Tart Nanking cherries, fruits similar to common cherries, are just small enough to make pitting them a maddening task. For that reason, as well as because of their sweetly puckery taste, Nanking cherries are better known as jelly fruits than as pie filling. Before you can make the ruby-red jelly, you first have to stem, cook and strain the fruits to collect their juice.
Things You'll Need
Heavy-bottomed pot with lid
Fine-mesh strainer and cheesecloth or jelly bag
Liquid measuring cups (optional)
Rinse the Nanking cherries with gently running water, then pat them dry. For every 3 1/2 cups of cherry juice called for in your jelly recipe, use about 3 1/2 pounds of whole Nanking cherries.
Remove the stems from the cherries.
Put the Nanking cherries in your pot and add enough water to cover them.
Turn the burner to medium-high and bring the mixture to boiling. Stir the Nanking cherry pulp frequently as you're waiting for the liquid to boil.
Lower the heat to medium-low once the Nanking mixture begins to boil. Prop the pot's lid loosely over the pot.
Stir the pulp occasionally as it settles to a slow boil. Cook the Nanking cherry mixture for about 10 minutes. At this time, mash the pulp firmly with a potato masher. Return the lid after each time you stir and mash the pulp, making sure that it is not put too tightly on the pot.
Set your cheesecloth-lined strainer or jelly bag over a large bowl. If you're using a strainer, line it with a least 4 layers of cheesecloth.
Remove the pot from the stove. Pour the Nanking cherry pulp into the strainer or jelly bag. Leave the pulp to drip its juices into the bowl for at least 2 hours.
Remove the strainer or jelly bag with the Nanking cherry pulp, reserving the pulp for another use. Pour the juice from the bowl into a measuring cup or a bowl.
Proceed with your jelly recipe, or store the juice in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Use the leftover pulp in muffins or tea bread. Alternatively, use it to make Nanking cherry jam or cherry butter.
Resist the temptation to squeeze or mash the Nanking cherry pulp once it is in the strainer or jelly bag. Doing so can add sediment to the juice, making for a cloudier jelly.