It's been a few years since I've had any chokecherries left on the branches for a batch or two of jelly. Every year it's a race with the birds to see who can get to the chokecherries first. This time I picked my chokecherries a little earlier than I would like, but hey, I have birds to contend with! The whole time that the grandkids and I were picking, the robins were really giving us the dickens! They twirted at us quite a bit, telling us to get out of their chokecherry bushes and to leave their berries alone. I was so proud of the kids for sticking with our chore. It takes a long time to pick a single gallon of chokecherries because they are so small.
After picking the berries, the whole jellying process had only just begun. We sorted through the chokecherries for stems and leaves and then washed them, picking through them some more. After the wash, we poured the chokes into a big pot with enough water to just cover them for the boil. We simmered them to get the cherries to release their juice (maybe a half hour or so). I like to give them a little squish with a potato masher as they soften. After juicing comes the Big Squeeze. I poured the hot chokecherries and juice through a colander lined with a clean tea towel which was placed over a gallon ice cream bucket. After the berries cool down a little, I wring the tea towel over a bowl to collect every drop of juice I can get. Then I hang it from the cupboard door to let it drip a little more over the bucket. The juice goes back into the big pot along with lemon juice and the pectin. It gets stirred and brought to a boil. Then the sugar is added and two more minutes of boiling and Viola! jelly!
The girls were excited to lick every sticky utensil we used. Then it was time to sample it on bread. I'm only sorry I didn't have a fresh loaf to smear the jelly on, but our store-bought bread worked just fine. It was tasty if I do say so myself.
If you have chokecherries nearby that you can pick, you might like to try this recipe from a Ranch Mom. She has some nice step-by-step pictures to walk you through the process on her blog. I liked this recipe better than anything I've ever tried before. I think it's the lemon juice that makes all the difference. And maybe because she's a ranch mom!
Choke Cherry Jelly
- 3.5 cups chokecherry juice
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
- 1 pkg dry pectin (1.75 oz)
- 4½ cups of sugar
- Pour juices in kettle.
- Add pectin, stir.
- Bring to a boil, add sugar.
- Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat, skim.
- Ladle into jars.
- Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.
- Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.