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Chokecherry Recipes

The Common Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana, is a member of the Rose Family, Rosaceae. The Chokecherry is a Perennial that is native to North America and grows widely in northern US, Canada, and Alaska, preferring edges of bluffs Mountain Canyons, forest clearings and stream sides but also thrives in open woods and along fences. They prefer rich moist soil but will also be found at poorer, drier sites. They do not like shady spots. It blooms in the spring with clusters of small, white flowers, like other "fruit trees." The cherries are bitter-tasting and have poisonous pits. They are, however, eaten by lots of wildlife. Other Common Names include Wild Black Cherry, Western Chokecherry.

Small amounts of fruit appear in the third year with serious production in the fifth year. Row spacing must fit cultivation equipment and will vary from 15 feet and greater. Recommended spacing between plants is 3 - 5 feet. Plants sucker freely and will form hedges. 800 plants per acre is a good rule of thumb and works out to roughly 20 foot wide rows by 3 feet in the row. Cross pollination increases fruit set and is desirable. We recommend planting more than one variety.

A further reference source is Epple, Anne Orth, A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona, 1995, Falcon Press

Wild Chokecherry flavor is exquisite but cyanide gives Chokecherries a tart flavor requiring a lot of sugar to get the right balance of tartness and sweetness. You may have to experiment with local berries to decide the proper ratio of berries to sugar for your taste. Pioneer women who made wonderful pies, jams and jellies with this fruit made sure there was good ventilation while cooking because of the Cyanide.

Chokecherry Jelly 1

3 cups chokecherry juice
6 1/2 cups sugar
2 foil pouches liquid fruit pectin (Certo)
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Pour juice into large kettle. Add sugar and stir to mix. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin, bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir and skim for 5 minutes. Add almond extract. Seal in hot jars. Makes about 9 half pints. Note: Almond extract gives a stronger cherry taste.

Chokecherry Jelly 2

3 pounds (approximately) chokecherries
1/4 cup water
1 pkg. powdered fruit pectin (1-3/4 oz.)
4-1/2 cups sugar

Wash the cherries and remove the stems. Place them in a large pot and crush them. Do not remove the pits. Add 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain cherries and all the liquid through a jelly bag.

Measure 3-1/2 cups juice and combine with pectin in a saucepan. Bring to a hard boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Immediately add sugar and return to a full, rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon. Pour at once into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headroom, and seal with sterilized lids according to manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: About 5 half-pint jars.

Chokecherry Jelly 3

3 1/2 c Chokecherry juice
1 Box sure-jell or ball pectin
4 1/2 c Sugar

Stir pectin into juice. Bring to a full rolling boil and stir in sugar. Bring to another full rolling boil and boil stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim if necessary. Pour into prepared sterilized jars. Place lids and rings on jars. Process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Chokecherry-apple Jelly

4 cups ripe choke cherries
1/2 cup water
3 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 oz pectin crystals (1 package)
3 lb sugar

Wash and stem but do not pit the chokecherries and place in a large saucepan with the water. Mash and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag and measure juice. Place 1 3/4 cups juice back in saucepan, add apple juice and lemon juice, and mix in pectin crystals. Place over high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Stir in sugar. Bring to a boil again and boil hard for 1 minute, sitiring continuously. Remove from heat, skim and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Seal your usually way (5 minutes in a hot water bath with lids and rings is usual). Makes 10-12 medium sized jelly glasses.

Chokecherry Syrup

8 cups ripe choke cherries
1/2 cup water
2 lb sugar
1 oz pectin crystals

To make Chokecherry juice, wash and stem but do not pit the choke cherries and place in a large saucepan with the water. Mash and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag and measure juice.

Put juice, about 4 cups, in saucepan, add pectin crystals, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Stir in sugar, boil hard 1 minute, then skim and pour into hot sterilized jars. Store in refrigerator.

Yields about 3 medium sized jars.

Chokecherry Wine

8 qt ripe choke cherries
12 qt water
sugar as needed, see below
1/4 oz dry yeast
1/4 lb chopped raisins (optional)
1 cup good brandy (optional)
Place cherries and water in large saucepan, bring to a boil, mash and simmer 10 minutes. Strain off juice through a fine sieve or jelly bag. Measure, and place in large crock or wine keg, add 1 1/2 lb sugar per 4 cups juice, mix and cool to luke warm. Add yeast and raisins (if using), mix well, cover and ferment for 5 days or until bubbling has ceased. Stir well and add brandy if desired. Keep covered for about 3 months, then filter and bottle. After a few days, cork tightly and store in a dark, cool place for 6 months before using.

Chokecherry Schnapps

4 c Chokecherry juice
1 c Sugar
1 c Everclear; 190 proof neutral-grain spirits

Heat chokecherry juice to warm, but not hot, temperature to ready the juice for the fermentation process. Add sugar to warmed juice and stir until dissolved. Add Everclear. Stir, bottle, cool and enjoy.

Chokecherries Jubilee

2-cups pitted cherries
1/4-cup sugar
ice cream
4-cups of water
2 tbsp. corn starch
1/4-cup brandy

Jubilee Sauce-Boil 3 cups of water and cherries until soft, crush to release flavours. Combine corn starch, water and sugar, add to boiling mixture. Cook until thickened and simmer in a chafing dish.

Spoon ice cream into serving dishes.Heat brandy in hot water and light on fire. Pour flaming brandy over cherries. Pour flaming cherries over ice cream or stir cherries 'til flames subside and then spoon over ice cream. So simple, yet elegant - a snap when pie filling is made ahead of time.

Game Birds With Chokecherry Sauce

Chokecherries are indigenous in much of northern US, Canada and Alaska, growing especially well west of the Missouri and north of the Arkansas to the pacific coast. The game birds will peck at the berries making this sauce the perfect accompaniment.

Game bird or other poultry
Chokecherry syrup
Black cherry juice
Rasberry vinegar

Demi-glaze is the reduction of any meat or poultry stock. After preparing and cooking your stock for at least six hours, strain through a fine cheese cloth or other kitchen cloth which you have placed in a strainer. Once you have strained the stock, reduce at low fire by one half to three-quarters. Reserve.

Remove the game bird breasts carefully from the breast bone by following the countour of the bone with a very sharp boning knife. Reserve the bones in your freezer for later use. Under a trickle of running water look carefully at the meat clearing away any feathers, gently scraping away blood clots and removing any remaining buckshot. If you are preparing this meal for others be very picky here. Those not involved in your hunt might not find any of the above very appetizing. Lay breasts out on a sheet tray and pat dry to remove moisture.

Prepare a seasoning mix by combining following:

1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. White pepper
1/8 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Thyme
Any of the above amounts can be adjusted to taste. Sprinkle seasoning mix on bird and reserve.

Prepare a saute pan by heating with clarified butter. It is important here to use clarified butter, if you cheat, you will have bits of burned butterfat in your sauce. Being careful not to get the butter too hot, add the meat and saute until browned. This will only take a couple of minutes. Turn the breast and repeat. Do not cook through.

The breast should be very pink under the fillet. Remove from the pan and return to the sheet tray. Place in a 350 degree oven for about six minutes, about the time it will take you to finish the sauce.

Heat the reserved demi-glaze, pour off any fat remaining in saute pan and deglaze with at least one or more cups of demi-glaze. Stir, scraping up any bits of meat and let reduce slightly. Restrain demi through a cheese cloth back into a pan. To the demi add a 1/4 cup of berry syrup, a bit of cherry juice and a couple of drops of high quality vinegar, preferrably rasberry, and check the taste. Here you can add a drop of smoke essence, or a bit more fresh thyme. You may want to thicken with a bit of cornstarch. Serve over reserved breasts.

Wojapi or Chokecherry Indian Gravy

Makes 5-10 Servings

4 lbs chokecherries
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
Half a package of cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken

Mash the fruit. Reserve some of the water to mix with the cornstarch or arrowroot. Put mashed fruit, sugar and water into pan and bring slowly to boil. Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch mixture. Watch for lumps! Place back on low heat and stir well until thickened to the consistency of pudding.

Serving Suggestions: Pour over FryBread, Ice Cream, over Biscuits or Dumplings

Chokecherry Links

Dawes County, Nebraska 

Last Updated 3/4/02

© HWS, 2002