How to make Chokecherry Jelly

The fruit of the chokecherry (Prunus Virginiana) has long been used for making a delectable jelly to grace the homestead pantry shelf.  With its cherry like flavor it is a perfect addition to that morning toast either on its own or with a little peanut butter.  In this post I will walk you through how to make chokecherry jelly.chokecherry jelly with slice of bread


Chokecherries can be found growing almost anywhere and picking them is quick and easy.  It can also be a fun outing to do with the kids.  

Although chokecherries can be picked anytime they are hanging on the bush, I find that picking them before they start falling to the ground yields more fruit than waiting till after a frost, as some say should be done.  How much you want to pick will depend on how much jelly you want to make.  But picking extra can easily be stored in the freezer for making jelly throughout the year.  I go more into this in another post Nature's Herbal gift - Chokecherry. 

How do I prepare the chokecherries for jelly? 

After you have picked the chokecherries it is time to take the washed chokecherries and make the juice that you will use in making chokecherry jelly.  Put the chokecherries in a pot and cover with water to about 2 inches above the chokecherries.  Cook for about 30 minutes.  Periodically through the cook time use a potato masher or back of your spoon to help crush the chokecherries and extract the juice.   

How do I extract the juice from the chokecherries?

You can use a jelly bag if you have one but for me, I use my colander lined with a t-towel that I don't care if it gets stained.  Chokecherries will stain.  I have tried cheese clothe but find it to be to weak for this process and find the t-towel to be the best.  Dump the cooked chokecherries into the t-towel lined colander and let drain.  This will take some time.

If you want a clearer jelly, do not squeeze the chokecherries, simply use the juice as it drains from the cooked chokecherries.  However, as I want all the juice I can, I fold the edges of the t-towel together and twist and massage the bag full of chokecherries.  As you can imagine, you will want to let this mixture cool to a point that this can be done.  But again, chokecherries will stain so expect your hands to be dyed from the juice.  A pair of rubber gloves might be advisable.

If you make too much juice, simply put in a container and throw in the freezer for use later.  When you want to make the jelly, thaw the juice and proceed.

Preparation required

Wash your lids and about 4 pint jars or about 7 1/2 pint jars in warm soapy water.  Rinse and stand open side down on a clean towel.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) no longer recommend the sterilization of jars and lids.  Research has shown that hot water bath canning filled jars being processed for 10 minutes or longer do not need to be pre sterilized.  If you are not processing for 10 minutes, the jars shall need to be sterilized.  Their main concern is thermal shock of the jar and so they recommend heating the jars before filling with product. For the same reasons, they do not say that you must sterilize the lids.

Personally, I sterilize my jars and lids for everything I will be hot water bath canning.  As I do not hot water bath can most of my jams and jellies, I make sure to sterilize my jars and lids.

To sterilize my jars I stand the jars, opening facing down, in about 1 inch of boiling water.  Boil for 7 minutes. Once sterilized I remove to a clean towel waiting to fill with the product. Put lids in a pot of water, bring to a boil and turn down to simply keep warm.  There are a number of different ways to sterilize the jars such as submersing the jars in boiling water for 7 minutes, running through the wash and rinse cycle on a dishwasher or standing upright in a pan of water in the oven.  Choose whichever method works for you.  But again, if you are going to hot water bath can this jelly, sterilization is not necessary for food safety.  Although it may be an extra step, I choose to do so just for extra safety.

Measure out 4 1/2 cups of sugar into a bowl.

How do I make chokecherry jelly?

Dig out a dutch oven or stock pot to make your jelly in.  I recommend using one with high sides as the jelly will boil up and boil over if the sides are not high enough.

Measure 3 1/2 cup of chokecherry juice and pour into pot.

Add 1 box of Certo dry pectin. Stir to dissolve.

Place on burner on high.  Stirring constantly, Bring to boil.

Add your premeasured 4 1/2 cups of sugar all at once.

Stir constantly.

Bring to hard boil (can't be stirred down) and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat.

Skim "foam" from jelly.

Pour into prepared jars.  Wipe the rim with damp cloth (dipped in vinegar for extra safety).

Place snap lid on and attach metal band.  Tighten finger tight.

At this point, you can either process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes or you can skip this step and place filled and sealed jars on a t-towel to cool.

If you wish to process the jars, put the jars into the canner.  Bring to a boil and simmer the jar for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove the lid off the canner and turn off the heat.  Leave sit in the canner for 5 minutes and then remove to sit and cool on the t-towel.  If using metal snap lids, do not further tighten the lid.  But, if using Tattler lids or the old style glass and rubber ring GEM lids, you will need to snug the band down after the jars come out of the canner.

Regardless of method used, leave sit undisturbed for minimum 12 hours.

It is recommended by CFIA and USDA to remove the bands for storage.  However, the choice is yours.

Wipe the jars down and place on your pantry shelf.  Enjoy!