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.
That is how we do most of my jellies too. I have an old pillow case that I use and especially love it for crab apples when I can find a good tree. I don't have chokecherries readily available around here. I wish I did! Yummy! Recently I have been freezing my juice to make jellies this winter as I am short of time with all the outside work.
A lot of work, but the end result is worth it. Happy jelly eating.
I've always enjoyed chokecherry jelly, but never appreciated the amount of work that goes into making it.
That is a LOT of work. I’m amazed. I also had no idea that so much of the plant was poisonous.
Making jelly is messy but so rewarding. I used to make a batch of jelly and then canned juice to make more jelly later. I do like to see the filled jelly jars sitting on the counter.
Lots of work! I hope you show us your jars of jelly when you are done with them. Canning is so much work and the filled jars all done are always a sight to behold. :)
Lots of work...but...YUM!
I don't think I've ever tasted chokecherry juice before. Does it need lots of sugar? Do you ever stop and slow down and do nothing?? You are an Energizer bunny. :-)
I have never tried to make jam but I do like to eat it
We do the same with berries. You can't beat it. we have a juicer rather than a bag. The juicer is in three parts. The bottom part has water...the steam. The middle part catches the juice. The top part has the berries.
Extracting juice is a slow process.
I've never known anyone who used choke cherries. I understand they are only edible when cooked and sugared like you are doing.
Just google berry juicer.
We had chokecherries in Manitoba. My Mom made a syrup. If I remember right it called for quite a bit of sugar but was tasty.
That is going to taste sooooo good when the snow starts to fly! You'll forget all about how hot and steamy and tiring it was.
Timely post! We were in Oliver last week and passed a loaded bush on one of our dog walks. Rode our bikes back there in the evening and picked a couple of buckets full. Cougar sighting signs were posted nearby, so we rang the bike bells and stayed close together while we picked. Made a small batch on Saturday, it took until today to be set, but happy to see that it did! I don't use a pillow case, I have a huge funnel shaped colander thing that I let it drip through first, and then pour it through a very fine sieve a couple of times. I did have one of those steamer juicers that Red mentioned. I don't think I ever used it, I got put off because a friend that had one gave me some crabapple juice she had done in hers, and the juice was a paler, weaker version of mine. (I boil the crabapples up in water like the chokecherries.)
Chokecherry Juice is very tart, it does need some sugar or honey to make it taste good:)
Thanks Red, if I were a regular jelly maker I would get one. The chokecherries are only plentiful about every three to four years the frosts in spring get the flowers.
Oh my gosh! 21 cups of juice! That's awesome! I haven't had chokecherry jam since my grandmother made it many years ago. You were very busy!
Ah... so that's what those little cherry-like things are all over the porch. Those that aren't dropping are being consumed by the birds, which are really enjoying them and leaving "gifts" behind.
The ice pack is a clever idea!
How interesting and rewarding. I know it's a lot of work but just think of the enjoyment and satisfaction. I don't think I would know a choke cherry if I saw one. I have lots of berries around here but I don't know what they are.
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