The Chokecherry: A Sour Berry Makes Delicious Jelly and Jam

The super sour chokecherry is a treat to pick and is easy to turn to jelly and jam.

| November/December 2009

  • Chokecherry jam
    Yummy chokecherry jam turns homemade bread into a sweet treat. Kleykov
  • Berries and jelly
    An assortment of colors can all result in delicious chokecherry jelly.
    Ingrid Elena Pavia
  • A bear gets his pick of the berries
    A bear standing on his hindquarters eyes the ripened chokecherries. Parsons
  • Ripe chokecherries
    Dark purple chokecherries ripe for the picking. Johndro

  • Chokecherry jam
  • Berries and jelly
  • A bear gets his pick of the berries
  • Ripe chokecherries

Quick, name your favorite jam or jelly.

Strawberry, check. Raspberry, right. Grape, apple, peach, cherry, got ’em. Orange marmalade, yep.

Did anybody mention chokecherry?

When I was young, my mother put up dozens of quart jars of chokecherry jelly every summer. It was, in fact, about the only condiment available in our farm home to spread on breakfast toast or pancakes, or the peanut butter sandwiches she packed in our lunch pails. We’re talking hand-picked, home-prepared, homemade jelly put up in quart canning jars and stored in the basement.

Each August, my mother would drag me along as she headed out to her favorite thickets to pick buckets full of the purplish-black berries. Chokecherry pickers, like mushroom hunters, have their favorite hunting grounds, and my mother instinctively knew where the best bushes could be found.

We found them growing in ravines and gulches and creek beds, sometimes along a county roadside where some settler had transplanted them into hedgerows. The big clusters of ripe berries looked delicious, and at least once or twice I couldn’t resist popping a few into my mouth. Which, of course, made my cheeks and lips pucker up like a deflated balloon. Chokecherries contain an astringent agent, which is a $10 word meaning “yech.”

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