Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Nanking Cherry Harvest

This was started on Monday, May 16.

I am busy processing Nanking bush cherries.  This is only the second summer that I've had enough from these bushes to do anything with.  Last year, I pitted them and froze them in square, 1-gallon ice-cream containers that Leroy saves for us.  But it's so easy to miss a pit here and there and so I couldn't share what I made out of them with anyone because I wouldn't want to be responsible for a broken tooth.  Hubs and I know to chew carefully anything like this.  We've even found cherry pits in commercially canned cherries or pie filling. 

What do you make out of fruit that is so tart that in order to make it palatable, you have to add sugar to it?  Sour cherries are very healthy.  HERE is information from Dr. Oz.  HERE is information from Prevention Magazine.  And HERE is what Huffington Post has to say.

You know, God made everything we need, and it's growing, or can be planted and therefore made to grow, all around us.  It's just that the medical community has for so long ridiculed and maligned those little old folks that knew how everything was supposed to be used, that all that information came very close to being lost to us forever.  So now we add stuff to it that's not good for us, like sugar and lots of butter, and this cancels out whatever health benefits are in it and pretty much makes it just empty calories.  Delicious ones for our spoiled, sugar-addicted palates, but not what God intended.  Rule of thumb: If, in it's unadulterated form, it's tasty, it's supposed to be food.  If it's sour or bitter, it's supposed to be medicine.  Praise be to God.

I brought these down from the attic today. 

I learned some things during this exercise.  1) Don't use parchment paper.  It draws the juice, makes a mess, sticks to the pan, stays wet too long.  I had to throw out some of the cherries because they had grown moldy.  It would be better to drain the juice off the pitted cherries before starting the drying process.  2) The "Quick Release" foil worked the best.  The cherries still had to be "peeled" off the foil, which is why the foil is all wrinkly in the picture, but less mess and no mold.  3) Dried sour Nanking cherries taste like cranberries, no corn syrup or preservatives added.  4) There is no problem if you miss a pit here and there.  It is pretty obvious in the end product.

These were still not totally dry, but they reduced in volume by about two-thirds, which filled a pint jar and I can spare the freezer space for that.  I decided to use a wide-mouth pint, just in case they froze stuck together.  I don't think cherries are good candidates for drying in the attic.

The second big picking was processed by stemming them and then heating very slowly till they began making juice, then straining the juice.  Boy was this messy and the fruit that was left turned into a big sticky ball full of pits.  Lots of waste.  I got about 2 cups of thick juice, but still room for improvement. 

I like the idea of making "sour-cherry craisins", even though pitting the cherries is so much work.  I can pit them while I watch TV with Hubs.  The work goes faster and is time better spent than just watching TV without doing anything else, which, generally, makes me sleepy.  Working with about four cups of cherries at a time, I use the tip of my potato-peeler, sliding it into the depression where the stem was, to scoop out the pit. 

After pitting each batch I put them in a mesh strainer and press lightly.  There is about a cup of juice delivered from each four-cup batch.  Then the solids are ready to be dehydrated.  Waste Not, Want Not.  This is pretty much what dried cranberries "Craisins" are, afterall, is the leftover skins and pulp after they juice the berries.  I saw it on "How It's Made" on The Discovery Channel.  What they didn't show was that they add corn syrup and oil to them.  That's on the ingredients label on the back of the package.  The ones I make won't have that in them.  If I had to label what I make, it would just have one ingredient on the ingredients list.  Unless you count "Elbow Grease", that is.  LOL! 

The juice goes into the freezer and I can add it to apple juice if I make any this fall.  Apple juice is sooooo sweet, it would benefit from some cherry juice added for tartness.  It would add nutrients and be pretty, too.

I have dried blueberries before and I have to use the dehydrator for them instead of the attic, as well.  The attic cools off during the night and I think it just takes too long for juicy things to dry. 

I spent about an hour picking cherries late this afternoon.  I wasn't done by any stretch of the imagination, but I needed a break and it was about supper time.  I made pancakes, Hubs had two eggs and I had one.  Farm fresh brown eggs.  Instead of fake maple syrup made of maple flavoring and corn syrup, we sampled the Nanking cherry syrup made of 4 cups juice and 2 of sugar.  Yes, I even allowed myself a drizzle.  Mmmmm. 

Hubs even liked it.


I think it was on Fiona's blog that I read about how we should not consider the work involved in putting up things we have grown as "drudgery", but instead look at it as a blessing to actually HAVE something to put up and the tools and skills with which to do it.  I needed to be reminded of that.  Thanks, Fiona.

This is now Saturday, May 28.

Hubs saw our friend Leroy on Wednesday at the workout center and he asked Hubs if I wanted his apples this year.  I haven't taken them for the last two summers because I just haven't been physically able to take them on.  It's a big tree and it makes a lot of apples.  But this year I feel up to it so Hubs told him I'd be glad to have them.  Most of them come to me as windfalls or fruit Leroy picks when it's not quite ripe.  They are a little too green for applesauce and the like, but they are of good size and there is enough natural sugar in them that they make wonderful apple juice.  They also have plenty of pectin so if I want to make jam with something that doesn't jell well on it's own, like blueberries or banana-pineapple, all I have to do is add some of the apple juice and it does the trick without making any noticeable change in the flavor.  The bulk of the juice from the last batch was canned in half-gallon jars and Hubs drank it all that winter instead of orange juice with his breakfast.  With this batch, I will have something to add the cherry juice to that will end up being a 100% natural and healthy breakfast drink.  I think Hubs might have to share his juice with me this winter.  ;~}

All the cherries I picked are worked up and the last batch is out of the dehydrator.  My yield is 4 quarts of dried cherries, 4 quarts of frozen juice and about a quart of cherry pancake syrup.  The last wave of cherries were very small in size and I decided to leave those to the birds.  I thought I'd have trouble with the Mockingbird that's been hanging around out there, but the Robins and the Bluebirds are often seen in the bushes.  I've seen the Robins picking cherries off one of the other trees.  Generally I don't view this as a happy thing.  The birds need to be hunting in the garden for bugs.  The Bluebirds were still feeding babies, up until Friday.  Hubs and I had been wondering when they were ever going to teach those greedy little guys to fly.  They would nearly knock their mother off the birdhouse each time she came to feed them.  So Friday we walked up on a baby Bluebird perched on the east garden fence rail.  We saw it in time and backed off, as Hubs said he might fly out into the open field and that might be a bad thing.  But he got spooked anyway and flew off to the west, toward the birdhouse.  Then yesterday Hubs came in from mowing The North Fourth and said he'd seen a dead baby Bluebird on the ground near the compost pile.  Dang....  We hope the others have survived.  Mother Bluebird is again busy cleaning up a birdhouse, a different one this time.  Hubs also told me that a Killdeer put herself in front of his mower while he was out there and he discovered she had a nest on the ground.  He said there were eggs in it about the size of chicken eggs, and they were brown speckled.  He drove away from the area and left her sitting on her nest.  I was telling our neighbor, Cathy, about that and she said that when her girls were in school and would cut through what is now our North Fourth on their way home from the bus stop, the Killdeer would chase them home.  OMG.  Mothers become fearless when their babies' safety is threatened.  It is nature's way. 

That's all I have to report on the Nanking Cherry harvest.  I do have some Hansen's Black Cherry bushes that are full of unripe fruit.  It was so wet last spring where they are growing that the fruit just rotted off the bush.  And it looks like it's going to do that again this spring.  I have started new bushes along the west garden fence, on the inside.  (The Bridal Wreath Spirea are on the outside of the fence).  When those cherry bushes start producing, which might be as soon as next spring, I'll get a better crop.  And there is room there for more bushes than I have now, so I can easily share with the birds if that becomes necessary.  Hansen's Black Cherries have a bitter twang when they are eaten fresh.  But that goes away when jam is made from them.  Then they are very good.  When I am able to get another harvest I'll experiment with canning them in a light sugar syrup and see if they are good that way.  I tried freezing them before and -- nope -- still bitter.  Don't that just beat all??

I'll get another post up before the end of the month, but that's all for this post.  So till next time, Rock On, Y'all, Rock On.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. Wow have you been busy. The information your Nanking Cherries is going to be a help. We are getting them and we have the 3 old apple trees that were here already. I use apple sauce to sweeten a lot of things and in baking too. I do not add sugar to it and it is that natural sweet-tart thing!
    It is work and messy but in the middle of winter on a cold dreary day you can break out some jam for a burst of summer:)

  2. Fiona, I forgot to say that I use the tip of my potato peeler to pit the cherries with. Nanking cherries are smaller than "real" cherries and those cherry pitters they sell just don't do the trick. I'm changing the post to say that and will be adding a picture to the potato peeler so it'll be obvious which kind it is.

    Yes, they make really wonderful jam. And it is delicious as ice-cream topping, with a chopped banana and some semi-sweet chocolate chips. But I am a sugar-addict, and that is the "old me" saying that. This summer, I will be looking for ways to put things up without, or at least with less sugar. I can tolerate small amounts of sugar but once I cross the line I'm craving and miserable for three days. Not worth it.

    1. Sugar craving is awful isn't it. I am gaining ground though, I find glazed donuts are just way to sweet for me now. Do you make your own ice cream?
      I canned peaches in light syrup and they are quite good. It is a matter of experimenting to find what works and how you can use things that are less sugary and more natural.

    2. No, I don't make ice cream. I don't have access to any kind of milk or cream except what comes from the grocery store. And the less of THAT, the better. Doughnuts don't even look good to me. Lots of things taste VERRRRY sweet to me now.

      When I prepare fruit for canning, I get my Maslin pan out, which holds enough to fill seven jars, a canner load. Into the pan I put a gallon of water, Vitamin C in the form of a 1000mg vitamin pill that will dissolve in the water. (Mine is Spring Valley, either from WMT or Walgreens, can't remember which. They put them on sale, buy one, get one, and I buy then. Much, MUCH less expensive than buying ascorbic acid marketed for canning.) If I don't have vitamin C, I use 1 Tbsp distilled vinegar and 1 Tsp. salt. But the vitamin C works better, I think. Then I slice the fruit into the pan as I go and when the pan is full I add one cup of sugar and heat it up. While my canning water is heating I divide the fruit up amongst 7 jars with a slotted spoon and then fill the remainder of the jar with the sweetened liquid from the pan. I add 1/4 tsp of citric acid to each jar before I put the fruit in. I know the citric acid is supposed to be just for taste, but I think it helps hold the color, too.


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