Recently, someone got in touch with me offering some of her Nanking cherries. I jumped at the chance even though I knew nothing about them. It turns out she has many bushes which were a gift to her husband who remembered them fondly from his time growing up in Calgary. Now, they were a gift to me.
Nanking cherries are a bush cherry indigenous to Asia including China, Japan, and the Himalayas. These cold hardy bushes were introduced to North America in 1882. They set fruit within two years and grow to heights of 15 feet but can be trimmed back. They bloom early in spring with prolific qualities of small red cherries that are only a half inch in diameter and do not have a long shelf life. So, they are best planted at home for delicious fruit used in preserves, wine, liqueur, and syrup. These wonderful bushes will live up to 50 years providing an annual source of heavenly cherries that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
I decided to go in search of a jelly recipe as the cherries are small and pitting them would be very labour intensive. As I only use recipes developed in test kitchens, it took quite a while to find one. Eventually I did on the Bernardin website (not in the book).
The Nanking cherries are stunningly deep pink with a sweet-tart taste akin to a sour cherry but sweeter. Imagine having a bounty of cherries each spring and never having to climb a ladder to reach them! I passed on seeds to fellow growers and preservers with hopes we will see more cherry bushes in our area in future.
Nanking Cherry Jelly
- 16 cups Nanking cherries
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 4 TBSP lemon juice
- 7 cups granulated sugar
- 1 package fruit ‘original’ fruit pectin crystals (powder)
Wash cherries. Combine with water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil crushing with a potato masher. Reduce heat and let cook about 35 minutes. Pour into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth lined sieve. Let the juice drip for 2 hours or overnight without squeezing which will cause a cloudy jelly.
Measure 6 cups of extracted juice. Put in a large Dutch oven. Add lemon Juice. Whisk in pectin to dissolve. Bring this mixture to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down. Add sugar stirring constantly. Bring back to a boil and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and skim.
Ladle into prepared hot jars leaving a ¼ inch headspace. Wipe the top of the jar clean and place on lids and rings tightening to ‘finger-tip tight’. Process in a boiling water or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Let rest 5 minutes. Remove from canner and let rest for 24 hours. (refer to the Bernardin website or book for details about canning)