Two of our favorite ways of using Nanking cherries are juice and jam.
Of course, you could follow these steps for any cherry variety you happen to have.
First we get the juice and pulp from the nanking cherries.
To get the juice…
Photo 1 – Cook fruit in pot with 1/4 cup water until soft and liquidy.
Photo 2 – Put in cheesecloth or jelly strainer (this one is from Lee Valley).
Photo 3 – Let stand to allow juice to drain.
Photo 4 – Use for jelly, syrup, juice or other recipes.

nanking cherry pu

To get the pulp and get rid of the seeds…
Photo 1 – Put the pulp left over from the juice making in a sieve.
Photo 2 – Use the back of a spoon to press fruit pulp through the sieve, leaving the seeds behind.
Photo 3 – Use pulp for preserves or in place of applesauce.
Photo 4 – Nanking juice on the left, pulp on the right.
nanking cherry pulp


Of course you don’t need to separate the pulp and the juice. You could put everything through the strainer to get rid of the seeds. Do whatever works best for you. I wanted to have a little juice for mixing with club soda, so I separated it.
If you don’t separate the pulp from the juice, your jams, jellies and syrups will be thicker and not transparent.  Despite what the jelly judges at a country fair might say, I actually prefer having a little more texture in my spreads.
What to do with the juice and pulp:
  • juice – unsweetened mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with club soda (adults’ preference)
  • juice – unsweetened mixed with apple juice (kids’ preference)
  • pulp – over ice cream
  • pulp – over pancakes and waffles
  • pulp – in muffin recipes instead of applesauce (Note: this will turn muffins an interesting colour!)
When I finally did make preserves, I made syrup and a preserve (cross between jam and jelly).  I love the tart flavour of nankings so I always end up modifying recipes to reduce the sugar content.  By doing so, my syrup and my preserves end up being less stiff than what they’re “suppose” to be, but they are delicious!
Nanking Syrup
4 cups of nanking juice 
1 1/2 cups of sugar (recipes often call for 4-6 cups of sugar)
1 package of light pectin (if using full sugar amount, pectin is not needed)
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Boil for 2 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars, seal and heat process for 5 minutes.
Nanking Jam
4 cups of nanking pulp 
2 cups of sugar (recipes often call for 4 cups of sugar)
1 package of light pectin
Boil for 2 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars, seal and heat process for 5 minutes.
Note: There is some debate as to whether or not fruit preserves need to be heat processed.  Some (Kraft, the makers of Certo) argue that because of the high acidity and high sugar you do not need the final heat process  as long as you are using properly sterilized canning equipment.  Others (Depts. of Agriculture) still recommend heat processing fruit preserves for 5 minutes even if using sterilized equipment.   I choose to err on the side of caution and use sterilized equipment and heat processing.

26 thoughts on “Nanking Cherry Juice and Jam

  1. Hi There!
    I just found out today that I have a Nanking cherry in my backyard – I’m excited but worried, because half the branches seem dead. I will prune the dead branches out, but can you tell me what I can do to help it thrive? I’d appreciate any tips you can give me.

    1. Hi Emily,
      I’m excited that you discovered your nankings! We’ve got plenty of ideas for how to harvest and what to make with nankings – but unfortunately not much info on growing and maintaining them. You’re best bet is to talk to a local nursery centre. Good luck!

    2. Emily, Get a good 100% steer manure and pour it 4-5 inches thick throughout the dripline of the tree above ground. Dripline is defined as any area under the leaves. Water it well afterwards and throughout the season. When dry, Water deep into the soil with a trickle of water slowly seeping down.

  2. I am having trouble reading the words that are on the pictures would it be possible to get those directions off the pictures?

    1. Thanks for the heads up. I have added the text from the photo in the body of the post. This was one of our early posts from 7 years ago and unfortunately we can’t access the original photo anymore – but this should do the trick!

      Enjoy your cherries!

    2. Hi! I read this post while looking for Nanking recipes. I have 3 bushes that are a few years old. My largest bush died and some branches of another Nanking cherry bush died. They are located near our air/heat unit and there is a lot of condensation. We have had so much rain for at least 12 months. I know that cherry trees do not like their roots to stay too wet. We have some small sucker-like branches from the ground where the bush that died was. Maybe it will not die.
      I hope you have more Nanking bushes.

      1. The shoots or saplings from the fallen seeds can easily be transplanted. I have several. They can die off easily…. prune back in the fall regularly. cut dead parts off immediately. I have them growing everywhere…I made a hedge with all the saplings and they took ony a few year to get fruit producing. We move them when we find them throughout the summer.

  3. Have you any recipes that would add some spices to the jelly? I would like to try cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc but do not know how much or in what combination.

    1. Excellent idea! We don’t have any specific recipes for spiced jams or jellies at this time. We recommend you follow trusted sites like the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, Bernardins or bloggers who follow safe canning practices. Adding additional ingredients to canned products, can change the acidity level which may compromise the safety. Often these recipes will have added acid (lemon juice). Here’s a spiced blueberry jam that might give you an idea.

      Good luck!

  4. I make jam with the nanking. berries and think that juice looks interesting. What other ideas do you have as we eat less jam these days.

    1. Hi Heather! Nankings can be tricky because they’re finnicky and time consuming to pit. That’s why we love juicing and jamming them! The juice can be used to make homemade jello, popsicles, added to smoothies, used for punches or cocktails, etc. We like it mixed with a little club soda – a bubbly cherry lemonade type drink. If you are up to the task of pitting them, use them in any recipe where you would use sour cherries or other tart fruit – in muffins, cakes, pies, etc. Last night we had sour cherry in pancake batter – yum!

  5. I like some of your ideas with nankings but I’m a bachelor & just don’t have the time for making the juice & jams…but I love their flavor. If I make the juice & keep the pulp w/o pits, can I freeze them & process later this winter? All that I have been doing is washing & freezing them whole & making wine over the winter. This years bounty is way too much for me to be making/drinking that much wine! 😇😂
    Thx for your answer.

    1. Hi Bill,
      Thanks for asking.
      Yes – freezing them washed and pit-less and processing later when you have the time or the weather is cooler is a great idea.
      Enjoying summer flavour mid-winter is a wonderful treat!
      – Fruit Share

  6. Hi! Maybe you can help, I came across another recipe for Nanking cherry jelly and instead it said to put 1 cup of water instead of the 1/4 you have suggested. Do you think my jelly will be flavorless?

    1. Hi Aarica,
      Nanking cherries have tons of flavor so I’m sure your jelly will taste great! As you go through the various steps – juicing and then making jelly – taste your product along the way. If you find you’re missing flavor, you can add a bit of lemon juice or apple juice. Either one of these are great additions if you’re overall juice quantity is a little less than what you need for a batch of jelly. For example if the jelly recipe requires 4 cups of cherry juice and you only have 3 1/4 cups, add 3/4 cup apple juice to bring it up to the necessary 4 cups. That way your jelly will set, have great flavor and you keep acid levels where they need to be for home canned goods.
      Happy jelly making!
      – Fruit Share

  7. Can you please tell me why you have pectin as an ingredient in your juice recipe? I thought pectin was to make jams/jellies thicken and set…..

    1. No pectin is needed when just making juice. To create a syrup that’s thicker than juice but less thick than jelly, we do recommend some pectin. It will give it a lovely consistency, perfect for drizzling on ice cream or pancakes. Of course the jam recipe also includes pectin. Hope that clarifies things.

  8. I have a LARGE number of rankings this year and was wondering if I can freeze them with the pits in them? What are the pros and cons of leaving the pits in.

    1. Hi June,
      As far as we know there are no safety issues regarding freezing cherry pits, so from that standpoint, go ahead. Pitting the cherries may be a little more messy once you thaw them, that’s probably the biggest con. The pro is that you can process them when you have the time – often that’s limited in the summer. If you’re going to use the cherries for juice or jelly, there’s really no issue with freezing them at all. In fact they will likely break down and cook faster. Good luck and enjoy!

  9. Thanks for all of your information. I was introduced to nankings last year. I put pulp in ice cube trays, later put it in a ziploc and kept it for my granddaughter when they came to visit. I had misread a jelly recipe and added double the water to my juice, but it turned out to be a wonderful syrup! I also sealed extra juice and mixed it with apple juice. What a treat, and so healthy! Thanks again for your insights.

  10. The recipe I used last year was Certo Wild Cherry Jelly. It has almond extract, but no lemon juice and is quite nice.

  11. Bumper year after 10 years of almost no cherries. So far I have frozen 12 gallons of pitted cherries. Thinking of making juice for us to drink this hot summer. How long can I store juice in the refrigerator?

  12. I have a question about nanking cherry juice. Why can’t I use processed nanking cherry juice for making wine. It would certainly
    speed up the wind making process.

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