I picked some chokecherries last summer. I found them while on a walk along the dry creek beds near McLellan reservoir. There was a guy there from Germany picking bucket fulls! I talked to him for a little while about chokecherries & what to do with them. I pulled out my little reusable bag I always carry with me & filled it half way up with them. But I didn’t ever get around to doing anything with them & ended up tossing them. Ever since then I’ve been intrigued by them & all summer was thinking about picking some more. I had pulled up a few different recipes on the internet & was much more prepared for my harvest. Around mid-July I started looking around for some chokecherry bushes. My parents have a huge bush in their back yard & obviously there was always the option to go back to the reservoir but then I looked out my window & saw them! Two 15′ tall trees covered with chokecherries!!! I waited until they were ripe enough to have red berries but still have some unripe fruit as well. I read that if you include the unripe fruit it helps with the jelly because they contain more pectin. The same concept applies to ripe fruit also, so I picked them on the early side. The riper the fruit, the less pectin. I walked out my front door & started to pick some of the cherries but the tree is so stinking tall I realized I would need a ladder. I walked around the front yard because I had remembered seeing some green, unripe fruits on another bush near the street & sure enough, ANOTHER chokecherry bush! This one was much better, a manageable size to try to pick.
I was very excited & picked all the fruit off the bush I could reach. By the time I got finished I had a good bowl full!
I only ended up letting them sit in the fridge for a day. The good thing about chokecherry jelly is that it uses the juice so there’s not a lot of prep involved, no pitting or anything. I made the juice in 2 batches.
If you are interested in finding chokecherries in your area, I would encourage you to do so! It is so fun to find something growing wild & be able to harvest it for your own use. This link will take you to a fantastic article on how to identify chokecherries. It is written by the agriculture department at North Dakota State University. Basically, identifying chokecherries comes down to the configuration of the fruit. Take a look at the first picture I posted. See how the fruit all dangles off one long strand? That’s how you can be sure it’s a chokecherry bush. When in doubt, take a branch (make sure to include the fruit & the leaves) into your local nursery or wildlife center & see if someone there can give you a positive identification. Once you’ve found & identified wild chokecherries, you’ll get experience in identifying them & you can feel confident when finding more bushes.
I took forever to get around to typing up this post but I will follow up with a recipe for the jelly & pictures. I did a search for chokecherry jelly & I found a lot of different recipes but I liked this list the best.