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Published July 30, 2013, 10:00 PM

Andrea Hunter Halgrimson: Chokecherry liqueur a tasty tipple

As a child, I remember picking chokecherries with Gram near our cottage on Pelican Lake. We’d fill several pails. Back in the kitchen, she’d wash the berries and pick them over and put them in a big pot to cook covered with water.

By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM

As a child, I remember picking chokecherries with Gram near our cottage on Pelican Lake. We’d fill several pails. Back in the kitchen, she’d wash the berries and pick them over and put them in a big pot to cook covered with water.

When they were soft she poured the mixture into a colander lined with a clean dish towel set over a large bowl. Then she tied the towel together and hang the bag on the handle of the kitchen cupboard and let the remaining juice drain into the bowl. I can still see it hanging there.

The juice was heavily sweetened and made into jelly or syrup. I liked it a lot.

Some years ago I was talking to Jenny MacKenzie, whom I met at the Sons of Norway, and she mentioned a chokecherry liqueur that she made. I filed it away and later asked her for the recipe. Too bad my Gram didn’t know about that. She liked her tipple.

Chokecherries are in season now, and if you want to savor their lovely flavor throughout the winter in something besides jelly or syrup, try Jenny’s recipe. I’ve included my raspberry liqueur recipe in case you can’t find any chokecherries.

If you don’t know anyone who has the berries on their property, you can sometimes find them at the Fargo farmers market in the Dike East parking lot. The Great Plains Produce Association market operates from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday through the end of October.

The man to go to is Bill Halverson, who operates The Blue House, which is a family-run business at their home in Hitterdal, Minn. He has a stall at the market with a variety of lovely jams, jellies and other delicious edibles. He said that he sometimes has the chokecherry juice for sale, too.

Jenny said she uses a gallon jar with a screw-top lid, which can leak when the jar is turned as the recipe calls for. She suggests keeping it on a tray to catch seepage. She adds that the finished product is a beautiful deep color and tastes very sweet.

I have several large jars with glass lids with a metal contraption called a bale, which seals the jar. There is a rubber ring between the jar and the lid to prevent leakage. You can buy them online at www.canningsupply.com.

They are called “jars with bale glass lid,” and the gallon size sells for $18.50; the half-gallon for $12.50. The wide mouth makes them easy to fill.

JENNY’S CHOKECHERRY LIQUEUR

Find a gallon jar with screw top that can be tightly closed.

Add 1 cup berries then 1 cup sugar and continue this sequence until jar is full. Pour vodka over mixture until the jar is full, cover and turn jar upside down each day for six weeks.

Strain contents and you are ready to taste.

CHOKECHERRY OR RASPBERRY LIQUEUR

3 to 4 cups fresh raspberries or chokecherries

1 cup brandy

2 cups vodka

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

Pick over berries and place them in a clean 2-quart jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add vodka. Boil water and sugar together to make a clear syrup. Cool and add to jar.

Let jar sit covered in a cool, dark place for one month. Strain into a bowl, mashing berries slightly to extract juice. Discard berries or eat them. To filter further, pour liqueur through a wet paper filter set in a coffee pot.

Store in clean glass jars.

Makes about 2½ pints but recipe can be doubled or tripled.

This recipe is adapted from “Cooking with Spirits” by North Dakota native, Beverly Barbour

Readers can reach Forum Food Columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at ahalgrimson@forumcomm.com

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