Since the skin and flesh of chokeberries / Aronia melanocarpa are more tannic than other berries, they're usually just processed into juice or jelly, and most of the time that's how you'll see them sold commercially, or online.
If you haven't ever looked, go look at some products, especially the price tag (30$/12oz of juice!) then come back here, maybe after checking around for a local nursery that can supply you saplings to plant in your yard and avoid being robbed at gunpoint for what amounts to fruit juice. Anyway you cut it, anything made from aronia juice is expensive. I prefer to forage mine for free, instead of paying 30$ for under 2 cups of juice.
Onto the preserves. Since part of what makes chokeberries special is that they don't have stones to remove, I wanted to develop some simple preserves that used the whole berry--no juicing, no straining (although straining is more refined, and would be my choice for professional settings and using it in sauces, glazes, etc).
These are rustic, home-style preserves, more like something you'd see a hundred years ago compared to the ultra-processed, standardized versions on the shelf today. What's a rustic preserve you ask? To me, that can mean a couple things, depending on someone's interpretation of "rustic", but, typically it will be either preserves cooked with a horrific amount of sugar to encourage a set, or looser preserves, simply stewed with sugar. I prefer the latter.
Just know these aronia preserves aren't supposed to be completely set--they'll quiver a bit, and should gently slide around the jar when you tilt them, but the pureeing in the blender uses their skins to help thicken the preserves naturally-but more along the lines of thick, pulpy grape jam or coulis than the firm set of jello.
That being said, if you want it thicker, just cook it to a slightly higher temp. What a commercial processor might see as set failure, in this case, to me, means they're more versatile, and great used in desserts. For example, to make a mousse with jelly or heavily set jam, you'll probably need to heat them, dilute, beat, or a combination to ensure you don't have lumps, but not with these.
One of my favorites you could try is something like an aronia fool or mousse, which you could make by whisking the preserves into warm cream with some breadcrumbs or sponge cake, mashing it up and passing through a strainer to catch the skins, then whipping, and chilling--It's a bit like a chilled fruity mousse. When I get some time, I'll put that recipe up, too.
I've put some spices in these (ginger, orange or lemon) as the flavor of aronia is less assertive than something like raspberry, and I think I it benefits from some background flavors. But, if blank slate is the way you roll, it's fine with just vinegar, sugar, berries, pectin and water. Heck, you can even leave out the pectin if you want to be really oldschool.
Of course, they're also just fine on toast with butter, but often I cook with preserves like this, especially if there's game in the freezer that might benefit from a glaze, mixing the preserves with warm stock, butter, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a good pinch of cayenne. Duck, goose, and grouse are the best partners by far.
Simple Chokeberry or Aronia Berry Preserves
- chinois or other strainer (optional), canning jars, large stock pot
- 8 inch 2 quart sauce pot or similar
- 16 oz chokeberries, or roughly 3-4 cups washed and cleaned if needed
- Water, as needed just enough to nearly cover the berries
- 12 oz sugar
- 1 Tablespoon powdered pectin, unsweetened optional--see notes
- 1 Pinch kosher salt
- 1.5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (10 grams) grated ginger, and it’s juice (optional)
- finely grated zest of half an orange or lemon (microplaned) optional
- Look over the chokeberries and remove any stems
- Mix the pinch of salt, sugar and pectin. Put the chokeberries and grated ginger in a tall saucepot (you don’t want this splattering around so use a deep, tall saucepot) and add water just so the berries are almost covered.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, then transfer to a blender and process until as smooth as possible. If I want a refined puree, I’ll pass it through a chinois strainer to catch the small pieces of skin that may still be in the chokeberry coulis, but at home, I may leave them in for a more rustic look and texture (some people may not care for the texture, so straining is my first choice) If you don’t strain the mixture, you should have about 32 oz (4 cups) of coulis/puree or a little less.
- Pour the mixture back into the pot, add the pectin-sugar mixture, and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Continue cooking on high heat until the mixture reaches 225 F on a candy thermometer, or just boil for a couple minutes if you don't have a thermometer--this is a rustic recipe.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the vinegar or lemon juice, along with the zest, then pack into half pint or pint jars and process in a water bath (10-15 minutes according to your altitude) for storage in a pantry.
- After the jars of chokeberry preserves cool, inspect for any that haven’t formed a seal and refrigerate or freeze. You can also store the chokeberry preserves in the fridge or freezer without processing in a water bath.
Nice recipe, but this statement, 'due to their ancestor being crossed with a species of Sorbus/rowanberry somewhere along the line' is false. Aronia is a wild native tree, related to Sorbus (in the same family) but not a hybrid at all. Unless you have some reliable source for this. . .
I should perhaps be clearer. It is true that there are varieties of Aronia that are hybrids, 'VIking' and 'Autumn Magic' for example, but you won't meet them foraging. They are hybrids between two closely-related species of Aronia, A. melanocarpa and A. arbutifolia, so no Sorbus anywhere in sight. A. melanocarpa is the black chokeberry you show in your pictures, while A. arbutifolia is the red chokeberry. These hybrids are often called Aronia x prunifolia, which could be why you thought it was a hybrid with something else. I doubt very much you could hybridize Aronia and Sorbus - they are not closely related enough.
Ah, a lesson in doing your research more carefully before posting! It seems there is genetic evidence that the variety 'Viking' probably IS a hybrid between Sorbus and Aronia. However this is a commercial variety, so foraged plants won't be such a hybrid, so that statement is very misleading. 'Nero' is another variety that belongs in this hybrid group. They can probably be traced back to hybrid work done by the botanist Michurin. Detailed analysis can be read here http://220.127.116.11/translations/Skv1983Aronia.html
I removed the statement, it was an unnecessary anyway for culinary purposes. Thanks for the link.
This made me want a refresher, so here's your answer, from the master himself: "They are closely related, and the commercial cultivars (which are what my images are of) are hybrids with rowan backcrossed to Aronia, so they are genetically 1/8 or 1/16 rowan and the rest Aronia. This accounts mostly for the larger size, but doesn't make them taste better".
Yes, it get's pretty complex, but wild plants in North America will be the straight species (melanocarpa or prunifolia, if black, and arbutifolia if red berries). The foggy story of the Russian breeding is a bit bizarre, and these plants are apomictic, which means that the seed is genetically identical to the parent, so a whole population of plants is genetically almost identical, but not really a species - drives taxonomists absolutely crazy! Not all commercial cultivars are this Russian hybrid, but 'Viking' and 'Nero' are.
I will be making this recipe as soon as our berries are ripe. We have at least a dozen chokeberry bushes that we planted after moving here and they produce SO MANY BERRIES!!! I'm looking for as many recipes as possible to use LOTS of berries! That said, would it be appropriate to double, triple, quadruple (etc.) this recipe and if so, what do you think would be the largest batch that would be acceptable? Also, I have a hard time getting the temp up past 215 or so. Any tips? Just keep cooking?
I'll check back in and rate the recipe as soon as I make the preserves.
Last question - could I substitute honey for sugar? We are beekeepers and would prefer to use our honey to sugar. Thanks!
Hey MD, if you don't strain it there may be some of the tannic skin left in, so depending on what you're planning I might make a small batch to make sure you like the end result first. I have to work hard for my chokeberries here so my recipes are generally in small batches. If you like it, it's fine to scale though. If you use honey, know that it will be easy to make it too sweet, but of course, it's fine. I'd probably use honey myself if I had access to larger amounts, most people don't though so I try to keep things approachable and have people riff on it as they see fit.
This recipe is absolutely fantastic we have a Ronja bushes that are now quite large and produce tons of fruit and I’ve tried several other recipes in the past that were quite disappointing not this one! It is spectacular and delicious and everybody wants more! Thank you for this recipe and for all the ideas for desserts surrounding it can’t wait to try making the Aronia mousse!
I made your exact recipe to test it - with all but the ginger. Now I’ll make a lot more in bigger batches!
Glad you liked it. Let me know if your large batches work out.
So I just finished my first double batch and I have to say it did not come out as well. I think it’s a question of the weights and I think my berries are not dry. I am not sure how I would dry them after I wash them and I have never tried to figure that out, my berries are slightly moist and I keep them in the refrigerator as I move through the batches so I think they are heavier. I just weighed one cup of my berries and then my 3 cups and rather than equaling 13 ounces for 3 cups they equal closer to 1 pound which makes sense because this latest double batch I just did feels way too pectins and sugary
By the way your comment text is tiny light gray on white and impossible to read for someone like me who is visually challenged so I am going ahead here and trying to make a comment but it is impossible for me to review my own text so if there are errors I apologize. Long story short I think for me 3 cups is way closer to 16 ounces than 13 and since I used weights in this iteration of the recipe it completely threw everything off. I’m going to try again with another recipe tomorrow because this has barely put a dent in the berries I have to process to this point.
I have used this recipe several times and it never fails. We absolutely love it!
Well I did another batch and weighed the berries to compare our weights to cups and mine were 1.lbs for 3 cups so I adjusted for the larger batches, cut the sugar by one third, added 1 tsp of calcium water and doubled the lemon zest and grated ginger... OMG it is just AMAZING!
This recipe came out beautifully. 5 pint jars currently processing. The three ginger, zest, and vinegar knock it out of the park. No more store jam for me. Between this, and the blackberry lime I made this summer, we're set. Thanks.
Glad it worked out for you.
Theresa L. Talarek
I'm about to use this recipe, but then realized I need a few clarifications:
1. In the ingredients list, you have "pinch of salt". I've read over the recipe a number of times but can't find when the salt is added. It is mixed into the sugar/pectin mixture, or added when you use the vinegar?
2. You mention adding the grated ginger in two places, first with chokeberries and water in the beginning (#2), then again in #5, when you say to stir in the vinegar or lemon juice "along with the ginger and zest". When is the best time to add the teaspoon of grated ginger??
3. You didn't mention lemon juice as an alternative to red wine vinegar in the ingredients list, but you do mention it that way in #5. Would I use the same amount as I would vinegar (1.5 tablespoons)??
Add the salt and ginger whenever you like. It doesn’t matter. Vinegar is preferable here, but you could sun lemon in a pinch-same amount. I’ll edit the recipe a bit for clarify, thanks for pointing that out.
So grinding up the seeds doesnt make the jam bitter at all?
Negative. They're not like a Viburnum.