste of xylitol and I also find stevia to be very overwhelming when used in large quantities, however I am sure others would be interested.