Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chokecherry jelly

My first foray into local food was about 12 years ago when I found a bunch of chokecherries ripe in the valley and added vodka for a very purple berry shooter. On Friday, Jess was keen to pick berries and I recalled seeing a bunch of chokecherries growing in some bush we passed on a bike ride.

Off we went for a walk with bucket in hand. We managed to get about 2 litres of chokecherries and also stumbled upon a large patch of wild saskatoon berries that we'll remember for next year. We got some funny looks from folks in passing cars but no one called the cops so I'm going to call it a success.

Back at the ranch, I opened up the jelly section of my canning book and cooked down the berries. We could have used another litre of berries and I ended up adding a bit of unsweetened apple juice to get enough juice. This morning I made jelly for the first time and found it a lot less work than jam.

What little I know of jelly is that one needs not to press the berries to extract juice as that adds particles that make the jelly cloudy. I avoided pressing and got jelly that looks about as clear as most of the darker jellies I've purchased over the years.

I wasn't sure it was going to set up well. But then it started setting while I frantically ladled it into jars. After some cooking, I'd say we've pass the gel test!

The taste was passable--not as delicate as crab apple but good enough to eat. It might be good on a cracker with cream cheese or maybe on meat (pork, would be my guess as a vegetarian of nearly 20 years).

Up next: We're making some oven-roasted tomatoes. And I've been slowly improve the soil in places where we've pulled out some potato plants. Jess is also keen to try to gather rose hips. I need to look into that a bit as I recall an ill-fated jelly-making session (i.e., there was a lot of swearing) at the family cabin where the seeds caused some issues.

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