Life on the X-Bar Ranch...

I am an ordinary woman, with an amazing family, serving an awesome God.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Choke Cherry Jelly

I enjoy canning. It is a lot of work, especially for some things, but I enjoy it anyways. Looking at those rows of jars...hearing the 'pop!', it makes me happy. And it is beautiful. Always make beautiful things. Life is too short to live ugly.

I moved to a ranch house along the creek bottoms about two years ago, and this place is loaded with choke cherries. They grow in my yard and along the bridge over the creek. I had never tasted or used them before we moved here, but I quickly decided that I will not let any free food go unused...least of all fruit! So. I perused Pinterest, recipe books and Google for a chokecherry jelly recipe. And I found some. Problem was, they all are different, and some don't work right. Finally I found two and kinda combined them to come up with my own that is pretty much perfect. At least in my opinion. :)

The method is pretty easy, actually. At least the way I do it.

First, have your kids pick the cherries. :)

 Some are redder and some are blacker. I don't know why.
 Then you wash them. I stir them around so the leaves and junk can come to the top. Then I scoop the trash out with my spoon.
Drain. You will notice there are some green berries in my bowl, and the tiny stems are all still on. Its OK. They really don't matter. The pioneers used a certain portion of green berries in their jam instead of pectin. I don't recommend that route. I tried it and was sadly disappointed.
Put in a large kettle and fill with water till the cherries are just covered.

 Simmer about 30-45 minutes, or until the juice is dark red. I confess I have never timed this. I'm bad about cooking by feel...

Drain the juice in a large bowl,

 Wow! The kids an I picked about 4 gallons, and got a gallon of juice! I see lots of jelly in my future... If you don't have time to make it into jelly right now - you can store the juice in the fridge a few days.
You should have your jars and lids ready before you start the jelly process...
 Then you pour 3 1/2 cups juice into a large kettle. It will boil up considerably, so make sure the kettle is big enough. Add the lemon juice and pectin. Stir. Bring to a boil.

 When the juice is boiling, add the sugar. Bring to a rolling boil (boiling so hard you can't stir it down) and continue to stir as it boils for 2 minutes. (This is where it will boil up and up and up. I boiled over two kettles of jelly on my stove. Please don't be that stupid. Burnt on jelly is HARD to clean off. )
When the 2 minutes are up, you can skim the foam off if you like. It doesn't have to be skimmed off, but looks prettier/clearer if you do.
 Then you ladle it into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.
 when the jars are full, wipe the rims with a clean cloth. (They might not seal if they have jelly splatters.)
 Place a lid on each one...
 ...and a ring. Tighten to fingertip tightness. In other words, just tighten them with your fingertips, don't use all the force in your being! :)
 Place them in a hot water bath. The boiling water should be about an inch over the jars.
 Bring the water in the canner to a boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. If you live above 3,000 ft seal level, you need to check your county extension to see what the recommended processing time is for your area. I live at 6,000 ft, and I need to process them for 10 minutes. Then you remove the jars to cool. If the jelly isn't set, I recommend not disturbing the jars for at least 24 hours. The pectin takes time to work.
 Last but not least, stand back and admire your hard work!
 And go make some room on your shelves for some yummy jelly!
Note:: This picture is of a double recipe. One recipe yields about 5 pints.
Chokecherry Jelly
3.5 cups chokecherry juice
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pkg dry pectin (1.75 oz)
4 1/2 cups of sugar
Pour juices in kettle.
Add pectin, stir.
Bring to a boil, add sugar.
Boil and stir for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat, skim.
Ladle into jars.
Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes.
Cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
Here's the pectin I use: 

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  1. You're making me want to go find choke cherries and make jelly! Lovely post :)

  2. Add a tablespoon or two of butter to your jelly when cooking to avoid the cooking over. It works great.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I will definitely try that next batch. :)

  3. I just made peach marmalade last week again. When I do cooked jams & jellies I do them 'open kettle' (quickly ladling the hot liquid into jars, putting the lids on, and letting them stand up-side-down overnight). I've never had trouble with them not sealing or unsealing later and it saves the processing. Would our lower altitude make a difference? -anne beiler
    p.s. you do lovely photos. you should have a card business =)

    1. Anne, I do think the altitude makes a difference. I know mom always did that method too, and really, 5 minutes is what is on the recipe in the box, so yeah, basically getting it hot. But when I have tried that, they mostly open. So out here you have to process them. :)

  4. Yum!!! I wish we had had wild fruits! Not much in our desert wasteland to use. Where my mom lives in Tx, they have wild plums, and Om-Gee! They make the best jelly!!


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