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Chokecherry Syrup

Does your family have one of those recipes that never gets written down, but somehow gets passed through the generations? Well, this is one of our family recipes. Ever since I could remember, one of the ultimate treats at our house in the morning was sourdough pancakes with chokecherry syrup. Though, I have to admit that growing up, I almost thought it was weird. Keep in mind, this was in the 80s and 90s when processed food was at its sugary finest and mostly everyone ate cereal for breakfast. I really didn’t have a clue what sourdough was and I had never even picked a chokecherry.

Fast forward until last week. I still had never picked a chokecherry. I didn’t even know what they looked like! Though, with the fear of never learning how to make our family’s chokecherry syrup, I made it a goal to learn. On one of the past weekends that I was up visiting my parents, my mom told me that the chokecherries were on. So chokecherry syrup it was!

I have a disclaimer. I had a lot of help with my parents. This was my first time making it, after all. But since my goal was to learn and document this recipe, I was very thankful they took the time to help me. If you’re interested in seeing the video process of how to make this syrup, head on over to my Instagram page and check out my chokecherry syrup highlight!

Back to business.

What are chokecherries, anyway? Are they a cherry or actually a berry? Their size and shape is similar to a berry but they are actually drupes because they have a stone in the middle. You know, like a peach or a plum. The best part? They are loaded in antioxidants. They’re not good to eat just plain, but let’s turn them into something awesome, shall we?

The first thing to do was to get the chokecherries. So my dad and I hopped in his truck early in the morning and headed up to find some. I’m not exactly sure the range of chokecherries or if they’re in your hood, but I do know that they like high altitudes, cooler climates, and they tend to be in draws next to streams. If you want to make this chokecherry syrup but aren’t sure if you have any in your area to harvest, perhaps you could call your local extension agent or anyone who’s in charge of botany or agriculture at your local university.

Compared to other mountain berries, such as huckleberries, chokecherries are a piece of cake to pick. They tend to grow on clusters on the end of the branches, so there’s no need to pick them one at a time. Just grab onto the branch and slide your hand down to grab a handful of the berries.

Aren’t they pretty? And don’t be too picky while you’re gathering them. Some will most likely have half of the fruit missing and still have stems attached. You may have a few leaves in the mix. Don’t worry, we will take care of this later.

Once you get home, dump the berries into a large bowl and cover with water. The bad berries and any loose stems or other debris will float to the surface. Just skim those off, give it a gentle stir with your hand, and rinse a few more times. Remove any large stems but don’t worry about the smaller ones attached to the chokecherries. You can leave them on. Drain in a colander.

Now, it’s time to extract the juice. What’s the best way to get the juice from these suckers? My parents have used two different methods over the years. They used to use a steam juicer, like this one. Now they use and prefer a pot and a little water to extract the juice. According to my mom, this is the way my grandma used to do it. Which makes me happy because I think the syrup from this method is more concentrated and flavorful.

To make one batch of juice, you’ll need about 1 1/2 gallons of chokecherries and a large pot. Place the cleaned ‘cherries in the pot and add enough water to just barely cover them. Put them on the stove and allow to come to a boil, then reduce to simmer. You know the drill.

After about 30 minutes, the berries will have released their juice. The liquid in the pot will be opaque and a dark mauve color, like this pictured below.

Maybe that picture looks a little, uh, less than appetizing. Don’t worry, things only get better from here.

After the chokecherries are finished cooking, strain them and the juice through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Gently press on the chokecherries in the sieve to get out any of the liquid, but be careful not to mash it too much. Give your pot a rinse and a quick scrub to remove any bits left. Measure the juice after it has been strained; you should have about eight cups. If you have less, you can half my recipe or you can cook more chokecherries to get the right amount of juice.

Before you get going with the juice, wash and dry seven pint jars and place in a warm oven set at 180 F. This keeps them hot and sterilized until you’re ready for them. Get the sealing rings ready, and place the lids in a small pot with water. Allow this to come to a gentle simmer while you work on the juice.

Now, it’s showtime! Place the juice back into the clean stockpot. It should still be a little warm. If, for some reason it’s not, warm it up, but don’t let it boil. Gently sprinkle the pectin into the juice while stirring, then allow to boil. Now it’s time to add the sugar. Slowly (but not too slowly) add the sugar while you stir to help it dissolve. Keep stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil again. Stir constantly and let it boil for one minute, then remove from heat and let it settle a bit. Skim off any foam and discard.

Pour the syrup into the pint jars, giving about an inch of headspace. Wipe the lip of the jars with a clean, damp towel (this removes any syrup that was spilled in the process) and place a lid on top. Seal it with the ring, and set aside until you have completed all of the jars.

Here’s when the real party starts and you can feel amazingly self-sufficient. Grab your canner and partially fill with warm water. Gently place the jars inside the rack, and lower it into the water. Crank up your stove and let it come to a boil, then reduce to let it gently boil for 10 minutes. You don’t want it to be a rolling boil. Once the 10 minutes is up, carefully remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter. Set aside and allow to cool. You should hear gentle pops as the jars pressurize and seal.

After the jars have completely cooled, you can check for sealed jars by gently tapping in the middle of the lid. If the center pops down (like an opened pickle jar from the store) then it has not sealed. This isn’t a big deal, just put it in the fridge and gobble it up.

Look at those beauties. You can use chokecherry syrup the same as you would berry syrup. Drizzle it on and in anything you’d like!

Thanks again to my awesome parents helping and teaching me this recipe.

Chokecherry Syrup

This syrup is one of my family's favorites. 

Servings 7 pints

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chokecherry juice (extracted from about 1 1/2 gallons of chokecherries)
  • 1 package pectin (I like MCP)
  • 10 cups sugar

Equipment:

  • 7 pint jars
  • 7 rings
  • 7 lids
  • canning equipment (funnel, pot, rack, jar grabber)

Instructions

  1. To extract the juice, place the cleaned chokecherries in a large pot and add enough water to just barely cover them. Put them on the stove and allow to come to a boil, then reduce to simmer.  After about 30 minutes, the berries will have released their juice. The liquid in the pot will be opaque and a dark mauve color.

  2. After the chokecherries are finished cooking, strain them and the juice through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Gently press on the chokecherries in the sieve to get out any of the liquid, but be careful not to mash it too much. Give your pot a rinse and a quick scrub to remove any bits left. Measure the juice after it has been strained; you should have about eight cups. If you have less, you can half this recipe or you can cook more chokecherries to get the right amount of juice.

  3. Wash and dry seven pint jars and place in a warm oven set at 180 F. Gather rings and place the lids in a small pot with water. Allow this to come to a gentle simmer while you work on the juice.

  4. Place the juice back into the clean stockpot. It should still be a little warm. If, for some reason it’s not, warm it up, but don’t let it boil. Gently sprinkle the pectin into the juice while stirring, then allow to boil. Now it’s time to add the sugar. Slowly (but not too slowly) add the sugar while you stir to help it dissolve. Keep stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil again. Stir constantly and let it boil for one minute, then remove from heat and let it settle a bit. Skim off any foam and discard.

  5. Pour the syrup into the pint jars, giving about an inch of headspace. Wipe the lip of the jars with a clean, damp towel (this removes any syrup that was spilled in the process) and place a lid on top. Seal it with the ring, and set aside until you have completed all of the jars.

  6. Grab your canner and partially fill with warm water. Gently place the jars inside the rack, and lower it into the water. Make sure there is about 1" of water covering the top of the jars (you may need to add more water or take some out). Crank up your stove and let it come to a boil, then reduce to let it gently boil for 10 minutes. You don’t want it to be a rolling boil. Once the 10 minutes is up, carefully remove the jars from the canner with a jar lifter. Set aside and allow to cool. You should hear gentle pops as the jars pressurize and seal.

  7. After the jars have completely cooled, you can check for sealed jars by gently tapping in the middle of the lid. If the center pops down, then it has not sealed. This isn’t a big deal, just put it in the fridge and gobble it up. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Chokecherry Syrup”

    1. We live at high altitude and this is the processing time we use. If you lived at low altitude, I would still process 10 minutes since it’s such a short amount of time. 🙂

  1. Hey there! I was trying to find how long to process my chokecherry syrup, and when I saw your website pull up, I thought he wait a minute that Candice! Thanks for helping me out today! My mom has always done the syrup for me before. I decided it’s time to grow up and do it myself… LOL!

    1. Haha!! That’s awesome! I’m glad you found the blog! Your chokecherry syrup looked amazing, by the way! I know what you mean. My parents usually make it so I had to learn how to do it myself 🙂

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