The blackcurrants are ready and I’ve been waiting for a break in the rain so I can pick them, ideally dry, and make some store cupboard food. As always I turn to my favourite cluster of books for some inspiration; Sarah Raven’s Cookbook, River Cottage Handbook No 2 (Preserves) and The River Cottage Year. Much as I love tart fruit the boys are not all that keen so I’ve mainly been looking for jam or jelly recipes, although the RCY had a recipe for blackcurrant double-ripple ice cream that I am rather tempted by. This year I have 2.5 kilos of fruit and so I’ve decided to go with jam and the usual Cassis as it’s always a winner and good for gift giving.
For both the below, the fruit has been washed and dried on teatowels and the shrivelled flowers on the end of the berries have been left on.
450 g blackberries, crushed
450 g sugar (I used golden caster as I didn’t have any granulated)
570 ml brandy
7 very small, new blackcurrant leaves.
All the above is put into a 1.5 litre kilner jar and will be turned once a week (in fact once a day initially) and left for one month before straining off into sterilised bottles. I’ve read in some recipes that you should leave it for 3-4 months and whizz the alcoholic fruit and strain through a muslin to be added to the liquid, this makes sense to me so I might try it this year.
Makes about 8 regular jars.
For the jam it’s a very simple recipe and as the fruit is so high in pectin there is no need to add lemon juice or use sugar with added pectin.
1 kg blackcurrants
1.5 kg golden granulated sugar
Put some saucers in the freezer.
The fruit (with stalks removed) is put into a large pan (I went to buy a new jam pan today after burning the last one so badly it was beyond repair only to find they were £50!!!! I don’t think so, I shall be using my large spaghetti pan today) with 600 ml of water and simmer for about 15-20 mins until the fruit is soft. The trick is (apparently) to get the fruit soft but not completely mushed, otherwise when you add the sugar the skins toughen up and become quite chewy in the final jam.
You then add the sugar and leave it to dissolve on a very low heat, stirring occasionally.
Once all the sugar has dissolved you bring to the boil and boil on a rolling boil for 5 mins.
(just before boiling, put your cleaned jars and lids into an oven at about 150 degrees)
After a rapid 5 mins rolling boil remove from the heat and test the jam for a set. To do this, put a small blob of the jam onto one of the saucers from the freezer, leave it for a few minutes and push with your finger, if a skin has formed that wrinkles then the jam is ready, if not you need to boil for a few more minutes (only about 3 mins for blackcurrants as they have a high pectin level and so don’t need much to reach setting point) then test again. Repeat until the jam has reached setting point. For me this took 5 mins plus an additional 3 mins today.
Remove and scum from the edges and leave the jam to cool for 10-15 mins, then stir and check the fruit is being held in the jelly and not bobbing to the surface (leave it a bit longer if this is the case). Ladle into your sterilised jars, whilst they are still hot from the oven. Cover with a wax disc and screw the lids on immediately.
Having just had a good look through the preserves storage cupboard I’ve decided to ditch the remaining 2 jars of gooseberry jam as quite frankly they are past their best and no-one is interested in gooseberry jam in the household.
I hate throwing things away that I’ve taken the time to grow and make but there is also little point keeping them, especially once they are gathering dust and quite frankly are well over a year old. The one thing I could make mountains of is strawberry jam as the boys eat it by the bucket full, it’s lucky we live in Kent and can buy local strawberries at great prices.
I’m impatient, the jam is still quite warm but I’ve just taken some homemade bread out of the oven and couldn’t resist having a taste and it’s definitely a winner. In fact, I’ve just given some to C, having told him it’s ‘Ribena’ jam and he’s also sold. Hummm…..not sure I actually want to share 🙂