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.