The great thing about the wee Nanking cherries that grow in abundance on the bushes up and down our block also happens to be the worst thing about them: they’re small. And as such you can’t really pit them and make a pie (or maybe you can, but I sure don’t have the patience to try).
However, their tartness makes them ideal for cherry lemonade. (If you don’t have small tart cherries, you could make this with raspberries. Fresh raspberry lemonade is pretty fine, too.)
Here’s what I do: put as many cherries as I’ve picked into a pot, and add a bit of water. (Not much – about half a cup to a cup to half a pot of fruit – just to help get it going.) Bring it to a boil and let it cook – the berries will soften and burst and release their juices – for about 20 minutes. Take it off the heat and cool, mashing occasionally with a potato masher or whisk or whatever you can find to mash with.
Strain it through a colander to leave the seeds behind, and if you want it really clear, line the colander with cheesecloth before you strain it – you’ll get clear, ruby red juice.
To make this tart but intensely flavorful cherry juice into cherry lemonade, add about half as much lemon juice as there is cherry juice, and an equal amount of sugar. (For example, if you have 4 cups of cherry and lemon juice, add 4 cups of sugar.) Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve the sugar, then store the syrup in the fridge to use as a base for lemonade. Pour some into the bottom of a glass and add water -sparkling or still- to taste.
For something a little more celebratory, try adding the cherry lemonade concentrate to a gin & tonic, or add a splash of prosecco in tall glasses or champagne flutes for your next patio party.