I wait with anticipation every year to see how many choke cherries make it through the spring and early summer to ripen to that almost black shade of purple that indicates they are ready to be harvested and begin the process into the jelly jars! We had a bumper crop this year with, so far, 60 pints of jelly and more to come.
I’ve seen the prices of homemade specialty jellies in stores, and I can attest that they are worth every penny. It takes hours in the hot sun, the unpleasant buzz and bite of flies on your skin, the branches making a grab at your face and hair, to pick enough of the tiny berries to make a batch of jelly or syrup.
Once you’ve picked them, washed them, boiled them and strained off the juice, then it’s time to prepare your jars, get the canner boiling, and make the jelly. The juice get mixed with a bit of lemon juice, pectin, raw sugar and just a nip of butter to control the foam and then boiled to the jelly stage. Now, measure the piping hot liquid into the jars, wipe the rims and add the lids and bands and pop into the boiling canning pot. Submerge them and process them for the time the recipe requires, pull them out, listen to them pop and seal and leave them overnight. Check in the morning to be sure the lids sealed, label the top and then stand back to marvel at this preservation of toast, pancake and muffin topping to enjoy all year! I love the deep rosy-purple color of chokecherry jelly.
Later this summer will be crab apples, pears, apples, wild plums and some rhubarb jam.