Updated: 4 days ago
Growing up, wild chokecherry jam and syrup were a staple in our home. Every year, late in the summer the whole family could be found down by the river collecting them by the bucket full. Then, my grandmother would spend days turning them into jelly and syrup.
It’s a signature flavor that can be found only in a home pantry. To my knowledge, very few places sell the syrup commercially and a quick google search under the shopping tab pulled up a plethora of Etsy listings, but no commercial products. This is one of those lovely items like Coral Mushrooms that can only be gotten by getting out in the wild and collecting them yourself.
Are Chokecherries Really Edible?
Well, you are reading a chokecherry recipe, so, yes they are. However, I can tell you from experience that you don’t really want to pick one off the tree and plop it in your mouth. There’s a reason they’re called ‘Choke’ cherries.
Chokecherries have pits that look like regular cherry pits only proportionally smaller. However, that's where the similarities end. They don't share the same wonderfully sweet taste that regular cherries have. Instead, they have a bitter and astringent taste that I usually describe like this: “they ‘suck all the moisture from your mouth” and make you pucker or "choke" when you taste them. That being said, once they are cooked and sweetened up a bit, the taste is indescribably delicious.
Be Sure of Your Identification
As with any foraged food, make sure that you are 100% positive about your chokecherry identification before consuming wild berries. The chokecherry's closest look-a-like is the wild black cherry which is edible, but there are also toxic look-a-likes such as the Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). The best practice is to always make sure you know what you’ve harvested…
Wild Chokecherry Syrup
4 cups wild chokecherries
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
Juice from ½ of a large lemon
1 pkg powdered pectin
Thoroughly wash your chokecherries before using them. Add 4 cups of chokecherries and 4 cups of water to a large saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Mash the chokecherries with a potato masher then continue to boil for another 15 minutes.
Remove mixture from heat and pour the mashed chokecherries through a strainer reserving the juice.
Mash berries and pulp with the back side of a spoon to extract as much juice as possible.
Measure out 4 cups of juice, adding more water if needed
Pour the chokecherry juice into a saucepan and add four cups of sugar as well as your lemon juice.
Sprinkle in pectin and whisk to combine.
Bring to a rolling boil then simmer over medium heat, for approximately 30 minutes or until the syrup has the desired consistency. See recipe notes below.
Pour into sterilized jars and process in hot water for 10 minutes or according to altitude.
If the syrup is thicker than you'd like, add water, ½ of a cup at a time, keeping in mind the syrup will thicken once refrigerated.
Add ½ teaspoon of almond extract or vanilla extract to enhance the cherry flavor.
Leave out the pectin for a thinner syrup.
Do you have any favorite chokecherry recipes? Tell us all about them in the comments below, and until next time,