Eating Aronia Berries and Making Aronia Jelly

Have you ever eaten Aronia berries? According to Dr. Google - they are one of the healthiest berries - with the highest ORAC value of all known berries.

I have been growing Aronia ornamentally for 8 years. I tried the berries twice over that time and found them to be quite unpleasant. But reading more about the berries, I decided to give it another try.
Here's a look at our Aronia bushes. We grow the Viking aronia shrubs. They grow in a very shady spot on the north side of our house. We have 3 bushes stuffed together. They do not get watered or fertilized. I trim them down every fall - which may or may not limit their berry production.

They are shaded by the house and a very large River Birch tree.

I went out to sample the berries in the middle of August and they seemed ripe. They were juicy and full size. The juice tastes sort of pleasant, with a very dry red wine mouth feel. The berry pulp is mealy and the skin is tough.

On August 20th, I went out to gather the berries from our shrubs.
I ended up picking about a 1/2 gallon of berries. After I removed the stems and any icky berries, I wound up with this much.
And I wound up with this much "waste."
Birds and bugs do eat aronia berries, so not all of them will be up to eating standards.

Beware that your hands will get very stained.
I cooked the berries and mashed them for juice.

Then I let the mash drain in a jelly bag.
This was a very "bloody" project. Kind of like working with beets, but way more intense. The colors are quite vibrant.
In the end, we wound up with a small bowl of juice that I let settle in the fridge over night. In the morning, I scooped off some of the precipitate. This was a mistake as I later learned this was the natural pectin - well, some of it.

I think you need to see the hands again.
My  hands looked gangrenous or like I was severely low on oxygen. It lasted for one day. FYI - aronia juice/jelly/berries will also stain your teeth. It brushes right off, but be aware of it in case you interact with other people right afterwards.

If you want to drink the juice - I recommend a very small amount. I drank a bit out of a mini-cup:
It's good like a dark cherry juice, but not something you drink quickly or in excess. It's sort of like a really dry red wine.

I also froze cubes of the juice for smoothies:
With the rest of the juice, I made jelly. I added some lemon juice and sugar. Sorry, I don't measure. But I'd guess a Tbsp of lemon juice and half as much sugar as juice.
The jelly set up beautifully. Aronia is naturally high in pectin. I could have made jam and kept the skins and pulp, but I wanted to isolate the juice flavor to get a feel for the berry's true taste. The mealy pulp and skin really ruin the fresh berry eating.

I ate the jelly on pancakes and with almond butter in sandwiches. It's best mixed with something like almond butter because the jelly (like the juice and berries) is very mouth drying - like red wine.
In fact, I bet you could trick almost anyone into believing you made red wine jelly. It has a good taste and a very limiting taste. I was done after one mini-pancake.

One harvest of aronia berries made enough juice to last all winter. Keep in mind that I would not eat this everyday and will add it in very small quantities. I may or may not harvest them again, but am glad to have the experience if I need to eat them in the future. We'll see how I end up using it all this fall/winter.

This is the year of experimentation. I have grown things I've never grown before and eaten more "new foods" than at any other time in my life. I think the running tally of new (and mostly wild) foods is almost 20  as of August 2015.

I've cataloged 80 edible wild plant foods that grow within a one mile radius of my home. I am working on trying all of these plants and finding a way to economically incorporate them into our lives in case of emergency. Many require a ton of water and/or processing to be palatable/edible. I'm working out the kinks while we still have access to inexpensive water/electricity.



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3 comments:

DrFood said...

That "red wine" taste is also called "tannic." It's from tannins. Aronia berries are supposed to be really good for you - I'm about to try mixing them into blackberry jam.

Kathy Wiederholt said...

Do you think it's possible that your berries were not ripe enough? They should become sweet and WAY more pleasant than when they first turned black. It may take 3-4 weeks of hanging on the shrub. They get kind of juicy and 'good' (a relative term) when they are ready. Although I just re-read and you did say they were juicy.... We don't consider ours to be be mealy but maybe it's the shade causing that. Also, we pick only the fruit and leave the stems on the plant. You'll still get purple. Wear gloves :)

Angela said...

Thanks for the suggestion Kathy. Actually, I think it is the variety of our shrubs. A Costco in our area has aronia bushes and their berries are much more pleasant than mine. I have also sampled 3 or 4 shrubs out on walks and I find the taste to be variable among them all. I think I just have a "mealier" type. We are growing Viking berries and they are the shadiest part of my yard. That may also effect the taste. I still think they are worth it and I actually really like the ones in the Costco parking lot. :)

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate all your tips, advice, and well wishes!

Angela

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