Make Your Own Chokecherry Syrup
What You'll Need
- *3 cups chokecherry juice
- **3 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Almond Extract (optional)
- 1 packed Sure-jell
- 4 - 1/2 pint mason jars with lids
- 2 - Large pots
- Canning tongs / jar lifter
- Jar Funnel (optional)
- Rubber or Latex gloves
- ***Whiskey (or adult beverage of your choosing)
- Towels you don't care about
* Read below on how to extract juice
** This is 1/2 the amount of sugar that most recipes call for
*** This is for you. Syrup making takes a long time, you should enjoy yourself
Let's dive into the wonderous world of syrup making!
I should start with being honest. I've never done this before... This was my first attempt at syrup making. Before you immediately hit that little X and close this page, don't let that statement scare you away! If anything, you should be encouraged. If I, a complete and utter noob, can make this syrup, you can too. You'll probably be better at it, since I've already worked out the kinks for you!
We have one tree in our backyard, a schubert chokecherry tree. In the spring, beautiful flowers bloom that fill the entire yard with it's sweet aroma. The flowers look like white lilacs and only last until the first strong rain. This year, we were lucky and had the flowers around for about three weeks. It doesn't sound like much, but in previous years we were happy if they lasted one.
The longer bloom period meant that we had a lot of fat happy bees around, and a much larger crop of cherries. In mid June, when the cherries turn a dark (almost black) purple, they are ready to be harvested. I highly recommend wearing rubber or latex gloves when picking them. The juice will stain your skin if left too long.
This year, my friends Emily and Melissa joined me to help with harvesting and making the syrup. We gathered about 2 gallons of cherries! In simpler terms, that is a veritable fuck-ton of cherries.
The recipe will vary depending on how many cherries you have to start with. More cherries = more cherry juice. But as a basic rule, for every 3 cups of juice, you'll need about four 1/2 pint sized jars Also, I should note that I put in half the amount of sugar that most recipes call for. In my opinion, most chokecherry syrups are way too sweet. I still want the flavor of the cherries to come through.
OK! Let's Begin!
Step 1: Sterilize Jars
Remove lids from your preserving jars and place them into large pot. Fill pot with water - enough to fully cover the top of your jars. Bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. You can use a water bath canning lifter, or you can just use tongs to lift the jars out once boiled.
Place on a clean towel or counter top until ready.
Step 2: Juice Making
While your jars are boiling, you can start making the cherry juice. Clean your cherries and place into second pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 30 minutes or until soft.
*Note, it's OK if there are some stems or leaves in the pot, as you will strain and discard the cherries anyway.
Step 3: The Hard Part
This is where your whiskey will come in handy. Or adult beverage of your choosing... you'll thank me later. I told you I worked out all of the kinks so you don't have to!
This is arguably the worst part of syrup making. Really I should call this step "The Bitch Work" or "Prepare Yourself, This is Gonna Suck" or maybe even, "Why The Fuck Did I Decide It Was A Good Idea To Make This Shit Myself?"
Now that your cherries are boiled, you have to strain them through cheesecloth, squeeze the shit out of them, and gather the juice. Really, it's a fairly simple concept, it just takes FOR-EV-ER. And the cherries are HOT, so be careful.
I recommend placing a towel (or three) you don't care about on the counter where you're working. This is a pretty messy process and the juice will stain literally all the things you care about. Best to wear your laundry day clothes while you're at it. And most definitely wear gloves!
I also recommend setting up an assembly line for yourself, having one bowl full of some cherries to cool down, and another bowl to gather the juice. We figured this out after some trial and error.
Once squeezed, the cherry remains can be discarded.
Step 4: Making Syrup
Congrats, you survived Step 3! It will all be worth it, I promise!
Put your juice into a large pot. I recommend straining one last time through some cheesecloth incase you missed any little bits during the hard part.
For every cup of juice you'll need one cup of sugar (Again, this is half the amount of sugar most recipes call for, so if you'd like more, add more you sweet thang you)
Bring the juice + sugar mixture up to a boil, stirring constantly. Add almond extract if you'd like a stronger cherry flavor. Because I used less sugar, I also add in a packet of Sure-jell or pectin (used to make jams) to thicken slightly.
Boil for 1 minute, or until sugar is full dissolved into juice.
Step 5: Finalizing
To finish, ladle your syrup into jars, leaving about 1/4 of an inch at the top. Make sure lids are secure, but not too tight.
To make shelf-safe, boil jars for another 5 minutes, ensuring lids are full submerged. Once boiled, carefully remove and allow jars to cool. You'll hear a delightful little POP, and you'll know they are done!
And there you have it! Your delicious chokecherry syrup will last for up to 2 years (if you don't devour it immediately) and is excellent on pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, whatever you fancy! Follow your heart. Live your best, syrupy life.