Once a year, you have the opportunity to pick the wild fruits of the prairie and turn them into jelly.
This year the chokecherry and sandcherries were extremely bountiful. I had went without chokecherry jelly on my bread for 2 years, so I loaded up on these sour tasting berries. (Hence- the “choke” part of “chokecherry”.)
ReeRee and I picked the berries, washed them, and put them in a pot with a little water to cook. As the berries cook, they release their juices and dark color from their skins into the pot. Use a cheesecloth to strain the juice- you want a nice clear juice (no berries or floaties).
I have the juice, now for the jelly! I scrounged around for some empty jelly jars, found a box of Sure-Jell (to my surprise) in my pantry, and sure enough- I had enough sugar. We were ready to start.
Well- almost ready to start… I had to call my mom for Grandma’s recipe. Chokecherries are not listed on the fruits of the Sure-Jell recipe.
OK- now we are ready to start.
3 cups of chokecherry juice.
Add 1 box of Sure-Jell and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
Bring to a boil.
Stir occasionally. In your spare time, prep the rest of your equipment. Put the canning lids on to boil in water.
Gather your supplies for the messy transfer from the pot to the jars.
Oops- the juice is boiling. Add 4 and 1/2 cups of white sugar. That’s right- all at once and stir, baby, stir.
(Did anyone else notice I just added more sugar than juice? Those chokecherries are very sour!)
No more getting other stuff ready- you need to stand guard at the pot and stir. And stir, and stir. If you use a wooden spoon, it will turn a nice purple-pink color.
Finally, once the jelly starts a full boil (lots of bubbles) set your timer for exactly 1 minute and keep up the stirring!
Remove the pot-o-jelly from the stove and over to your jars. Start ladling in jelly. Leave a little gap at the top- don’t overfill. You need some air in there to make a vacuum and seal your jars.
(A hot water bath is just a large pot full of boiling water. The water should cover the jars with 2 inches of water. You should really start your hot water bath first, as it takes a long time to heat up.)
So now your jars are in the bath and the water is boiling. Boil for 5 minutes plus 10 minutes (if you live at an elevation of 5,000 ft).
The sugar and acid content of the jelly does not require pressure cooking. A simple boil in water will do.
Remove the jars carefully (everything is hothot!) and place on a wire rack to cool. Don’t lick the spoon- I’m telling you from experience. Your tongue will blister for days- jelly boils at a much higher heat than water.
After a few minutes, the beautiful POP POP of jar lids lets you know your jars are sealed. If a jar doesn’t seal (you can hear a pop when you press on the lid), just put it in the fridge and eat that one first.
Sandcherries were also plentiful this year, so I made a mix of chokecherries and sandcherries in my juice.
I always write on my lids, so I can remember what is inside and how old it is.
If you weren’t from the Sandhills, you might balk at a jar that said, “2013- Choke/Sand Jelly”.
3 cups of prepared chokecherry juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package of pectin (Sure-Jell)
4- 1/2 cups of white sugar.
Stir until the jelly returns to a full, rolling boil. Boil exactly 1 minute (not a second less or longer). Remove from heat and put in clean jars.
Add hot canning lids, screw on the lids. Place into a boiling water bath. For my elevation, boil for 15 minutes.
Remove jars and cool. Makes 6 jelly jars. Store in dark, cool place if jars have sealed.
Delicious on bread and toast. Yum!