Pick your chokecherries when they are a deep red color, remove the berries from the main stem of the bush/tree. It’s interesting to note that your results in processing chokecherries are entirely dependent on the ripeness of the berries. If the berries are a little green, your syrup may actually gel up and you might get jelly. I have never had 2 batches of syrup turn out exactly the same, so be prepared for diverse results from season to season.
Wash them in cold water, picking out any leaves, stems, or debris that might be floating on the top of the water. You can leave the short stems on the berries; you don’t have to pick them off individually. Remove any floating berries. Drain and place in a heavy kettle.
Add water to the kettle until it’s about ¾ of the way from the top of the berries, you don’t want to cover them with water; the mixture will get too thin. Place on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil for approximately 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place 2-3 cups of hot berries/juice in a colander/food press. Use your wood pestle to mash the berries, getting all the juice and pulp through the holes. Remove the skins and seeds from the colander after each batch. If you are making jelly, some people just like to have the juice drain through and not use all the pulp for a clearer jelly. Our family likes our syrup/jelly to be thick, so we grind all the pulp we can out of the berries.
Once you have processed all the berries, you can refrigerate or freeze the juice until you are ready to make your jelly or syrup. If you refrigerate the juice, make sure to use the product within a week of processing the berries.
Syrup Instructions-this is a large batch, make sure to use a large kettle. You can also cut the recipe in half for a smaller portion.
Prepare your jars before cooking the jelly, we use pint jars for our syrup. ½ pints are too small in my opinion; you don’t get a lot of syrup in those, though they might be good for single serving options. You can also use quart jars if you have a large family. Wash your jars thoroughly in soap and water and then rinse. I place my jars in boiling water in my large canner kettle so they are covered and leave them in for a few minutes to sterilize them. Remove hot jars from kettle and place on a clean towel, covering them with another towel to keep them warm while you are making the syrup. I also dip my clean lids and rings in the boiling water for a few seconds to get them sterilized.
Make sure your canner kettle is at least ½ full of water, you will be processing your jars of syrup in the kettle once they are filled.
In a heavy, deep, metal kettle place the following ingredients:
- 12 cups chokecherry juice/pulp (if the juice if frozen, make sure to thaw before cooking)
- 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice-fresh or bottled
- 3 Tablespoons Powdered Pectin-I use the Ball Real Fruit Classic Pectin
- 14 cups sugar-(I know, it’s a lot of sugar, but it is syrup after all)
Stir the mixture thoroughly and place on the stove over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Pay attention to the kettle at this point, it can boil over very easily. You will need to stir constantly and may even have to pull the kettle off the burner to control the overflow.
Once the syrup is finished cooking, remove from heat, and add 1 Tablespoon butter. This will help to dissolve the foam that formed during the cooking process. Skim any excess foam off the top of the syrup. I put this in a bowl in the refrigerator and we eat it up the next time we have waffles or pancakes. Most of the time the butter takes most of the foam down and I don’t have to skim.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into your warm jars, making sure the rim of the jar is clean before you put on your lids. A wide mouth funnel works really well for getting the hot liquid in the jar. Place the lid on the top of the jar and screw the ring on tight. Wipe any excess syrup off of the glass. Place the sealed jars in the canner kettle, making sure they are completely covered with water. Make sure the kettle has a jar rack, you don’t want the bottom of the jars to touch the bottom of the kettle; they can break if they get too hot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the jars for 5-10 minutes. Remove the jars from the water, set on a wood board or cooling rack. Be careful not to bump the jars together, I’ve had them break from tapping them too hard when they are hot.
As the jars start to cool, you should hear the satisfying “ping” that indicates they have sealed. Jars of chokecherry syrup will keep for a good long while on your pantry shelf; we’re still eating some from a few years back.
Once you open the jar, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers, though I doubt there will be much left once your family tastes all that sweet goodness!