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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nanking Cherry Jelly

Old recipe card, do not use
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This is my very favorite childhood jelly. My dad, who always tours my yard before announcing his arrival when he comes to visit, discovered a few years ago that we have a Nanking cherry tree. A loaded Nanking cherry tree (oops--when I saw it flowering in the spring, I assumed it was another plum tree).

Nanking cherries are small and tart--they are the size of blueberries and have a very small stem. If you have jelly or syrup made from them, you won't be using maple syrup on your pancakes until the last drop drop of Nanking jelly has been devoured. It's that good. And I don't even like regular cherries.



The length of my parents' property is still bordered with about fifteen Nanking cherry trees that my dad has artfully pruned to "bush" size, for easy picking. It's funny how I readily (and wrongly) reminisce that I loved picking cherries as a child, when really I loathed it. My sisters and I would be sent to the side of the house to pick until our buckets were full, and we hated spending our precious July afternoons in such forced labor.





Now that I'm the grown-up, it's easier to see that picking really is the fun and easy part . . . canning the fruit is where the real labor lies: spending your July afternoons indoors, pitting and mashing cherries over a hot stove, is infinitely worse (and thanks Mom, for walking me through your fabulous recipe!)


It's so worth it.

I'm passing on the tradition of "forcing" my own kids to pick. We don't have fifteen trees (yet), but I hope that they'll be the ones canning some day, looking back with fondness on the July afternoons spent picking, and looking forward to a whole winter (if it lasts that long!) of savoring the fruits of their labors at breakfast time.



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