Categorized | Using Nature

Chokecherry Jelly Lessons


Two children begged to pick some Chokecherries. I have a lot of different trees, and dozens of them are Chokecherry trees. This is the first year that there was no frost and the bugs and birds didn’t eat them like they were candy. They came with a few to make sure they were picking the right berries which was a smart thing to do. Not every berry is edible. I told them they were safe. “What do they taste like?” was the next question. I encouraged them to try them while I hid  the urge to foretell them how dry and disgusting they would be. The look on the face of a Chokecherry eater is priceless. Then I explained that the result of the jelly would be much better. 

After a few hours they came in with a whole ice cream pail (one gallon) full. I was surprised that they had that ambition and diligence. “Wow” I told them, “Are you having fun?”. Their big grins and the light in their eyes told the story.

chokecherry-row-in-bloom

Chokecherry row in bloom

I couldn’t let them down – I’d have to find time and hopefully a quick way to make them into jelly. While I pondered how I could get the juice away from the big hard pits, the pail sat on the kitchen floor. It was still there the next day. I hadn’t seen the berry pickers for a while until they rushed in with another entire bucket. Their claim was that they had picked almost all the bushes except for a few here and there.

 

 

 

I thought the easiest way was to try to juicer although I had a nagging feeling about those large seeds. If it didn’t work there would be a big job cleaning the juicer. I poured some of the ‘cherries’ into the juicer and immediately there was this loud sound like a gravel crusher in operation. I ignored it for a few moments, but it got louder and then no juice was coming out. The short story is that it didn’t work, and I had to wash the big ‘ol appliance.

Next I considered crushing them in a jelly sieve. That quickly became pointless, so I got the kids to help me squish them by hand. It turned out to be a forever job which I didn’t have time for. I impatiently tried the potatoe masher and then the pastry cutter to no avail. OK…next? …the blender. That worked better. It was noisy too but not as bad as with the juicer and at least it got mushy.

After that  they had to be boiled and drained through the jelly sieve. Hours later we had juice. I gave up for the day.

making-chokecherry-jelly

Making Chokecherry jelly

It didn’t take long after that to add the ingredients and fill all the baby food jars I had. Most of them got split up for gifts which made it a memorable event for all the children involved. I learned how to short-cut things for next year.

chokecherry-jelly-in-jars

Chokecherries and Cherries into jelly

 

 

 

 

We ended up with 8 cups of juice. The recipe called for 10, so I found a jar of canned tame cherries, removed the pits and added the extra needed 2 cups. This added wonderfully to the wild cherry flavour of the natural Chokecherries.

chokecherry-jelly-in-baby-food-jars

Jelly in baby food jars

 

 

 

I hope this helps me to remember what I did and maybe will save someone else the pain. I will cherish the little jars I have because I know how much love and effort went into their being. I know the children feel the same and that’s more important than anything!

 By next spring I’ll have forgotten the hard work and be looking forward to fruit again!

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10 Responses to “Chokecherry Jelly Lessons”

  1. Naomi says:

    I didn’t pick a single chokecherry this year. It will be a sad winter, indeed.
    I always put my berries in the freezer and save the canning for a cold day. I can’t imagine how hot your kitchen was!
    I just steam mine with a little water and let it sit with the lid on until it cools to lukewarm. After that, I line an ice-cream bucket with cheesecloth or some other porous cloth. I dump the berries in and tie the cloth around the top and then hang it from a broomstick perched between to chairs. It sure can get messy, though! It makes clear jelly, so I can’t complain.

    • sherry says:

      You must cook them until they pop, huh? By steaming them do you mean in a double boiler, or how do you keep them from burning. Do you add water, etc.

      • Pennie says:

        Do them up like you would currants. 3 qts berries to about 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer til you can easily pop with a masher. Then pour into a jelly bag and hang. I know you shouldn’t squeeze the bag if you want really clear jelly, but I can’t resist leaving juice behind, so will give some ‘little’ squeezes to get as much juice as I can. Jelly may be a little darker and thicker, but still works out in the end.

        Did pick mine, this year, the birds appreciated that!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just add some water to the bottom of the pot that they are in. I’m not sure how much, but enough that they don’t burn and not so much that it dilutes the juice. When it gets hot with the lid on, the steam comes up and cooks the berries. I never stir it. I heat it on low so it doesn’t scorch. When it seems like it’s plenty hot, I will turn off the burner and let it sit. Sometimes I will put it in a wonderbox (or an insulated box of newspaper). This will allow it to continue cooking as long as is needed. If you use this method, you only need to bring the pot up to temperature, then put it in the box. The box will hold the heat for quite some time.

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