Hot Pepper, Wild Apple and Choke Cherry Jelly

Amelia Dicks

Choke cherries can seemingly steal all moisture from your mouth and pull your face into an involuntary pucker when eaten on their own. This has unfortunately given them a bad reputation, but it is this unmistakable sharp characteristic that makes them such a unique ingredient for cooking.

This recipe draws together the delightful tartness of choke cherries and wild apples with some sugary sweetness and a kick of spice. This jelly is always a hit when served with crackers and cheese.


  • 4 cups (1 litre) water
  • 2 oz. (60ml) red wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cups choke cherries
  • 2 lbs. (1kg.) apples cut into large wedges (I like to use wild apples rather than store bought varieties, as they are loaded with flavour and pectin)
  • 1-2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (per your heat preference)
  • 4 cups white sugar (approx.)


1. In a large pot, combine water, red wine vinegar, choke cherries, apples (without peeling or removing core) and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes, uncovered. Do not crush fruit during cooking.

3. Pour the fruit and liquid into a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Let drain into a pot for about an hour (for clearest jelly, do not push/squeeze the fruit to try and speed up this process).

4. Once the juice has finished draining into the pot, add the sugar. For every cup of juice, add 1 cup of white sugar (i.e.: if yield is 4 cups juice then add 4 cups sugar)

5. Bring juice and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about an hour, carefully skimming during cooking. Use plate test** to ensure it has solidified enough. 

6. Pour into hot sterilized jars.

7. Sterilize sealed jars of jelly in boiling water for 5 minutes.

**Plate test: Put a small plate in the freezer for a few minutes until it is cold. Remove pan from heat to stop cooking and put a small amount (around 1 tsp) of jelly onto the cold plate. Immediately place the plate back into the freezer for a few minutes. If the jelly does not firm up to a desired consistency during this time, continue cooking for 5 minutes longer and repeat the test.