If you live in a rural area, you've probably noticed chokecherry bushes around you yard and garden. You may have wondered if these tiny wild cherries could be used in cooking. The answer is "Yes!" Chokecherries make delicious chokecherry jelly. Early American women eagerly picked the trees bare to make chokecherry juice that was then made into jelly. Although a bit tart, chokecherries make a colorful jelly with a distinctive wild flavor.
Preparing Chokecherries for Jelly Making
- Gather chokecherries once they have ripened and turned red. Berries darken as they ripen and may be nearly black. The Montana State University Extension recommends including some green chokecherries with the ripe cherries, as they contain more pectin and improve the texture of the jelly.
- Wash the chokecherries in cold water and discard any leaves or stems.
Making the Chokecherry Juice
- Place the chokecherries in a medium pan and barely cover with water.
- Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the berries are soft. Some sources recommend crushing the berries prior to cooking, but the University of Minnesota Extension Office warns that chokecherry pits contain a "cyanide-forming compound" and can cause illness if crushed.
- Place the cooked chokecherries in a damp jelly bag or a double layer of cheesecloth. Secure the top and suspend the jelly bag over a bowl to drip. Do not squeeze the bag as this causes jelly to be cloudy.
Making the Chokecherry Jelly
- Combine 3 cups of the chokecherry juice with 6 ½ cups of white sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a rapid boil.
- Stir in one bottle of liquid pectin.
- Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Skim the foam off the top of the jelly with a soup skimmer or slotted spoon.
- Pour the jelly into hot sterilized jars and seal.
- Process in boiling water bath for 6 minutes.
- Remove jelly jars from the boiling water bath with tongs.
- Place them on a folded towel in a draft-free area to cool.
- Listen for the "pop" as jar lids seal. Test the seal by pressing down on the center of the lid. If the center of the jar lid pops back when depressed, the jar is not sealed.
- Store unsealed jars in the refrigerator.
- Store sealed jelly jars in a cool, dark area for winter use.
Serve chokecherry jelly on hot biscuits or toasted English muffins to enjoy this wild jelly like your grandmother used to make.
Originally published on Yahoo Contributor's Network