August is choke cherry season around here! We like chokecherry jelly, and since the fruit is free, I try to make it every year. Some years if I am busy, the birds get the berries first, crazy things! I have tried many chokecherry jelly recipes, and after many trial and error, I have developed this recipe that I love.
I enjoy canning. It is a lot of work, especially for some things, but I enjoy it anyways. Looking at those rows of jars…hearing the ‘pop!’, it makes me happy. And it is beautiful. Always make beautiful things. Life is too short to live ugly.
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I moved to a ranch house along the creek bottoms about two years ago, and this place is loaded with choke cherries. They grow in my yard and along the bridge over the creek. I had never tasted or used them before we moved here, but I quickly decided that I will not let any free food go unused…least of all fruit!
So, I perused Pinterest, recipe books and Google for a chokecherry jam recipe. And I found some. Problem was, they all are different, and some don’t work right. Finally I found two and kinda combined them to come up with my own that is pretty much perfect. At least in my opinion. 🙂
The method is pretty easy, actually. At least the way I do it.
First, have your kids pick the choke cherries. 🙂
Some are bit red yet… normally try to pick them a little blacker. But around here it’s a race with the birds to pick them first! 😉
Then you wash them. I stir them around so the leaves and junk can come to the top. Then I scoop the trash out with my spoon.
Make the juice
Simmer about 30-45 minutes, or until the juice is dark red. I confess I have never timed this. I’m bad about cooking by feel…
Wow! The kids an I picked about 4 gallons, and got a gallon of juice! I see lots of jelly in my future… If you don’t have time to make it into jelly right now – you can store the juice in the fridge a few days.
Make the jelly
Then you pour 3 1/2 cups juice into a large kettle. It will boil up considerably, and to prevent the jelly from boiling over, you must add a teaspoon of butter. (If you need it dairy-free, you can omit the butter and just use a very large kettle. )
Add the lemon juice and pectin. Stir. Bring to a boil.
When the juice is boiling, add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil (boiling so hard you can’t stir it down) and continue to stir as it boils for 2 minutes. (This is where it will boil up and up and up. I boiled over two kettles of jelly on my stove. Please don’t be that stupid. Burnt on jelly is HARD to clean off. )
When the 2 minutes are up, you can skim the foam off if you like. It doesn’t have to be skimmed off, but looks prettier/clearer if you do.
Then you ladle it into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
When the jars are full, wipe the rims with a clean cloth. (They might not seal if they have jelly splatters.)
Place a lid on each one…
…and a ring. Tighten to fingertip tightness. In other words, just tighten them with your fingertips, don’t use all the force in your being! 🙂
Place them in a hot water bath. The boiling water should be about an inch over the jars.
Bring the water in the canner to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. If you live above 3,000 ft sea level, you need to check your county extension to see what the recommended processing time is for your area. I live at 6,000 ft, and I need to process them for 10 minutes.
Then you remove the jars to cool. If the jelly isn’t set, I recommend not disturbing the jars for at least 24 hours. The pectin takes time to work.
Last but not least, stand back and admire your hard work!
And go make some room on your shelves for some yummy jelly!
Choke Cherry Jelly
- 3.5 cups chokecherry juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
- 1 pkg dry pectin 1.75 oz
- 4 1/2 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.