Right now is not the time to pick chokecherries, but now is indeed the time to start planning your summer adventures!
If you want chokecherries, you want to be in chokecherry country during the time the fruits are ripe, usually in August.
Here’s my story about last summer and chokecherry preserves.
I found the chokecherry tree while on our big Oregon Trail Adventure camping trip. It was in September, in Lander, Wyoming, altitude 7,000 feet. The tree was growing on the banks of the Popo Agie River, and it was long after the cherries were ripe. Most of them had fallen off the tree. I picked all the cherries there were which turned out to be about two cups. They were all very small and most of them were shriveled and looked like large peppercorns; the seed was the lion’s share of their real estate.
In our little RV kitchen, I simmered them, covered with water, for several hours, then smashed the pulp, took out the seeds, and removed large pieces of skin so the juice had pulp but no big chunks. When we got back home to Oregon, I made the pulp/juice into preserves. It was astonishingly successful – and delicious!
Chokecherries are pretty impossible to buy, so a gift made of your hand-picked chokecherries is rare indeed. And with slick labeling, you can turn your preserves into head-turning gifts. Because of the rarity of this product, I suggest the small 4-ounce jars.
- 4 cups whole chokecherries, fresh or frozen
- Water to cover
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 pkg sure-jell pectin
- 1 tsp butter to prevent it from boiling over
- Sterilize the jelly jars (submerge them in a pot filled with water, and simmer for at least 30 minutes).
- Cover chokecherries with water, and simmer until skins and pulp are very soft. This may take up to an hour or more, depending on the condition of your fruit. Smash the fruit with a potato masher, then use a slotted spoon to remove seeds and large pieces of skin. Leave as much pulp as you can. Measure out 3-1/2 cups pulp/juice – it’s okay to add a small amount of water if needed.
- Put pulp/juice into a very large cook pot. The mixture will boil up very high so the pot needs to be at least four times larger than the amount of juice. Sprinkle the pectin over the top and drop in the butter.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until it comes to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.
- Add the sugar all at once and stir again until it comes to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down, then boil for ONE MINUTE.
- Immediately pour into sterilized jelly jars.
- Right away, wipe rim of glass jars with a clean, wet paper towel. Again right away, seal TIGHTLY with two-piece lids. Turn upside down for five minutes to help seal, then turn back upright.
- If desired, process the jars in a water bath canner for extra sterilization.
- Top with your own customized labels and tags from evermine. Now you have an unforgettable treasure to share with your special people! Makes approximately 12 four-ounce jars.