Thursday, August 06, 2009
This is the first year that my chokecherry bushes have produced fruit. I'm thrilled! When I was a young girl visiting my grandpa's horse farm, we used to pick chokecherries from the bushes and eat them right off the stem. If you've ever popped a chokecherry, you know the bitter-sweetness. Most grown-ups pass on eating chokecherries. I, on the other hand, must have a small handful or two when picking just so I can relive the taste of my childhood for a moment. Eating lots of chokecherries (minus the pits) can dry out your mouth and give you a belly ache, but made into syrups and jellies, they are a delicious treat.
Some of my chokecherries were more red than purple, and really, purple chokecherries are the ripest and best, but you have to beat the birds to them so one must watch carefully and diligently when the berries start turning from green to shades of red to purple. Today I picked a full gallon of these little chokecherries and still, there are many left on the bushes yet to ripen and pick.
Out of that gallon of cherries, I got about 3 quarts of juice. I cover the washed chokecherries completely with water and set them to boil for about 15-20 minutes. Once they soften up, I use my potato masher to gently squeeze the cherries for a little more juice. In the picture above, I'm straining the juice through an old, thin tea towel. (One of my kids embroidered the puppies on it)
Most recipes for chokecherry jellies and syrups call for commercial pectin and LOTS of sugar. I prefer to make syrups with as little sugar as possible and so I use *natural pectin* that comes from crabapple juice. You can also use a tart apple from your fruit drawer. If I don't have raw apple juice on hand, I will slice an apple or two and boil it along with the berries to add natural pectin to the juice. Using apple juice as a pectin allows you to use about half as much sugar in jellies, jams, and syrup recipes.
After straining the juice, I mixed half chokecherry juice and a little less than half crabapple juice (that I had canned last year) and brought it to a boil. I added sugar and boiled it for about 7-8 minutes and poured the chokecherry syrup into jars. Oh, I love this stuff drizzled over waffles and pancakes, pound cake and angel food. MMMmmm.
Chokecherry Syrup Recipe
5 c. chokecherry juice
4 c. crabapple juice
6 c. sugar
Blend the juices together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the sugar and stir in. Bring it up to a boil again and boil on moderate heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars and seal. Allow to cool on the counter and listen for the *pop* that says the jars are sealed. This recipe made about 13 half-pints.
*If you boil the mixture a little longer, you can get it to set and turn into jelly, but I like pourable syrup best.
I found a wonderful website with lots of chokecherry recipes that you may like to try. I want to try the chokecherry liqueur. Doesn't that sound like a nice elixir for wintertime sniffles?