|It's definitely a chokecherry tree -|
taken only a few days before the chokecherries turned dark purple
and were ready to pick!
Wild chokecherries, which are native to Western Canada, are an interesting sort of fruit. They are unbelievably tart, and more than a little astringent. They will dry your mouth out in a second when eaten fresh off the tree. One taste had me gasping and my mouth puckering for the rest of the evening. And yet, Little Man eats them by the handful. Crazy kid! Boil them, strain the juice and cook with sugar, however, and suddenly they transform themselves into amazingly delicious syrups and jellies.(and apparently wine - maybe a project for next year) just don't eat the stones if you're eating them whole or crush them if you are making juice - they contain Hydrocyanic Acid, which could make you sick if you consume too much. But the fruit itself is perfectly safe!
So, if you're like me and have chokecherries a plenty at your disposal here's a few ideas of what you can do with them!
|Lots and lots of chokecherries!|
Preparing The Juice
First off you will need to pick, wash, boil and strain the juice. To do this, place your washed chokecherries in a large pot and barely cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. You can use a couple layers of cheesecloth, a jelly bag, or like me grab an old cotton pillowcase from your linen closet that you don't care about staining.
I place my colander on top of a bowl then hang my pillowcase "jelly bag" over the colander and pour the contents of my pot into it and let it pour through. I will use a potato mashed to press a bit more juice through at the end. I know a lot of jelly makers would be horrified as you're never supposed to do anything but let juice drip through, lest your jelly be cloudy, but from what I've read you can't expect a clear juice from wild chokecherries anyways. I've certainly found this to be true - it makes a somewhat thick, opaque, pink-purple juice, not even remotely close to clear! So go ahead and get every last drop you can! Waste not want not and all that! (just don't crush the stones!)
All three of the following recipes will follow basically the same process once you've cooked it.
Fill clean, hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/2" headspace. Run a non-metal utensil such as a chopsticks, spatula or plastic knife, down the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims and apply snap rings and lids. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
Wild Chokecherry Syrup
There is NOTHING in this world so tasty on pancakes or waffles. Seriously. It's heaven.
4 cups prepared juice
4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 pkg of powdered pectin (such as Certo which comes in a 57 gr/2 oz box)
Combine all ingredients in a large pot, bring to a full rolling boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and process as above. (makes approx 3 1/2 pints)
Wild Chokecherry Jelly
So good on toast and scones. YUM!!!
3 1/4 cups prepared juice
4 1/2 cups white sugar
1 pkg of powdered pectin
Combine prepared juice and pectin. Bring to a boil and then add sugar. Return to a boil, allowing the mixture to be at a full rolling boil for one minute. Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary, then process as above. (makes approx 5 half pints)
Wild Chokecherry "Soda" Syrup
So incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day!
3 cups prepared juice
1 cup white sugar
Combine prepared juice and sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for one minute. Process as above. To serve, pour a half glass of soda syrup (or to taste) over ice and top off with either soda water (we have a soda stream machine for making our "bubbly water") or ginger ale.
And for one last treat... I whipped up some chokecherry frosting the other day to put on vanilla cupcakes! So pretty and pink and not a drop of artificial coloring used at all! I made my usual buttercream using a bit of lemon juice in place of the milk and vanilla then stirred in some jelly and blended until smooth. So simple, yet so tasty!!!
I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do!
PS: I used a couple online resources and of course my Mom. For more info check out the following websites. Sorry I'm not sharing my mom - well except with my seven siblings, but that's only because I have too. ;)
The University of Minnesota
Manitoba Association of Home Economists