Wild Chokecherry Jam…yum…my sister made it look so easy I decided to make some myself and boy, am I ever pleased with the results!
We don’t usually eat Jam here in the Fox Household. The fact that we’re really into this Wild Chokecherry Jam is a testament as to just how good it is. I’ve given some of the little jars of jam away too, so it’s almost time to make another batch. Luckily I have some extra chokecherry juice tucked away.
On Labour Day weekend we made a trip up to the Okanagan to visit my parents. We were really looking forward to spending a nice relaxing weekend with them.
If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you will know that for the past year my parent’s life has been rather topsy-turvy because of my mom’s changing medical needs. It seemed every time we went up there to see them, we were hard at work on something or other. Cleaning, painting, more cleaning, sorting through sixty years worth of accumulated worldly goods, dispersing the keepsakes among us kids, hosting moving sales, making runs to drop off things at the thrift store and preparing their house to sell. Whew! It was exhausting but we did good.
Now we have them settled in a new community. It’s unfortunate they have to live apart after sixty years of marriage but we’ve got them situated so they can spend most of their day time hours together. My sister and one of my brothers also happen to live nearby, so that’s good. We believe they are in the best possible situation, considering the circumstances.
So there we were driving to the Okanagan and looking forward to having a nice relaxing weekend. When we arrived at Dad’s place he said it was time to harvest the chokecherries. Look at that picture, the branches were heavy with lots of fruit and it was not a small tree. In fact it was huge. Biggest chokecherry tree I’ve ever seen.
Are you familiar with chokecherries? Do they grow in your part of the world? I remember there was a tree in the lane beside my grandparent’s place near Vernon BC. I was always so excited to go pick the chokecherries when they were ripe. I’m surprised I liked them when I was a kid. They’ve got an astringent taste and leave a dry sensation in the mouth. Maybe that’s how they come by their name?
I looked it up. Chokecherry is a fruit that belongs to the cherry and berry family. It is native to North America and the trees grow wild most everywhere in the continent, except for the far north, far south and coastal regions. At 1 cm (less than 1/2 inch) the cherries are very small, only a bit bigger than a pea and are mostly pit. Okay I’m not making them sound all that appealing am I?
They do have a distinct taste and colour both of which show beautifully in this jam.
Picking the fruit was easier than you would imagine. The chokecherry grows in clusters a bit like grapes. We found that we could close our fingers around the top of a vine and pull down. The fruit dropped off into the palm of our hands. I can’t think of any other kind of fruit or vegetable you would pick in this way. I likened it to milking a goat. If you look at the picture above, in the foreground, you can see some vines stripped of fruit, while in the background there’s more to pick.
We washed the fruit and picked out any debris that we found. Then the fruit went into the top colander part of my sister’s juicer. Now I must tell you, that contraption she called a juicer was not like any kind of juicer I’ve ever seen. I guess that’s because I think of a juicer as a small appliance
There was boiling water in the bottom of the juicer contraption that steamed the fruit and the middle part captured the juice as well as finer bits of pulp. You can see a spigot in the picture above. That is how we drained the juice off. We had a wooden mallet to tamp down the fruit and that helped to extract the juice. After a while the fruit in the top separated from the pits and at that point we thought the remaining skin and seeds, resembled a pot of Chili.
This part of the process took the most amount of time. The making of the jam hardly took any time at all. So there we were on our supposed nice relaxing weekend, harvesting, cleaning and cooking chokecherries.
My sister’s husband was tireless. He outlasted all of us and picked for hours after the rest of us had decided we had enough. Once we had cleaned off the lower branches, we figured we had enough for a couple of batches of jam but my brother-in-law was determined and quite inventive about getting fruit from higher branches, even without a ladder.
I have no idea how much of the itty-bitty fruit we harvested that weekend but I read online somewhere that for every pound of chokecherries you get about 2 cups of juice.
We canned the juice we had extracted. I took home about six quarts and that was only about a quarter, or maybe a third of the total we processed. My guess is we probably harvested around 40-50 pounds. That’s a lot of little chokecherries!
Although the jam is delightful. there’s really nothing special about this recipe. I’m not even sure I should publish it as a recipe. I’ve done nothing to “make it my own”. It’s simply a matter of extracting the pulp and juice from the little bitty tart cherries and follow the measurements and directions on a box of powdered pectin. One thing I will caution on is don’t try to skimp on the sugar. If you do you might end up with something more akin to a runny Sunday Topping instead of the Jam you wanted.
I plan to make jelly with some of the Chokecherry Juice that I brought home with me. I wonder if I can use honey instead of sugar?
So, it wasn’t the relaxing weekend in the Okanagan we expected but in the end I learned how to make some delicious jam and that made all the work worth while!
Recipe: Wild Chokecherry Jam
Summary: Making your own fresh Homemade Jam is surprisingly easy.
Gluten Free | Grain Free | Dairy Free | Egg Free | Vegan | Vegetarian
*** Always refer to packaging labels for the most up to date allergy information
- 4 Cups chokecherry juice/pulp (you will need about 2 1/2 lbs fresh wild chokecherries)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 1 box fruit pectin powder
- 5 Cups sugar
Making Wild Chokecherry Jam is a multi-step process. First you need to extract the juice and pulp from the fruit. We had a Stove-Top Juicer Steamer to do this but you can use a regular saucepan and press the cooked fruit in a colander. I’m including the regular saucepan method. If you have a stovetop juicer, follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 1: Processing Fruit
- Wash the fruit in cool running water and remove debris.
- In a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the chokecherries. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until fruit is soft.
- Drain and allow to cool in a colander.
- With a wooden spoon, press down to strain juice and pulp from chokecherries, or if making jelly, strain through cheesecloth. Important: DO NOT crush the seeds. They contain a cyanide-forming compound which can cause illness.
- Discard the skins and seeds.
Step 2: Sterilise Jam Jars
- Choose tempered-glass half-pint canning jars that are free of cracks or nicks. They should have a two-part vacuum cap consisting of a flat, gasket-lined metal lid and a metal screw band. I really like these little 4-Ounce Jelly Jars on amazon.com (affiliate link).
- Wash jam jars in dishwasher, or by hand with the screw bands in hot soapy water. Rinse well.
- To sterilise, place empty jars in a large saucepan, right side up, and completely cover them with water. Bring water to a rolling boil over high heat, and boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add new flat gasket-lined lids to the pot. You should always use new lids, never use old used ones! Leave in hot water for at least 10 minutes and up to an hour.
- Let boiling water cool for 10 minutes before removing the jars from the pot.
Step 3: Making Jam
- Add 4 Cups chokecherry juice/pulp to a large saucepan. Stir in lemon juice and powdered pectin. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
- Add sugar, return to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for 1 full minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat. Stir and skim off foam for 5 minutes.
Step 4: Bottling Jam
- Using tongs, remove sterilised jars from hot water. Pour out the water, and set the jar, open-side up, on a towel or wooden cutting board. While the jars are still hot, fill them to 1/4 inch of top with warm jam. Note: adding hot ingredients to a cool jar may cause the jar to crack.
- Use tongs to remove lids from hot water. Wipe the rim well and then top with lids. Screw on bands just until you feel resistance (you don’t want to over tighten the bands).
- Let jars cool on a cutting board or towel with 2 inches of space between each jar for 12 to 24 hours. As the jars cool, you should hear the lids snap as the jars seal.
- After jars have cooled, check the seals by pressing down on the center of the lid. If the center of the lid doesn’t click, or pop, it’s sealed.
- Fill a boiling-water canner (or large, deep Dutch oven fitted with a round, metal cooling rack) about half full with water. Bring to a full simmer. Lower the filled jars into the simmering water one at a time with a jar lifter or use a canning rack to lower all the jars into the water at once. (If your canning pot does not have a canning rack, put a wire rack on the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from breaking.) Check the water level. If the water does not cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches, add boiling water as needed. Bring to a rolling boil, cover the pot, and boil for 10 minutes.
- Refrigerate any jars that didn’t seal for up to 3 weeks or freeze for up to 1 year.
- My sister had one of these Home Canning Kits. It sure came in handy when filling and handling hot jars.
Diet type: Vegan | Vegetarian
Diet tags: Gluten Free | Grain Free | Dairy Free | Egg Free
Number of servings (yield): 12 x 4 oz jars
To see a text listing of Laureen’s gluten free recipes, click here
For dairy, egg, nut and gluten free flour substitutions, click here
Scientific research has shown that if women take 0.4 mg of Folic Acid 3-4 months prior to and during pregnancy, the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida is reduced by up to 75%. Please consult your physician to determine what is the right amount of Folic Acid for you.
This post is linked to the following events:
Gluten Free Recipe Round Up hosted by Jo-Lynn Shane at Musings Of A Housewife
Melt In Your Mouth Monday hosted by Jane at Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms
Hearth and Soul Hop hosted by April at The 21st Century Housewife
Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays hosted by Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Gluten Free Wednesdays hosted by Linda at Gluten-Free Homemaker
The Mommy Club hosted by Crystal & Co
Allergy Free Wednesdays hosted by Tessa The Domestic Diva
Waste Not Want Not Wednesday hosted by Danielle at Poor And Gluten Free
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