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Real Redcurrant Jelly
Making preserves during the late summer when fruit is abundant is a time honoured practice. It's also incredibly satisfying and cost effective, so every summer I try to make a few batches of something or other that will last our household throughout the coming year.
I tend to make chutneys and jellies; particularly fruit jellies because they are really versatile and can be turned into additions to cold platters, sandwiches and hot sauces.
There is a difference between jams and jellies. The difference lies in one containing the whole fruit and the other being a clear set jelly with all the flavour, goodness and colour of the fruit but none of the actual fruit in it.
One of the loveliest jellies to make is Redcurrant Jelly. It is more fiddly and tricky to make than regular jams but the final result is so beautiful and tasty that it is well worth the effort. Here's how I do it every year:
Ripe And Unripe Redcurrants Go Into The Pan Stalks And All
Jams And Jellies Need Pectin To Set
You need pectin to make all jams and jellies to set. Pectin is present in most fruits but the amount of pectin available varies depending upon the level of ripeness of the fruit.
Ripe fruit contains less pectin than unripe fruit. It is much harder to make jam and jelly set using ripe fruit alone.
You can add more pectin in several ways:
- Add shop bought pectin as per he makers instructions
- Add lemon juice
- Add apples
- Add a proportion of unripe fruit
I think lemon overpowers the flavour of redcurrants and shop bought pectin makes recurrant jelly cloudy, (as does the addition of fresh apple pulp.)
If you want your jelly to set and be a thing of beauty, clear and delicately coloured, the answer is to include a small amount of under ripe berries.
Cover The Redcurrants With Water And Simmer
Extracting The Redcurrant Juice
There's no need to weigh or remove the stalks from the berries at this point. Just cover them with water and let them gently simmer. I use an old fashioned potato masher to help squash the juice from the fruit.
Don't overcook the berries at this point by fast boiling; you aren't making jam or jelly yet.
Let the berry mash and juice cool down in the pan and then ladle it into a jelly bag and hang it up to strain and drip into a clean pan overnight.
The Secret Of Clear Jelly Is The Drip Drip Drip Of A Jelly Bag
Straining The Juice
This is where all the pips, skins, stalks and pulp gets filtered out. Let everything drip through a jelly bag at its own pace; I usually leave it overnight.
If you get impatient and squeeze the bag your jelly won't be completely clear. The more the mash is forced to drain, the more the fruit pulp passes through the mesh making the final jelly cloudy.
Cloudyness doesn't affect the flavour or keeping qualities of redcurrant jelly. It will lose you points in a jam and jelly competition but apart from that, it won't be a disaster if you decide to hurry things along a little.
However redcurrant jelly can be a thing of beauty when made slowly and properly.
Adding The Sugar
The Final Stage: Making Redcurrant Jelly
The basic proportions for the next stage are :
to every pint of juice you end up with after straining, add one pound of white sugar.
Those proportions make it easy to achieve a set jelly, so if you are new to jam and jelly making I'd recommend working with that ratio at first. I like my redcurrant jelly more tart so I prefer to use a little less sugar, maybe 10-12 ounces of sugar per pint of liquid. It makes setting the jelly a little more tricky but worth trying if you are an experienced jelly maker.
Gradually Bring The Juice And Sugar To The Boil
- Slowly heat the juice and sugar to boiling point stirring all the time to prevent any sticking or burning.
- Let it boil for 7 - 10 minutes and you will see the surface texture of the liquid start to change. The bubbles will become smaller and the bubbling faster.
- This is the time to start testing your jelly to see if it is set.
Testing The Jelly For Setting Point
Start to test for setting point by dripping small drops from a teaspoon onto a cold plate. Tilt the plate and see if the drop runs. Look carefully to see if a skin is forming on the surface of the drop.
This Is What Setting Point Looks Like
As soon as the jelly is at setting point, ladle it into hot sterilized jars.
The jars will become extremely hot once filled with jelly and you won't be able to handle them for ages. I put my prepared jars in a baking tray before filling. That way I catch spills and drips and I can move the hot jars safely when I've finished filling them.
I reuse pretty jam jars with new lids for most of my jams and chutneys. I seal them whilst the jam is still hot and they keep for years. We recently discovered a 6 year old blackcurrant jam in the back of the preserves cupboard and it was completely sound and tasted wonderful.
Are You A Jam Or Jelly Maker?
Tempted to try making Redcurrant Jelly?
© 2014 poppy mercer