Oh My Chokecherry Jelly!

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I had full-blown berry fever. After picking several quarts of black raspberries (eating most and freezing some), I started wondering what other edibles may be scattered around my new property. I hoped these were currants, but after tasting one, I thought they must not be edible. A little research revealed these babies were a very popular staple of the pioneers and the Native Americans. They are chokecherries; probably named such because the taste will choke you, and the pits are toxic. However, when cooked down for jelly, or pitted and heavily sugared, chokecherries are supposed to be tasty! I had my doubts. But I was in foraging mode and felt like robbing the birds and teasing the mosquitoes with heavily deeted clothing. So off I went carrying a handy dandy berry bucket and gobbling up black raspberries on the way to the newly discovered chokecherries.

IMG_7237The bucket was half full, when I dumped it by mistake. Ugh. But lesson learned: bring scissors, and cut the entire cluster, that way if you do dump your cache, you can still pick up your losses.

IMG_7234The berries are found on bushes with bark that resembles a cherry tree; the fruit hanging in clusters like grapes. If you try one, be sure to spit out the poisonous pit. After loading up, I rinsed all the cherries and took them off the stems, ending up with about 4 cups. Next they went into a saucepan with a cup of water to be cooked down, mashing them with a potato masher after 15 or 20 minutes.

IMG_7263Then I drained them for the juice ending up with 1 1/3 cup, added 3 cups of sugar and began the boiling process. Instead of using pectin, I boiled this concoction for close to a half hour when it finally did its magic trick and thickened at 220 degrees F. I filled the prepared jars leaving ¼ inch headspace and processed in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

IMG_7265The jelly color is amazing, some of the prettiest jelly I’ve seen. Memories of breakfast buffets in Denmark flooded my mind, with their little crocks of jams and jellies and loads of breads and cheeses and bagels! Jellies are a fancy delicacy in the old world, made with all kinds of unusual fruits, but none better than chokecherries from my own back yard.

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