Chokecherries grow wild in Nebraska, sprouting a spike of white flowers in the spring and deep purple/black berries in the fall. They are blisteringly sour, but make delicious jelly or wine.
In 2011, Maya and I were driving along the main road at Niobrara State Park, and saw a large shrub/tree bobbing and swaying in a dozen different directions.
Slightly freaked out, we slowed down and realized that there were actually a flock of wild baby turkeys (poults) on a chokecherry feeding frenzy.
Since we love chokecherry jelly, we stopped at the park office and asked if it was okay to pick chokecherries. Reassured, we headed back into town and picked up sugar, pectin, mason jars and an empty box to hold our berries at Farnik’s Market.
We found a chokecherry bush that was loaded with berries and started picking. Just as we were finishing, calamity! Maya slid down the hill, badly scraping her arm on the way. We took our berries back to the cabin and washed and bandaged the worst of her scrapes. Poor kid! She was a real trouper (as always) and still pitched in.
3 lbs. chokecherries to yield 3 1/2 cups of juice
4 cups sugar
1 box powdered Sure-Jell
1 cup mason jars (7 or 8) washed in hot soapy water, and rinsed with boiling water. (Leave the jars in the hot water until you’re ready to fill them.)
In a large pot, wash and remove berries from stems. Drain well. Add a cup of water to the berries, and cook on medium/low heat, stirring to break the berries open.
Lay a piece of thin fabric (we improvised with a cotton bandanna) in a colander with a bowl underneath and pour the berries in. Tie the corners together and let the juice drip out for a couple of hours. Then gently squeeze the berries to get out any remaining juice.
Add the juice and Sure-jell to a pot and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bring back to the boil for one more minute. Pour into mason jars, cover and lower them into a gently boiling pot of water. Keep the water simmering for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.