Yesterday when we went for a bike ride in a park, I noticed these gorgeous berries hanging by a little wooden bridge. My husband pointed out that they were in fact chokecherries, something his grandma in Fort Macleod used to make syrup with. They would eat the syrup on vanilla ice-cream as the ultimate treat.
After some googling and researching (my canning books yielded not a single chokecherry recipe) I found out that you can’t eat them ‘raw’ without getting sick, but cooking, mashing and straining them you can make a lovely syrup (the pits can be poisonous). So there we were, in a deserted park, getting rained on, our dog tied to a bridge post, picking cherries and putting them in the containers that held our picnic dinner only half an hour before.
Note: To make this syrup, you must not be scared of getting messy, having everything covered in a lovely purply red stickiness. Luckily the hot leftover canning water makes cleanup a breeze.
- roughly 10 cups of washed chokecherries, picked clean of stems and leaves and spiders (I may have been shrieking while doing this) – really as many as you can get your hands on
- this translated into about 4 cups juice
- I used 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional but delicious)
Place whatever amount of chokecherries you have in a pot, cover just barely with water, bring to boil and simmer till the berries are soft. For me it worked out to be almost 4-6 cups of water in this particular pot). Don’t add too much water or you won’t get that deep cherry taste.
Mash berries, a potato masher works well. Strain berries pressing them down and to the side a bit to get as much juice as you can (I left it to drip over night in a jelly bag and canned in the morning). You can also line a kitchen strainer with cheesecloth.
Whatever amount of juice you end up with, adjust sugar ratio accordingly. Bring strained juice to boil, add sugar, bring back to boil and boil for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Then add the almond extract if using. Pour into sterilized jars for canning (10 minutes for 250 ml jars + altitude adjustment) or into pretty decorative bottles that will have to be refrigerated.
Canning the amounts above yields 7 x 250 ml jars. As I am running short on jars I had to use some 125 ml ones – which would be more than enough for 2 people – and I held back 1/2 cup for us for breakfast (my husband was breathing down my neck at this point wanting syrup, never have I had such an attentive helper).
I made some buttermilk pancakes in my cast-iron skillet, served with this luscious syrup, and proceeded to accept the best wife ever award.
I am holding myself back from licking the computer monitor…