The Great Chokecherry Jelly/Jam Experiment


Preserving Chokecherries

Last Friday, my friend Patti, and I embarked on an adventure of making  Chokecherry Jelly and Jam from the gallons of pulp/juice she had previously prepared.  Patti and her cousins picked a five gallon bucket and she was determined to get it all made into jam for small gifts for family and friends everywhere.  I was glad to join in to help.

At this time of year, Chokecherries are widely available along river banks and trails, free for the picking!  In fact a google search shows that Chokecherries are  widely available across the country and into Canada from east to west.

Native Americans of the Northern Plains, and Norther Rockies made cokecherry a staple food by pounding them with seeds included and drying the pulp in the sun to make a sort of  fruit leather.  How they ate this rather astringent fruit without a bit of sweetening baffles my imagination.

A google search did not lead us to a pulp/jam recipe using the boxed pectin we had on hand, so Patti decided that together we would experiment with the proportions for each batch.   She let me make up the proportions of sugar, juice/pulp, and pectin.  We made 5 batches in all, including one batch without pectin that got way overcooked because we didn’t know what the “sheeting” stage looked like.  (That batch is a bit thick and burned tasting to me – but still yummy!)

No failures Just Learning Experiences/

I learned you can have a lot of fun canning and improvising with what you have on hand, while combining the wisdom and experience of two very different people.  I was the one who wanted to follow an exact recipe, Patti was more like just try it and “Let’s see what happens.”

One thing I learned is that it is OK to follow some of our ancestors tried and true methods, even though they may not line up with USDA recommendations.  For example we did the jam without waterbath canning because of the high sugar content of the mixture, a method Patti’s family has done for generations and they are still here!

I would love to hear about what you are preserving in your kitchens right now, your family folklore regarding canning methods, and special memories centered around canning.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out once we start opening jars from each batch and what we learned.

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16 comments to The Great Chokecherry Jelly/Jam Experiment

  • this is the first year that i have canned. my grandmother did all her preserving in the freezer (tomato sauce and applesauce). since this is her first year living in a nursing facility, i began to carry on her tradition of putting up applesauce and tomato sauce. she stopped “putting up” food years ago, but i thought since she doesn’t have her kitchen anymore, this was the year for me to start what she did so long ago. we canned this year – i’ll try freezing next year! so far, my three young boys love the canned applesauce! i added only cinnamon, no sugar. perfect for our coolish mornings over oatmeal!

  • Angelique

    I just make MANY MANY half pint jars of apple butter. I used my crockpot and they turned out GREAT! I have 1 crockpot that gets really hot and I think 1 batch tastes a little burnt so I set this aside for baking only.

  • Kim Johnson

    It’d been several years since I’ve tried to can anything–I recall maybe 3-4years ago, I got ready to can tomatoes, to find my water bath canner was rusted open. Negligence on my part. So I finally purchased a new canner this year, and after sending out requests for surplus vegetables, got two boxes of tomatoes from my friend Kerry Smith. Working full-time, so one evening I geared up to tackle the tomatoes. All went well with the first batch, but when it came time to remove the jars, for some reason I couldn’t figure out HOW in the world I’d been able to lift the rack out. It was too heavy! I enlisted my husband’s help, and we barely were able to balance the rack and jars to set on the towel. That’s when I REMEMBERED…that you use the JAR LIFTER to pull the jars out!!! ;o) It was a good laugh. And I got 21 quarts of tomatoes canned. Winter salsa and spaghetti sauce, here I come!!!

  • Teresa Roys

    My husband and I tried to make plum jelly the first year we were married. We weighed the juice and to make a long story shorter, it turned out much more like syrup than jelly. We still laugh about all those jars of syrup and there were only 2 of us. : )

  • Penny in TX

    My great-grandmother always canned lots of grape jelly by sealing it with paraffin wax in “jars” that were small glasses she was reusing. I particularly remember jars with cartoon characters painted on them–I think they were the freebie glasses gas stations used to give out with fill-ups as promotion. Now that I think back on it reusing glasses and sealing jars with reusable wax was a pretty thrifty way to do things!

  • Mary

    I was really looking forward to putting pumpkin up, but our crop was awful! Our entire garden failed except for the sweet potatoes (the vines are beautiful, but we haven’t harvested yet). We got more tomatoes from 6 plants last year than we did from 18 this year… I did strawberry preserves over the summer.

  • I have never canned. It’s on my list of things to try and do, but I’m scared to try it on my own. One of these days, I hope to get over my fear and try it though.

  • Wendy

    I have fond memories of my mother and grandmother canning and freezing produce from the garden when I grew up. I go to help wash the peas before they were blanched and frozen. It seems I remember helping fill those bags too. I always remember flipping the jars of jelly and testing to see if they had sealed yet. We thought it was fun to find one that popped, though I am sure my mom and grandmother didn’t. I just started experimenting with canning a couple years ago when I was given some plum. I hadn’t had plum jelly since I was a kid. I found out it was time consuming, but surprisingly easy. Since then I have made plum jam – tried jelly and decided it was too time consuming and wasted way too much fruit, apple pie filling, apple peel jelly, pumpkin puree, and this year I made mullberry jam. I was just given a bag of pears so I am going to try pear butter. My kids aren’t fond of pears, but I am hoping the spiced, sweetened mixture they will like better. If not it will make good Christmas gifts. I am lookin gforward to more pumpkin puree this year as well. I want to try my hand at apple sauce and apple butter too cause the kids love it, but it is so expensive.

  • My husband, 4 boys and myself..are making apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly and canning them!! My grandmothers made jelly and butters and I loved them, my 17 & 12 yr old boys remembers and enjoyed them and likes to make them and eat them and remember those days. As for the apple sauce it is just good, and my boys can not eat chilli….yes chilli with out crakers and applesauce on top. Chilli season is coming of course we need to stack up on homemade apple sauce(: I just love homemade applesauce, can not go back to store bought. We do not add sugar, we do make a few batches of cinnamon applesauce. We love adding jellies as a topper for our homemade Goat Yogurt is really good.

  • Tina

    Today I’m making pearsauce and pear butter! Making the pear butter in a crock pot for the first time. Will let it cook on low all nigth and can it in the morning.

  • Becky

    This year we canned applesauce, strawberry jam, peaches, pears, and tomatoes, and froze blueberries. My husband and I usually can together. I do the grunt work of peeling, prepping, and cleaning up, while he mans the canner. My mom died last year, and this year I spent many hours thinking of her and the times we had canned together when I was living at home, and more recently when she helped me can for my own family. The garden my husband’s version of a man cave, so I’m never quite sure what’s coming in the house next!

  • Candace S Marshall

    I canned chokecherry jelly and syrup too. Just yesterday in fact. Except we only had a 1 1/4 gallons. My mom and I picked them in my hometown, Elliston, Montana. My four and two-year old helped for a short time and then they tried the cherries so decided it would be better to run around and play. I had my sixth-month-old in a Moby Wrap and he LOVED pulling all the leaves off the trees and slobbering all over them, although he didn’t care for the taste 😉 I still have a ton of green tomatoes and surpringly it hasn’t frosted yet. I did can a bunch of salsa with my ripe ones. I have potatoes and carrots in the ground and pick’m as I need’m. Earlier this summer I canned pears, peaches, applesauce, and stawberry-rubarb jam. Pickled beets are up next, YUM! I find it theriputic and enjoy doing it in small doses.

  • Candace S Marshall

    The recipe we my mom and I used for the jelly is:

    1 1/2 C unsweetned apple juice
    3 C chokecherry juice
    1/2 C lemon juice
    6 C sugar
    1 pack pectin

    Mix together, hear up to boil and boil 7 min with some stirring. Usually takes a week to set.


    3 1/2 C chokecherry juice
    1/2 C lemon juice
    4 1/2 C syrup

  • Candace S Marshall


    boil the syrup for five min. before putting into jars

  • Rochelle

    For the last few years, I’ve made a lot of berry rhubarb jam. This year, a friend gave me a bunch of small crabapples from her tree. So for the first time, I made hot pepper crabapple jelly, various jams with crabapples and raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, and crabapple sauce (which my kids love). I ended up buying the food mill for my kitchenaid and I have so say it saved a lot of time…I didn’t even take the stems off.

  • One of my favorite memories is going into the root cellar where my Aunt Lula stored her yummy canned goods. We spent a lot of time there in the summer and the cellar was so cool. I truly miss her :(

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