With fall suddenly in the air, it’s time to start wrapping up some of the garden and/or farmers market produce and to make the best of things that need to be harvested right away.
I’ve been busy coming up with ideas for whatever I have the most of this year and decided to can a couple things. Canning takes a bit of time but is a great way to preserve whatever you’ve got on hand and also gives you a jump on holiday giving because who doesn’t love homemade goods?
To begin, the chokecherries ripened early this year and were quite abundant, which prompted a hurried syrup-making session at my house. Chokecherry syrup is one of my favorite Montana treats and is delightful on pancakes or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.
Makes 9 8-oz. jars
To make the syrup:
6 cups chokecherry juice
To make the juice: just barely cover about 2 gallons of chokecherries in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. As the berries soften, you can press them against the side of the pot to squeeze out the juice. Place a large sieve over a large pot (I used a 10-quart stock pot) and drain the berries and juice into it, again pressing the berries gently to extract any extra juice. Discard the pits and the pulp.
5 cups sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 Tb butter
1 Tb pectin (optional)
Bring the juice and the sugar to a boil, reduce the heat to a high simmer, stirring occasionally, and taking care to gently scrape the thickening syrup from the walls of the pot to incorporate the texture evenly. If you like your syrup a little thicker, you can add 1 Tb of pectin at the same time that you add the sugar. After the first 10 minutes, add the lemon juice, zest, and butter. Simmer for another 15 minutes or so, again stirring it every so often, until the syrup is slightly thickened and drips a bit slowly from the side of your spoon.
Pour the hot syrup into sterilized 8-oz jars, leaving ½ inch of space at the top. Place your sterilized lids and rings into place and hand tighten. Process your jars in a water bath (submerged in boiling water on a rack with an inch of coverage) for ten minutes. Remove the jars to a cooling rack and let sit until you hear the pop of your lids sealing, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. The lids also have a circle in the center of them that will depress once they’ve popped, so you can see if they’ve sealed if you’re not around to hear them.