It’s Official: I’m a grown-up. Married to a dude with gout.
At 41, this is not the first of his old-guy afflictions: in 2005, when we moved back from Vancouver in blazing hot late June, packing everything we owned into a rented U-Haul with me 8 months pregnant and nowhere to live (besides my parents’ basement) when we got back, he came down with a raging case of shingles. Shingles! Damn sexy, they are. I wish I could find that photo I made him pose for – in his tighty whities, black socks and nothing else, reclining chaise-lounge-style on the bed with a can of Pil and ring of red blistery scabs around his middle. I called him Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.
So it’s a good thing it’s cherry season – apparently cherry juice is good if you’ve got The Gout. (I discovered this on GoutPal.com. GoutPal. For real.) Something to do with the fact that they help your body eliminate uric acid. Something I didn’t expect to have to know for another good twenty years or so. BC cherries are all over the place, but there are a handful of Nanking cherry bushes on our block that are loaded with fruit about to turn winey. The birds are taking care of some, and two bushes (trees? shrubs?) are curiously devoid of fruit, but the rest are almost too easy; there’s no sport to it. I run my hand down the underside of a branch and loosen each cluster with my fingers, holding a colander underneath to catch them. Easy. Also, my excellent neighbours brought me over a Tupperware container full, knowing my obsession with free-growing fruit of any sort.
The problem with Nanking cherries is that they’re small. You can’t really pit them and make a pie (or maybe you can, but I sure don’t have the patience to try). However, their tartness makes them ideal for cherry lemonade and cherry jelly. Here’s what I do: put as many cherries as I’ve picked into a pot, and add a bit of water. (Not much, like half a cup to a cup to half a pot of fruit?) Bring it to a boil and let it cook – the berries will soften and burst and release their juices – let it go for about 20 minutes, then take it off the heat and cool, mashing occasionally with a potato masher or whisk or something. If you want something jammier – or don’t care about cloudy jelly – just strain it through a colander to leave the seeds behind. Otherwise line the colander with cheesecloth and strain it – you’ll get clear, ruby red juice. (Which I made Mike drink a bunch of, straight-up, before I turned the rest into jelly, as I’m not sure toast and jam provides sufficient cherry intake for gout patients.)
At this point you can make jam or syrup for cherry lemonade: for lemonade, add about half as much lemon juice as there is cherry juice, then an equal amount of sugar. So if you have 4 cups of cherry and lemon juice, add 4 cups of sugar. Heat and stir to dissolve the sugar, then store the syrup in the fridge to use as a base for lemonade (add water -sparkling or still- and ice) or boozy drinks (you’ll figure it out).
To make jelly, add a splash of lemon juice if you have it, and then add as much sugar, or a little less. I cheated and sprinkled in half a package of Certo (to just over three cups of juice and three cups of sugar, and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice), just for insurance. Generally what I do is add some chopped apples from the tree for their pectin, but they aren’t ready yet – but tomorrow I’m conducting an experiment: adding a few apple cores left over from W, since the pectin is largely in the seeds and it’s all being strained anyway. So the Certo batch was kind of part of the experiment. I’ll keep you posted. I have a very exciting life.
Boil it hard for two minutes, then skim any foam off the top, ladle into hot, clean jars, and seal. And in case you hadn’t noticed my very Martha Move: paper muffin liners under the screw bands – seal them properly first, so that you know the tops pop in as they cool – then remove the bands and put on the papers. (I used to do this with the glittery gold and silver-flake paper squares you can buy at Asian groceries, but they were too thin.) Bonus: you can write what it is on top.