Useful tips for aronia berries

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Aronia berries are a wonderful summer berry, easy to grow and loaded with healthy substances. Aronia is often included in lists of so-called superfoods, and with good reason. If you’ve ever sampled aronia, however, you know it also tastes like health food. This little blue-black berry resembles a blueberry, but when you bite into it, you know you’ve been fooled.

There must be a way to enjoy this amazing berry! I did some experimenting with aronia this year, and have come to a few conclusions. I wrote this page to serve as a resource for Americans who want to start eating this wonderful superfood, which is already well-known in Europe.

Tip #1: Always cook aronia

While blueberries are soft and juicy, with a thin skin, aronia berries are firm, mealy, and with a tough skin. There is juice, but overall the texture is chewy and firm. The skin, especially, is unpleasant. The texture of the berry is greatly improved by cooking. I recommend always cooking aronia, no matter how you plan to serve it. To cook aronia, place it in a saucepan with a small amount of water, and simmer it, covered, for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring frequently. Do this without adding anything else to pot, even sugar or lemon juice. After ten or fifteen minutes, start testing the berries. Their color will have lightened slightly, and when you bite into a berry, you will notice the skin is decidedly more tender. Cook it as long as you like to achieve the texture you are looking for.

Alternately, you can do as the Europeans do, and make juice or jelly, eliminating the need to deal with the skin or mealy interior. I am way too lazy to make jelly, and think juice is kind of a waste, so I prefer to use the whole fruit.

2. Always add something sour to your aronia berries

Aronia does not have a great flavor. It is agreeable, but as far as a choice flavoring, it will not win any prizes. The flavor is complex, but in the earthy and bitter ranges, rather than the sweet, spicy and tangy ranges, like a blueberry. The flavor of aronia is improved tremendously by the addition of something sour to the recipe, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice. The tart flavor will set off the earthy sweet flavor of the aronia.

3. Consider sweetening aronias

Aronias are not particularly sour or bitter. To my palate, they have a lovely flavor that just happens to come along with other flavors that are less lovely. If you have added some sourness to your recipe and you still find it a bit unpleasant, add something sweet, like sugar, maple syrup, or apple juice. The “off” flavors of aronia are easily muted by not very much sweetener at all.

4. Consider pairing aronia with other flavors

I don’t find aronia to be that interesting by itself. I have certainly done it, and have a fondness for it. But every time I eat plain aronia, I am reminded, “This is health food.” It doesn’t need to be that way! Adding other, complementary flavors to your aronia recipe, like spices and herbs, will take your aronia from edible to spectacular.

Aronia is native to the United States, looks beautiful, and is easy to grow. Shorter varieties are available that make a lovely low hedge. The berries are rich black-purple in color with a fine white down, and the bushes bear profusely. I easily harvested 8 quarts of plump berries from four bushes in two days, and there are plenty left. The foliage also turns red in the fall. This plant is worth cultivating in the home garden, and is great for parts of the garden that border public areas, where people will walk by, oblivious to what a treasure lies before them, leaving all the berries for you!

I will close with a sample recipe I call GLAM Jam – Ginger, Lime, Aronia and Maple

 

GLAM Jam – makes four pints

2 US quarts fresh, ripe aronia berries, stemmed, picked over, washed and drained

1 US cup water

1 and 1/2 US cups of pure, grade B maple syrup

a four inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated

grated zest and juice of two large limes

jars for canning

 

Prep your canner and jars according to your favorite method. I use half-pint jars with two-piece lids and a boiling water canner. In a large pot, put the aronia berries and the cup of water over medium-low heat. Bring the water to a simmer and cook the berries, covered and stirring frequently, for ten to fifteen minutes. They will soften , release some juice, and lighten in color. Test a berry for doneness by chewing it to make sure the skins are tender. If not, keep cooking until they are. When the berries are cooked, get out your immersion or stick blender and have a go at the berries. This is a matter of preference. I usually blend mine about 50%. You could make it very smooth or leave the berries whole if you prefer. Then add the maple syrup and ginger, mix, and bring it up to a boil. Boil for two or three minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the lime zest and juice and mix well. Ladle into jars and process. I did the half pints for ten minutes in the canner. Let the preserves sit at least overnight for the flavor to develop. Aronia is a natural source of pectin, and you do not need to bring the jam to the setting point to get it to set, nor do you need additional sweetener or pectin. I’ve added the amount of sweetener I like, which is not very sweet, and the amount of ginger I like, which is a lot. Feel free to adjust the proportions to your own liking. Just keep the water and berry amounts the same and you should be fine to experiment.

I hope you find a way to enjoy this fantastic food!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

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44 thoughts on “Useful tips for aronia berries

  1. Jacky Gall says:

    Have just bought some Aronia berries from local supermarket. Never heard of them before yesterday but believe that they are a ‘superfruit’. I live in the UK and your ingredients (quarts, cups etc,) are a foreign language to me. Is it possible to have in English pounds and ounces ?
    Thank you in anticipation of a reply.

    Jacky

  2. Hi, Jacky –
    I cannot convert the volumes to pounds for you, sorry! I don’t know how much the berries weighed. I can convert some volumes for you, though. I’ve rounded off the amounts.

    2 liters aronia berries
    250 mL water
    350 mL maple syrup
    a 10 cm piece of ginger root
    2 large limes, zest and juice

    Good luck!

  3. Jim says:

    Your recipe is interesting and I will try it when I have more fruit to play with. How do I make a basic jam as most people want to do, without 2 maple syrup! Do you have a recipe with plain cane sugar and citrus? I’m cooking up 2 qts right now.

    • Hi, Jim! Basic jam method will work for any fruit if you use standard amounts of sugar. I recommend doing an internet search for any fruit jam recipe, such as strawberry or cherry, and see the relative amounts of fruit to sugar, and read about cooking it to the setting point. Alternately, you can purchase a package of pectin at the grocery store, and follow the instructions in the package as given for blueberry jam. You will find pectin in the same aisle as canning supplies. Good luck!

  4. Scott Johnson says:

    I love this recipe idea. You said that I could follow the pectin box recipe for blueberry jam. Will that work? I teach at a public school and they have landscaped the end of the building with aronia bushes. Mother are LOADED this year and I plan on enjoying some of the harvest. Any other ideas? Please email me at my personal email.

    • It depends on how firm you want the end product to be. Without any pectin at all, you will end up with a product that has some thick bits and some runny bits. I rather enjoy it. But if you are used to a jam product that will stand up on a knife, then you will have to either really increase the sugar so it will set the jam, or use pectin. If you choose to use pectin, you can follow the directions in the box, which will tell you how much pectin to use for a given quantity of fruit. You can still adjust sugar to your taste when using pectin.

    • You will lose some of the nutrition, but certainly not all of it. You will lose all of the protein and fiber. You will lose a portion of the vitamins and minerals that will remain behind in the mash. However, many vitamins and minerals are water soluble, and will be preserved in the juice. It will still make a healthy product.

  5. Lois says:

    Today is the day I try to make “chokecherry” jelly. My grandmother made chokecherry jelly every year and our family loved it. Never knew her beloved chokecherry bushes were aronia bushes until recently. Grandma never shared her recipe or where she picked the berries. But I never asked back then! A friend grows these berries and has given me some, so I will experiment in making jelly and other goodies. Thanks for your tips. Who knew 50 years ago that the jelly she made had healthy properties!

  6. Pat R. says:

    Obviously no one in your family has died from this recipe, but I have to ask anyway, being somewhat nervous about this: ginger is a “low acid” food with a pH of 5.6. so does the addition of some quantity of ginger raise the pH of the entire fruit mixture enough that the water bath method is NOT a safe canning method? Thanks!

  7. Thanks for sharing, Tina! The recipe you linked uses pretty typical proportions for the aronia jam. No way can I eat that much sugar, though, which is why I try to keep added sugar at just the point where I think the jam is tasty. I expect the jam from that recipe would be really sweet.

  8. Ridgeton says:

    I have just started raising Aronia and have some frozen. I’m interested in experimenting with recipes. I made some wine that I find not very tasty. Have not tried cooking the berries

  9. Esther S says:

    I made the GLAM jam a week ago. When will it set? It’s still very runny. The flavor is good but I’d like it to be”jam” and not juice with bits of stuff.
    Thanks

    • Hi, Esther! I am so sorry I didn’t reply to you! I did not receive a notification that you commented, so I didn’t know the comment was here. You are correct, I said the jam will set without additional pectin. However, I have since learned that my standards for “setting” are quite low, and not consistent with general expectations! In my house, juicy with spreadable lumps of fruit still passes for jam. You can just add pectin to the recipe to get a firmer set. I’m glad you like the flavor!

  10. cis says:

    I have been putting a few (5 or 6) aronia berries in a cup, soaking them overnight with my other smoothie ingredients, then making the smoothie in the morning. Tastes fine like this.
    However, I am concerned that aronia berries may contain some cyanide type compound (according to wikipedia) so I should probably cook them instead?

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  12. can someone clarify on this matter? aronia contains traces of amygdalin a cyanogenic glucosides. theres not much info about aronia toxicity or adverse effects. i think it is much better to take blueberry, bilberry & blackcurrant extracts as anthocyanin source.

    • Thanks for the comment! I can’t speak specifically to this issue, as I am neither a botanist, nor a toxicologist. However, a few moments with Google suggests that unless you intentionally overdose, aronia is unlikely to poison you. This article http://www.pascoe.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Aronia-Review-2008-Planta-Medica.pdf reports aronia contains 201 mg of amygdalin per kilogram of fruit. This article https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search/a?dbs+hsdb:@term+@DOCNO+3559 says 500 mg of amygdalin can release 30mg of cyanide. The same article also states the lowest fatal dose of cyanide in adults is 50 mg, and more likely 200 mg. That means you would have to ingest over 2 kilograms of aronia berries to even approach toxicity. You will never do this. Aronia can be made delicious, in my opinion, but never delicious enough to sit down to a giant pile of it.

      These choices are up to you. If you are worried about amygdalin, then by all means, avoid aronia. I enjoy this plant because it is extremely easy to grow, gives a great crop, bears heavily and looks beautiful. I take the crop, make jam, and then enjoy jam-sized servings throughout the year. If I didn’t grow aronia, I wouldn’t seek it out. If you are looking for a source of anthocyanins that you can take in large quantities for treatment of disease, then yes, the other options you mentioned are better.

  13. GrammaDebra says:

    I love aronia. I’ve eaten 1/2 c of them about 4x per week for months and had no negative effects. I just add them to my vanilla protein shake, along with a little lemon juice. Delish and good for me.

  14. Anne says:

    Thank you for having this website! I would like to share some of my recent experience with Aronia with you.

    I had bought a 100 gram packet of dried aronia berries as a healthy snack, but after the first mouthful decided that I hate their tart and puckering taste.

    Since they had been much too expensive to just throw away, I soaked them in a generous amount (so they were entirely covered) of raspberry brandy that nobody had liked until then either, together with just as much xylite as berries. After a few days I was left with a delicious diabetes-friendly liqueur, and aronia berries that had become softer, alcoholic, but not any tastier.

    Today I decided to finally use these, in a Cranberry and Aronia jam, and after reading your remarks on how to deal with the taste of aronia berries, I added the suggested amount of fresh grated ginger and a liter of organic orange juice to 500 grams of berries (Aronia and Cranberry), plus two tablespoons of apple pectine powder and 500 grams of xylite, finely bledned and cooked them for like 5 minutes.

    This has become a veritable taste explosion! Much better than mere cranberry jam, and I had to restrain myself from eating half a jar right there and then.
    Even if the jam should not thicken fully, I will still enjoy it in my yoghurt and muesli, and remember you fondly with every such meal.

    Kind regards! Anne

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  16. Kathy Skipper says:

    what is the best way to preserve the berries if you don’t have the time to immediately cook them all or make batches of jellies/jams? Freeze them? can them like peaches/cherries and other fruits? which will best preserve their flavor and texture?

    • Hi, Kathy! First of all, do not worry at all about preserving texture. Their texture isn’t that great and if anything, will be helped by canning or freezing. I usually just freeze the ones I don’t have time to process. Then I can use them in pancakes or quickbreads, or I can make jam when I am ready. I don’t recommend canning them using a raw pack method. I have done this in an attempt to pickle them, and while they tasted good, the texture was too hard. They really do benefit from softening by cooking for awhile. Good luck!

  17. BevF says:

    Several years ago I planted an Aronia bush and nearly gave up on it. Thinking the leaves were turning black from the dry weather I went and checked on it and found berries! Raw, not exciting, but I’ve had Goji berries more tart. I took the advice to simmer them in water and then either ad lemon juice or sugar. Experimenting, I did both. More fond of the sugared ones I tried the lemon juice ones whole then mushed with fresh applesauce from yesterdays work. The mushed ones made the sauce cranberry red and I really like them that way. I took more berries and made experimental jam with sugar and lemon juice using the berry:water ratio listed and just a little sugar and lemon juice. Delicious. I’m looking forward to next years crop.

  18. PATRIZIA CAPPELLI says:

    Fantastic recipe white sugar no pectin- I hate the store jams cannot stand the sugar and pectin. I have made my own jams using honey in the recipe, boiling the jars adding the no sugar jam immersing everything and boiling for 10 minutes. I have ten year old jams. You do not need sugar or pectin to preserve fruit or berries.

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