Yesterday I made Chokecherry Syrup from the wild chokecherries we picked earlier in the week. Making fruit syrups is easy as can be, and the taste is divine.
It’s also a wonderful way to “Make it Do.” In the case of these Chokecherries… the fruit was free. I have a lot of canning jars… both handed down to me from my husband’s grandmother… and given to me by a mother’s hair stylist (bless his heart!) I think when people know you are canning, the equipment just makes it’s way to you. If you don’t have canning jars and equipment given to you, the first year of canning can be a bit expensive. But canning supplies will last for many years, so think of it as an investment. Be sure to check thrift shops or the like before you plunk down big bucks. Beyond the jars, you need a lot of sugar and a little almond extract to make delicious syrup.
This was my first time making Chokecherry syrup. But the recipe and process for making syrup is very similar to making most berry syrups.
After picking the wild cherries, I washed them thoroughly in a large strainer, making sure to pick out any leaves or stems.
Next you have to extract the juice. I use a juice steamer. The steamer I use is many years old and borrowed from my mother-in-law. Like most canning equipment, it can get old and beat up… and it can still do a great job.
This brings up another good point about canning. Canning equipment is an excellent thing to share in a family. You just don’t use your equipment enough to need your own. If you live close to family or dear friends for that matter, why not go in on equipment together? or each buy an item? I’ve shared equipment with my husband’s family for many years… and everyone gets along great, we even sometimes get together to do our canning. We all share my mother-in-law’s juice steamer, Victorio strainer (which I use to make the best applesauce in the world) and her pressure cooker.
If you don’t have access to a juice steamer, I am told you can can boil your cherries and then let them drain through a strainer. But it’s a slow process.
I extracted between 4 to 5 cups of juice to about a gallon of fruit. The yield depends on the quality of the fruit.
Next, make the syrup. Add 6 cups of sugar to 3 cups of juice. (Yes I know, it’s a lot of sugar… but it is syrup after all!) Stirring constantly, bring syrup to a rolling boil and let it boil for 1 full minute. This will thicken your syrup… too long and it will be very thick…. not long enough and it’s too runny.
Remove the syrup from the stove and add 1/2 tsp. almond extract.
Using a slotted spoon, skim off the foam from the syrup. Don’t ask me why, but I find this job oddly satisfying. I love how the foam kind of sticks together…
Next pour the hot syrup into hot and sterilized canning jars. This recipe make 7 half pint jelly jars. I sterilize the jars in my dishwasher and leave them in there to keep warm until I need them. You also want to get your lids ready by simmering them in hot water for a few minutes, but be careful not to boil them. When filling the jars I love to use my wide mouth funnel made for canning. Also be sure to leave at least a 1/4 inch space at the top of the jar.
I always run a clean, damp cloth around the rim of my jar to remove any spilled syrup.
Then put on the lids and bands… making sure to tighten the bands “finger tight.”
I used a steam canner to process my syrup today. I am told they are way out of fashion in the canning world these days… but I love my steam canner for processing simple and short cans like syrup, jams or jellies. My boiling water canner is too big to use for these small projects.
Because I am at a higher altitude, I processed my cans for 15 minutes. You don’t start timing until you have 8 inches of steam coming out of the steamer, or if using a boiling water canner, when it is at the boil. For the rest you who aren’t at altitude, the typical process time is 10 minutes. The best thing is to check your local state extension service or equivalent service. They can tell you them best processing times and tips on canning for your area. I find I call them at least once during canning season. I have tried to write down processing times, etc. on a recipe card… because even though I have made applesauce for 9 years running, I still forget how long it needs to process in the canner from year to year.
When the steam is done, remove the jars carefully to a clean towel and let them stand for 12 hours before washing them off and putting them in the pantry. One of my favorite parts is hearing all the lids popping after they are done. That means they are sealing. If you don’t get a seal, you can always reprocess syrups, or stick it in the refrigerator and use it up.
If you like black cherry flavor, you would love this syrup. But keep in mind, if you don’t have Chokecherries growing in your neighborhood, there are plenty of wonderful fruits suitable for syrups.
On a sad note, I did have one casualty today:
One of my jars broke while processing. I hate when that happens! Not only is it a bit of a mess, I hate loosing my precious hard work. I knew immediately what happened when I heard the pop from the canner… but there was nothing I could do about it, so I just let it keep processing. I have a can break every few years, and I always try to second guess what happened, were my jars not hot enough going into the canner? Was the bottle weak? Maybe someone wiser than me knows…
It’s a lovely thing to see your finished jars all in a row. I can’t wait to put them on my pantry shelves. Or even better, to use my new Chokecherry syrup to drown some homemade buttermilk pancakes.