Sunday, September 08, 2013

Wild Chokecherries!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
It's definitely a chokecherry tree -
 taken only a few days before the chokecherries turned dark purple
and were ready to pick!
I seem to have developed a small obsession with chokecherries after having discovered several, dripping with berries, chokecherry trees on our property (and confirmed by a quick picture text message to Mom a few weeks ago, having no desire to accidentally poison my family if I was wrong). They are actually everywhere I turn, except unfortunately the best one's seem to either be too high to reach with a ladder or too awkward for bush crashing too get too. There has even been a small incident involving over five foot tall stinging nettle in the gathering of chokecherries as well. Obsession. I have it something fierce. I seem to have a crazy need to pick all chokecherries. It's as though I dare not waste, or Mother Nature may determine my property to be unworthy of this boon of fruit.

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!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
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!)

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Chokecherry Juice
So now you have juice. What to do, what to do????

All three of the following recipes will follow basically the same process once you've cooked it.

Processing Instructions

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)

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Chokecherry Syrup

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.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Chokecherry Soda

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!!!

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
Chokecherry Frosting

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

No comments:

Post a Comment