Nanking Cherry Jelly


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.

OK, why is it I can’t access video of FGMP from NBC, MySpace or Hulu unless I’m in the states? what century is this? have they not heard the phrase WORLD WIDE WEB??

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. 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.

Nanking Cherry Jelly


July 30, 2009


Nanking cherries



lemon juice



1Put as many cherries as you've managed to pick into a large pot, add half a cup to a cup of water (less than a cup if you have under 8 cups of berries; a cup if it's more) and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the cherries soften and start to release their juices, mashing occasionally with a potato masher.

2Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl - or use a jelly bag if you have one. Leave it if you want a clear jelly, or swirl a spoon around in the sieve to coax out as much juice as you can. (This is what I do.) When you get out as much as you can, toss the sludge with all the pits in it, and put the juice back into the pot.

3Measure out about as much sugar as you have juice and set it aside. Add about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice per 2 cups of juice to the juice, and shake in some packaged pectin - I had about 5 cups of juice and used about half a package. (Most recipes call for a packet for 6 cups of juice; you can totally guesstimate here.) Bring the juice-pectin mixture to a full rolling boil, then stir in the sugar. Bring it back to a full, hard boil for 2 full minutes - this means a rolling boil you can't stir down. Remove from the heat and skim any foam off the surface. Ladle into hot, clean jars, seal and cool.

4Makes as much as you like.


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48 comments on “Nanking Cherry Jelly

  1. Carolyn
    July 31, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Cool idea about the cupcake liners — can’t wait to try that one! Sorry about the gout — heard it’s an awful thing to have.

  2. Luann
    July 31, 2009 at 5:12 am

    My 3 and 5 year old helped me pick our nanking cherry clean yesterday. All I had to work with was a super-old recipe for a huge amount of cherries so thanks for an easier approach. I hope Mike gets better soon with the aid of your powerful elixer. Soon every health food store will be scrambling to get their hands on some!

  3. Barb
    July 31, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Excellent! Never let it be said that you don’t care. Joking aside – I have heard that shingles are nasty and a co-worker has gout. Ooooo. Also not fun. Bring on the cherries. Love the cupcake liner idea. So simple and obvious once someone tells you about it. You’re a genious, Julie!

  4. June
    July 31, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Love the cupcake liner idea too. Makes it look very “giftable”. Poor Mike, yikes shingles then gout…both so painful. Hope he’s feeling better soon.

  5. pauline
    July 31, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Poor Mike, I have heard its a terrible pain. Julie could it have been brought on by all the beer you won lol.

  6. JulieVR
    July 31, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Oh yes – don’t think that didn’t occur to us! Also – shellfish is one of the worst things you can eat if you’re prone to gout. And look at our diet in Tofino!

  7. Cheryl
    July 31, 2009 at 6:34 am

    Poor Mike!
    The Monster was picking the cherries off the bush in front of the neighbours yesterday. She wanted a basket to pick them all. Good Prairie girl!

    Last year I made sherbet with my nanking cherry juice. My parents keep me stocked on jelly from their trees so I used some juice to dye some fabric and then mixed two cups juice with two cups cream and put it in the ice cream maker. Yum!

  8. Erica B.
    July 31, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Why am I moving to Sylvan? I should be trying to move to Ramsay 😉

  9. Sheila
    July 31, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Julie, did you save the foam that you skimmed from the top of your Nanking Jelly?

    My Mom made various kinds of jellies over the years and then scooped the foam into a pretty glass dish. Our family loved that delicious treat on fresh homemade bread…. yummilicious memories!

  10. thepinkpeppercorn
    July 31, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Oh my goodness! How did I not see this earlier this morning!!! I LOVE nanking cherries. I used to have “spitting” contests with myself to see how far I could get those little seeds….excuse me, but those berries are GREAT. mmmmm jam….mmmm

  11. robyn
    July 31, 2009 at 8:06 am

    The jam/jelly is such a pretty colour!! Love the pic of the gleaming red in the window.

    Apparently when you have gout, white wine is ok…..spritzers on the deck?

  12. Charmian Christie
    July 31, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Never had nanking cherries. They look spectacular.

    Hope your husband feels better soon. My uncle had gout and it was horrid. Hope it doesn’t run in the family, but in case it does, I’ll eat more tart cherries.

  13. Donna
    July 31, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Sorry about Mike’s gout. I know a young guy who was diagnosed with it before he was 25. He was advised to cut down on alcohol (no problem – he doesn’t drink) and red meat. Prescription pills help during flare ups.

    My MIL is about to begin her annual harvest of back yard raspberries. Time to dig out last year’s frozen berries and turn them into jam to make room in the freezer. Glad its cooler today.

  14. JulieVR
    July 31, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Robyn – apparently alcohol in general is linked to gout, with beer topping the list (they did a study over 12 years of 47,000 people) – I think there’s a perception that white wine is OK because some red wines contain high levels of purines and oxypurines – it’s more the frequency of alcohol consumption. And we’ve had a fridge full of beer all summer!

    Charmian – yes it is partly genetic! Mike’s dad used to get it all the time. Of course he drank a case of beer + per day…

  15. Grace
    July 31, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I’m going to stray a *little* off-topic here and address your question about et al … essentially, those sites you listed are advertiser-supported and most of said advertisers are US-only companies … they don’t receive any economic benefit if anyone else around the world watches those sites, so their contracts with those sites restricts who can access the sites. There *are* ways to get around that setup (although far be it for me to make a hack public … :)).

  16. Colin
    July 31, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I’m liking the lemonaid idea. I abandoned all thoughts of pie while I was pitting cherries. Long work, and the result is a pretty mashed up pile of pulp. I was thinking doing cherries jubilee, but we’ll see.

  17. robyn
    July 31, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Keith’s dad has gout and he quit drinking red wine and switched to white… problems! Maybe it’s a case by case kind of thing….worked for him, but maybe not for Mike.

  18. JulieVR
    July 31, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Yeah I think it’s just that red wine can be particularly bad, so going off it would help! Apparently ALL alcohol can contribute to flare-ups though. Particularly a regular intake of! Mike never drank much red wine anyway. We’re having Prosecco tonight, so hopefully that’ll be ok!

  19. Avery
    July 31, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Hey! Another thing our husbands have in common (besides a first name)! Mike has gout, too! Its hard for him to cut out the beer when its Summertime, though. Good lookin’ jelly, btw!!

  20. robyn
    July 31, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I read Preparation H reduces the swelling of gout. Live and learn!

  21. piccola
    July 31, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Just be careful he doesn’t get scurvy next. 🙂

  22. ilovealbertabeets
    July 31, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    My question is.. if I see a bushel of Nanking cherries hanging over someone’s fence, and they are clearly not going to be consumed as they are starting to be overripe.. is it wrong to get up at five am and go pick them all??

  23. eroica
    July 31, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Nanking cherries make wonderful jam/jelly. It tastes especially good on brown rice flour pancakes with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt and a kiss of maple syrup. My plants bore fruit for the first time this year- they have been very reluctant transplants (Calgary to Vancouver).

  24. Alex
    July 31, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Hi Julie,

    This is not at all on topic, but I figured that you know pretty much everything about food, so you might be able to help. Do you know where I could find the recipe for the chocolate cake they used to serve at 4th Street Rose that was made with Bailey’s Irish Cream? Even a close imitation would be fine. Thanks in advance!

  25. Vanessa
    August 2, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    LOL, I want to make a batch of jam now, just so I can do the muffin liner frill!

  26. JulieVR
    August 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Sheila – oh yes, I always save the skimmings in a little dish, and that’s what we have on toast for a few days!

    Alex – funny you should ask – I started working on new desserts for 4th St Rose right before they closed (still no idea why!) so it would have been likely that I had it… sadly I don’t! I don’t know where the chef ended up.. haven’t seen him in awhile. I’ll do some digging though! It was a great restaurant, wasn’t it?

  27. ladyloo
    August 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    4th St. Rose is gone?!! Aw, man!

  28. G.I.A.
    August 4, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Several of my family members have gout and one of my uncles heard last year about taking celery seed. So he takes a half teaspoon a day and has no more

    To reinforce that, just a couple of days ago I stumbled across a site selling a natural gout
    remedy which had celery seed in it formula. Don’t remember the other ingredients because the celery seed in it was the one that peaked my interest.

  29. Cissy
    January 8, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I have gout and always understood and have experienced that the black cherries are the answer to gout. So . . . perhaps any cherries will do!?! Anyway, I found the black cherries are working very well! I got a book about Purines so I could stay away from the foods highest in purines. Purines are what builds up in the joints and causes gout. Some people are more sensitive than others. I can tell within 15min. which foods had the higher purines if I happen to forget. Bring on the Cherries! Do you use wax to seal?

  30. Julie
    July 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Today we picked a load of Nanking Cherries at my fiance’s farm.
    Looking for a recipe to make jam from them on the internet I came up with your web site.
    Thanks for the tips on Jam making for this fruit.
    After reading your suggestions, I don’t feel I can go wrong.

  31. SweetMummy
    July 25, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Our Nanking Cherry bush didn’t bloom or produce fruit last year ( our first year in this house ) and we so we just discovered that it is, indeed, a Nanking Cherry bush. We also have 3 kinds of apple trees around the house, so I’ve made LOTS of jelly and apple butter. Now to add the cherries into the mix! Thanks for the description and photos!

  32. Jody Chandler
    August 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I love Nanking Cherry syrup on pancakes !!

  33. Christy
    August 3, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    How did the apple core experiment turn out??

  34. Dene
    August 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    And the Nans re ripe again! Thanks for the instructions, Julie. I’ve heard you many times on the Eye Opener, but it’s usually in my car, so I haven’t really been able to surf over. Now you’re in my favorites, so I’ll be borrowing many more recipes…Happy August!

  35. Phil
    August 9, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    Nice post. I’ve just added it to my bookmark list|.

  36. Joey
    August 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Hi there! My husband and I discovered about 20 minutes ago that we too have a Nanking Cherry bush in our backyard!! I am excited to go shake those cherries off and give this recipe a try!! My husband, Mike, says to tell your Mike he hopes he’s feeling better!! 🙂

  37. Lee in Iowa
    May 21, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Love your site! Sorry to hear about the shingles and gout–ouch! I wonder if this will help my chronic, all-joints bursitis? Will try, because I’m sure sick of gimping around at only 58!

    Meanwhile, I plan to make Nanking Cherry Syrup rather than jelly, but still, great info and wit as a spice, so thank you.

    Last year, my Nanking cherries’ second year, they were COVERED but the birds ate the cherries while they were still green. This year, with bird-netting over six of the seven trees (I did share a little with the birds….), I have tons of these little cherries coming on.

    Question: The cherries in your photo look very very red-ripe. But some sites say to use them before they have quite finished ripening. What’s your opinion? I did my first harvesting half-n-half with red-ripe and orangy colored mixed.

  38. Scott
    June 20, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Most of the apple’s pectin comes from the skin, not the seeds. Picky picky picky

  39. Brendan
    July 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for posting this, I used it the other night…first time jam/jelly maker and it worked out perfect. I made it more jam like and it jelled really nice, tastes great, not to sweet, not sour.

  40. Joanie
    July 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I made the cherry lemonade and it’s really refreshing! Thanks for the great idea!

  41. Chelsea
    July 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Yes how did that certo batch go?

  42. Dar
    August 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Is there such a thing as Black Nanking Cheries?

  43. Sandra
    August 24, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    How long can you leave the berries in the fridge before using them to make jelly?

  44. Jen
    July 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you for the lemonaid and muffin paper ideas (brilliant!) – I had to spend some time with google trying to figure out what the small cherries in our front yard were (my husband suggested I could kill us both, but I can’t resist free local food!!) They are edible: NanKing cherries! We just moved from BC and are acutely feeling the absence of local fruit. I jammed the cherries whole, put them through a food mill, then used my thumbnails to split and pit about a cup of them which I tossed in just before putting it all into jars. This made the jam more like jam and less like sauce (and made is so I did not spend all morning pitting miniature cherries – torture!)

  45. acupuncture Santa Moncia
    September 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info.
    I am happy that you just shared this helpful information with us.

    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  46. Holly
    October 14, 2014 at 5:58 am

    A bird left me a Nanking cherry bush a few years back but didn’t have any cherries until this year and boy was it loaded! I had tried them about a week before they were truely ripe (didn’t know) and found them to be rather bland so I decided to leave them for the birds. About a week later I noticed the bush was still covered with fruit so I tried them again. WOW what flavor! Needless to say, I didn’t leave them for the birds. I made a wonderful sauce (didn’t add enough pectin) which is great on just about everything including pork.

  47. Heather
    April 17, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I have not had the pleasure of nanking cherries, but have a lot of experience with north star pie cherries which are smaller. we use this pitter:

    It is amazing and kind of fun to use…though not for large sweet cherries

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