Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Canning Chokecherry Jelly

This is where my hobby of making jams and jellies all began. I am not sure how old I was, but I know that I had never canned anything all by myself before.

As I said before, my philosophy seemed to be that if nature planted it and it wasn't poisonous, then I had to try it. I knew that chokecherries are not poisonous (even if they are too bitter to be eaten plain), but I didn't know of anybody who actually cooked with them. I figured that if they are not poisonous, then there must be a recipe somewhere that uses them. If the internet had been around at that time, then my search for a recipe would have been a lot easier.

Finally somebody heard through the grapevine that I was looking for a recipe that uses chokecherries and they gave me a recipe for chokecherry jelly. I showed the recipe to my mother and told her that I wanted to make it.

I have since changed my method of making choke cherry jelly. I like my new method because it doesn't call for a specific amount of chokecherries. I can just use whatever quantity I happen to get. The flavor may be stronger or weaker depending on how many I get.

Most recipes call for a lot of water. I have decided to use less water. This results in a very concentrated (and very bitter) juice. I then dilute this juice with apple juice.

Chokecherry Jelly
Printable Recipe
(Yield is about 7 half-pint jars)

Chokecherries (any where from about 1 to 3 quarts)
apple juice
6 cups sugar
2 packages liquid pectin

Wash chokecherries and add 1/2 cup water for each quart of chokecherries. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pour this into a dampened jelly strainer and allow it to drip for 3 hours. Add enough apple juice to make a total of 4 cups of juice.

Mix juice and sugar and bring to a rolling boil. Add liquid pectin, return to a boil, and boil hard for one minute. Fill hot canning jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add lids and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

High altitude instructions
1,001 - 3,000 feet : increase processing time by 5 minutes
3,001 - 6,000 feet : increase processing time by 10 minutes
6,001 - 8,000 feet : increase processing time by 15 minutes
8,001 - 10,000 feet : increase processing time by 20 minutes


  1. WOW! Anna and I have never heard of chokecherries. Ben has read about them in his recent researching while reproducing his new e-book on wild edible plants. Although, I am not sure the new e-book refers to them as chokecherries. Ben said he wondered if the 2 cherries mentioned in the e-book were related to chokecherries. You have spurred him on to find the answer! :)

    I wish we could try some of your jelly! How would you describe the taste?

    Have you ever eaten autumn olive jam/jelly? Anna will make some later this season. We learned about that "fruit" from a friend whose Granny lives in South Boston, VA! You would love her accent!

    Leslie for both of us

  2. I have never tasted chokecherries. I'll have to find out if they grow here.

    Your jam is a beautiful color!

  3. You made me currious about autumn olives. I am not familiar with them so I had to do some reading. The internet said that since they were introduced to the US in 1830, they have gradually worked their way further west as far as Illinois and Wisconsin.

    Chokecherries (also called bird cherries because birds like them) are related to cherries and the jelly ends up tasting kind of like a sour cherry jelly.

    1. I've just this year found out about Autumn Olive Berries. They are everywhere, yet I never noticed them. They are red w/ little gold spots on them. The leaves are green on top, silvery on the underside. Each bush tastes different, so taste the berries from the bush before you pick. One might taste like apple, blueberry and the one right beside it will be sour, tart.

  4. I've only seen chokecherries used in wine here. I'm intrigued by the jam.

  5. Hello Ms Charlotte!

    In the e-book I am researching, the two kinds of cherries mentioned were sand cherries and wild red cherries. Momma looked up sand cherries and someone said that they were similar in taste to chokeberries but a different cherry.

    I am wondering if the chokecherry is the wild red cherry in my e-book. They look the same, and it mentioned that they grew in the north and as far south as Tennessee. Does the chokecherry have a white blossom?

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  6. Yes, it does have a white blossom.

  7. This is getting me all pumped up for the chokecherries to be on. I love chokecherry syrup. I did a ton last year and love giving it as gifts. Not everyone has heard of that. Thanks for this awesome blog! I totally love it.

  8. I was searching for a chokecherry Jelly recipe and found your wonderful blog! Thanks so much for all the sharing that you do!

    I have your blog in my RSS reader so that I can read all your posts... also included a link to your site on my gardening blog so that I can share you with all my gardening friends!

  9. My dad (88 years old) lives on the west coast, but remembers chokecherry jelly from his childhood days in Minnesota. I live in Iowa now and would love to make him some - but need chokecherries. How/where would I find them?

  10. The county that I live in allows people to pick wild berries in the county parks. I would check the rules for your county.

    The Iowa Department of Natural Resources allows the picking of wild berries in any state park that does not have a sign specifically stating otherwise.

    They tend to like to grow along the banks of rivers and streams. This site gives a good description of chokecherries. In Iowa I don't know of any other berry that both grows in bunches and also has only one seed per fruit.

    If it has more than one seed it is it is not a chokecherry. If it grows as a single berry (not in a bunch)m then it is not a chokecherry.

  11. Found a bumper crop of them in the mountains this year,and now gonna make the jelly this weekend! :)

  12. Richard In Minnesota: I messed up my first try at Chokecherry Jelly. I didn't follow the recipy for the sugar amount ( thinking it was to sweet ) and I don't think it will jell. I was told that after 2 weeks I can re-do the Jelly. The trick is, How???? Your recipy is much the same as mine. I am diabetic and will only use a small amount and the rest will go as gifts.

  13. Here are some instructions for remaking jelly. Another option is to simply consider it to be a batch of chokecherry syrup.

  14. Hello,
    I have been looking all over for a recipe with apple juice! My Grandmother made it with apple juice and I was told the reason she did that is because we live in Colo and it helps to get it to setup better. Because pectin is made from apples? I have never made it before but my father was raised on it so I decided to try to bring back some memories! What kind of apple juice do you use? Wish me luck

  15. I just buy any old juice as long as it is real apple juice.

  16. Thanks for this! I planted chokecherry bushes this year and after tasting the berries, I thought they were hopeless for eating.

  17. We have Chokecherries here in Utah. I just had my first experience at making jelly and friends say I may have an act at it. Little bitter but I added 1/4 tsp Almond extract and 1/4 tsp of lemon juice instead of apple juice.

  18. Does anyone have a recipe for chokecherry jelly made from Canadian Red chokecherries. They are sweet---not sour like wild chokecherries. I have a bunch and since they are sweet, I am sure the recipe for wild chokecherries won't work for these.

  19. I miss Chokecherry jelly so much! We made jelly and syrup out of them. I grew up in North Dakota where they grow wild and are somewhat common. I now live in Texas, the little that is found here is eaten up by birds. someone needs to sell me some jars of this; and make a fortune! :)


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