Nanking Jelly

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at canning for some time but I’ve been intimidated by all the vaguely surgical-looking equipment you need, and the risk of killing someone. When my dad gave me two ice cream pails of Nanking cherries a few weeks back, I called on King Crabby to help me make jelly because she has all the necessary gear, years of canning experience, and has never (to my knowledge) killed anyone with food.

Now apparently botulism is not such a big concern with jam and jelly since most fruit is high in acid and you use lots of sugar, both of which inhibit the growth of botulism spores (low acid foods like vegetables, fish and meat are more of a risk).

Inspired by Just A Splash at the Strathcona Farmer’s Market, I wanted to make Nanking jelly with wine. I couldn’t find a recipe online that had both fruit and wine, so I synthesized the information from two recipes – one for wine jelly and one for Nanking cherry jelly. Since both recipes are pretty similar (essentially 1 part liquid to 1 part sugar, boil with lemon juice and pectin), I thought we could sub some of the cherry juice for an equal amount of wine.

To get the juice, I boiled the cherries with a small amount of water. Crabby put them through her fancy hand-cranked food mill to take out the pits, then used a jelly bag to strain the pulp. There was a lot more juice than I was expecting – about 9 1/2 cups all told. We made a small batch of wine and cherry jelly, using two cups of cherry juice and one and a half cups of wine (or was it the other way around?), an equal amount of sugar (3 1/2 cups), plus a half cup of lemon juice, and half a package of pectin crystals. We used the remainder of the juice to make plain old boozeless jelly.

Unfortunately, the jelly didn’t “set up” (I’m learning jelly making terminology). It’s more like syrup than jelly. We may not have followed the recipes scrupulously, but I don’t think we strayed very far from the measurements or times, so I’m not sure why it’s so thin. Not enough pectin maybe, maybe the fruit was overly ripe (there’s less natural pectin in ripe fruit than unripe fruit), didn’t boil it long enough, boiled it too long – who knows? In any case, it tastes great and the colour is gorgeous. Guess I’ll be using it on pancakes and ice cream. Crabby wants to know if you have any other suggested uses for thin jelly.

I haven’t opened any of the jars (Crabby says it should sit for a week to let the flavours develop), but there was a little bit extra from each batch that I saved in a cup. I liked the jelly with wine better than without. I thought the cherry flavour was improved by the wine and also the reverse (it was a cheap dry white wine I bought blind – kinda nasty).

We ended up with more than 20 jars of jelly/syrup which we shared. I can’t eat that much on my own, so if you know me, you’re probably getting a jar.

Scene from The Nanking Jelly Massacre

Thanks for the help, Crabby. I’d be willing to give jelly making another go, maybe in a year or so when this batch is dispatched.

Posted by Jean Poutine


7 thoughts on “Nanking Jelly

  1. Thanks for the jar of jelly, Jean! I haven’t tried it yet because I just got it from you about 5 minutes ago, but I try some very soon. I wonder if it would freeze. Maybe you could flavour homemade ice cream with it or make a sorbet. Or a big Nanking cherry popsicle.

  2. I have BIG plans for my 10 jars of runny jelly or is it called syrup now? For the record I warned about internet recipes producing less than great results. I made some cinnamon allspice canned peaches. They look beautiful. If you want you can help me can beets or tomatoes in a few weeks.

    • The cherries were from a tree in my parent’s garden. The taste is good -bright and fruity. I’ve been eating it on my morning bagel, on top of cream cheese so it doesn’t sink in.

  3. Very cool! This sounds like it would also work well as a glaze for roasted meats, especially pork or chicken.

    I wonder how the flavour profile would change if you used red wine instead of white. I would recommend sticking to lighter reds though, as something really heavy would probably overwhelm the fruit flavour – not to mention darken it right up.

    • Yeah, I thought about that. I prefer red wine but, as you say, I didn’t want to mask the cherry flavour. And I chose a dry wine because I thought there was already enough sugar in the recipe.

      • Definitely a good choice – if you used sweeter wine, you would have to reduce the sugar levels, and it might be tricky to figure out the proper proportions.

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