Probably the most popular use of chokecherries is for Chokecherry Jelly, but the juice needs to be extracted from them first. Simmer for a few hours until the cherries are soft and have released their juice, then take them out and strain through a jelly bag or a cheesecloth-lined colander. You will get around a quart of juice for each gallon of cherries that you start with.
3-1/2 cups chokecherry juice
1 box Sure-Jell or Ball pectin
4-1/2 cups sugar
Stir pectin into chokecherry juice. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil and stir in sugar.
Bring to another full rolling boil and boil stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Remove from heat, skim if necessary.
Pour jelly mixture into prepared sterilized jam jars. Place lids and rings on jars.
Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Recipe makes 8 cups.
Notes on Creating Chokecherry Jelly
Instead of boiling your chokecherries in plain water, you can start by pouring the juice from boiled apples over your chokecherries. This will tone down the potent flavor and, more importantly, add some pectin and malic acid to the jelly to improve its flavor and jelling. Instead of making juice, you can also puree the fruit through a colander or food mill to strain out the seeds and use the pulp to make jam, preserves or even pie. Another traditional confection is wild chokecherry syrup, made by mixing the juice about half and half with sugar, perhaps with a little pectin to thicken it. This is eaten on pancakes, ice cream, or muffins.
Chokecherries deserve much more attention than they receive! The Chokecherry was once a staple food. European settlers adopted the use of chokecherries in some areas, particularly the northern Plains. Traditionally they were used for jam, jelly, wine, and syrup. However, the chokecherry is mostly ignored today, and many people think that they are poisonous - but they are not.
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