It was a great year for Chokecherries. They grow wild here in Minnesota and if you don’t pick them and make jelly the birds eat them. When we pick we always leave some for the birds.
Far Guy and I walked the perimeter of our clearing in the woods and picked about 5 ice cream buckets full. The best way to pick is to loop your bucket handle through a belt that is held loosely around your neck…that way you can have both hands free one to hold the branch down and the other to strip the chokecherries off. Your hand turns purple if they are too ripe…and if they are hard to strip then they are not yet ready to pick. You want to pick berries that are dark burgundy. I picked about three hours and Far Guy picked about two hours…an hour a bucket!
Jelly, syrup, wine and fruit leather are the only things you can make from chokecherries. The pits inside the chokecherry are poisonous as are the leaves and the bark of the bush.
I cleaned our berries a little at a time, running cold water over them and swishing them around in a bucket makes the leaves and bits of twigs etc…come to the surface and flow out of the overflowing bucket.
Once they are cleaned I put them in a dutch oven and put just enough water to cover the berries and boiled them. Stirring often. We cooked up two dutch ovens full.
After the fruit was split we dumped the whole works into a pillowcase that was held above a large pot. Far Guy clamped the pillowcase in place so it could drip out the juice.
We collected 21 cups of juice. I put the juice into peanut butter jars and it will stay in the fridge a few days until I have time to make jelly. Some people can the juice to make jelly another time and some people freeze it…I just want to make the jelly now and see it in jars…and taste it! The pillowcase was sacrificed, it accompanied the pits into the garbage.
That is a flat ice pack under the juice pot…it helped to cool the juice quickly.
It was a project and we are only half done.