Wild Cherry Jelly or Jamb?

If I had a nickle for every time even as an adult I’ve stuck a twig of 1 kind or another into my mouth just to have something to chew on; folks I could take you all out for steak and lobster and still have change in my purse.


When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I harvested wild cherries and made homemade jelly. Oh! Wild cherry jelly is a marvelous treat. Those cherries are so bitter raw, they are inedible. It takes cups of sugar to tone them down. The finished product causes the partaker to mutter an AHHH with cheeks and tongue puckering and eyes getting big as moon flowers. It is an acquired taste. Once hooked it is a delicacy forever craved by the remembering pallette.

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So where’s the jamb in this? Well! For all those twigs I chawed on during my jelly making days I guess I never tackled a cherry branch. In fact it’s evident that I did not. You see the foliage and twigs of wild and even domestic cherries release cyanide when broken down. So much so that there are reports that some folks have made poison darts from the bark of the cherry and also elderberry tree. Just as it is important to guard what comes forth from our mouths, it is vital to know what’s going in.

Safe Wild Cherry Jelly- Cherokee Grandmother’s Recipe

Start with 7 to 8 lbs of ripe wild cherries

You will need (2) 1.75 Oz boxes of pectin & 9 cups sugar, a potato masher, a sturdy fine mesh sieve or strainer, a ladel & canning tongs, a 2 gallon or 8 quart heavy sauce pan, a 1 gallon/4 quart heavy sauce pan, a large at least 5-6 quart bowl & 3-4 sheets of cheesecloth. Wash cherries, remove stems but pitting is not necessary. Place in large sauce pot, add enough water just to almost cover as cherries will provide some juice, 4 cups water maximum & simmer for 20 full minutes. Do not boil.  Do not cover. After 10 minutes mash with potato masher every 5 or 6 minutes until time is up.  Place strainer/sieve over bowl and add 3-4 cups of cherries at a time using a large spoon to press through discarding peels & pits as you go. For very clear jelly you will clean strainer & put it over smaller pan lining it with cheesecloth 3 or 4 pieces deep. Pour juice through do not press or squeeze cheesecloth as this defeats the purpose. This should make 7-8 half pints or 4 pints. I like pints so I prepare 4 pints & 2 half pints just to be safe in case there isn’t enough to finish the 4th. Amount varies depending on the fruit. Prepare your jars & lids. Add pectin to juice bring to a full boil which cannot be stirred down, add sugar all at once mixing and stirring for 1 full minute remove from heat. Skim foam off with a spoon. Ladle into jars, leave about 1/4 inch head space, wipe jar rims well, add rings & waterbath 5 minutes. Set individually out on towels & don’t move until sealed & cooled. Use any jar that perhaps does not seal at once. My 1st try many years ago did not set properly. I used it as syrup. Beginners do not be discouraged. From then on it always set well. The 1st batch can be tricky but the more often you make jelly & jam the better it turns out.