Chokecherry tree, a native of North America, is found growing all over the country except for some unfavorable areas. These crimson red to dark-colored berries are excellent for making fruit preserves, like chokecherry jelly, jam, and syrup amongst others. Of these, the most preferred choice of consumption is tasty jelly.
While some chokecherries are highly astringent and unpalatable, there are other varieties that contain beneficial antioxidants in large amounts. Harvesting fruits when they are ripe is an easy way to get flavorful berries with desirable taste. Otherwise, an unripe fruit tastes bitter and leaves the mouth dry, hence the name chokecherry is coined. In making homemade chokecherry jelly, you need sweetening agents in high amounts to overpower the astringency of these fruits. Varied methods for making this jelly are described below.
Wild Chokecherry Jelly
- Ripe chokecherries, 4½ lb.
- Lemon juice, ½ cup
- Dry pectin, 1 package
- Sugar, 6 cups
- Water, 1 cup
Wash and rinse chokecherries under running water. Add them in a pan and pour 2 cups water to cover berries. Bring to a boiling temperature, cover with a lid and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cherries turn soft. Transfer cooked berries into a jelly bag, and keep in a suspended position to collect juice. Combine chokecherry juice, lemon juice, and ball pectin. Bring it a full rolling boil and add sugar quickly. As it starts boiling again, boil for exactly 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat and remove foam. Fill the jelly into prepared jars, leaving head space about ½ inch. Adjust the lids to seal jars tightly.
Chokecherry Jelly with Powdered Pectin
- Chokecherry juice, 3½ cups
- Powdered pectin, 1 package
- Sugar, 4 cups
In a large saucepan, combine pectin powder and chokecherry juice. Warm over high heat till it reaches boiling temperature. Stir constantly and add sugar. Continue boiling for about 1-2 minutes, while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and skim off the foam from the surface of the jelly. Let it cool down slightly and pour into sterilized, ½ pint-sized jelly jars. Make sure jelly level is ¼ inch below the top of the jar. Fit the lids properly, and place in boiling water for 5 minutes. Allow jelly to cool down on a cooling rack before storage.
Chokecherry Jelly with Lemon Juice
- Chokecherry juice, 5 cups
- Fresh lemon juice, ½ cup
- Sugar, 8 cups
- Modified citrus pectin (MCP), 1 package
Take a saucepan and combine together chokecherry juice, lemon juice, and modified citrus pectin. Heat this concoction and bring it to a rolling boil. Stirring continuously, boil the mixture for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the sugar and continue cooking the jelly for 6-8 minutes, until fruit mixture thickens or starts forming jelly. Remove from heat. Using a metal spoon, skim off the foamy substance from the jelly surface to remove impurities. Fill the jelly in sterilized jars, leaving some head space (about ¼ inch). Tighten the lids properly. Process for 5 minutes in a hot water bath, and cool down in a rack.
The thumb rule for making chokecherry jelly like a professional is to combine the fruit juice and pectin before adding sugar. Otherwise, your fruit juice mixture will not gel properly. Also, prefer using fresh pectin (less than one year old product) to make tasty jelly. During the peak season (August through September), you can try homemade chokecherry chokecherry syrup and jelly recipes with varied flavors. Label the jars neatly and you can use these tasty fruit preserves throughout the year.