Red currants are another of those tart berries that carry within enough pectin to gel on their own. They are most often turned into jelly as the seeds inside are bigger than raspberry seeds and for some, that can take away from the enjoyment of the finished preserve.
I had plans but time and web site upgrades got away from me so, as I am sure you have experienced in your life, the plan changed. I did not have enough red currants on hand to make the full batch below so I did the math for what I had on hand and moved on.
There are two very traditional English additions, one is rosemary and the other is port. My German stepmother grew up with plain red currant jelly so I didn’t add any but I will mention them as I go along in case you would like to give it a go.
Of course another choice if there is a limited supply of fresh red berries around is Red Currant Rum! that tasty drink ordered by the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge while at the Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade but I digress.
Lovely on all things baked, red currant jelly is also commonly served as a condiment with game, which is where the rosemary and port tend to come in.
You will need:
2 pounds red currants, washed
1/2 cup water
2 1/4 cups sugar
Place the washed berries in a stainless steel or other non reactive pot with the water and bring to a simmer. Add three sprigs of rosemary. Cook to release all the juices from the fruit, about 18-22 minutes.
You can see in the picture above that the small stems are still attached on some berries. That is just fine. It will all end up in the sieve and stay out of the jelly.
Using a potato masher, squish(squash?) the cooking berries to get all the juices released.
Transfer the mash to a sieve or colander lined with dampened muslin sitting over a bowl. Cheesecloth might be another option. I just find the spaces are too big, even folded several times.
Be patient and do not squeeze or press down on the mash with a spoon. Squeezing only causes your jelly to get murky as things other than just the pure juice get into the mixture.
You can see the size of the seeds in the picture on the right.
Once the dripping is complete, measure your juice and add an equal amount of sugar. The full recipe should give you a little over 2 1/4 cups. Red currants are tart so I will also say that some people choose to add an extra 1/4 cup sugar for each cup of juice.
Having measured the liquid you have, pour it back into the pot and add the sugar.
A second choice for the rosemary. This is if you would prefer the rosemary to be visible in the finished jar. Do not add at the beginning.
In a separate small pot bring enough water to a boil to blanch one rosemary spring for each jar of jelly. Fill a bowl with ice water and put aside.
Once the water is boiling, place the rosemary in the pot with the hot water for 30 seconds and then transfer to the ice water for 1 minutes before laying the sprigs out on paper towel to dry. Clip the sprigs down to the height of the jar.
Prepare your jars while bringing the sugar and juice to a boil over a high heat.
Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar and continue to cook until you have reached gel point, 220 degrees at sea level.
If you live above sea level, gel point is 8 degrees above the temperature that water boils at in your location.
Thinking about adding port? Now is the time to mix in 1/4 cup to this recipe. Pour carefully to avoid any spitting of the hot mixture. Kirsch is an alternative option, used sometimes on the continent.
Stir several minutes to break up any bubbles or skim off the top and place on a saucer.
If this is your first time making jelly, this link with help you with all the steps in sterlizing and sealing jars. If you have done this before then I will leave you to your preferred methods.
I used hot soapy water and the oven to clean and heat may jars before filling and topping with lids that has been preboiled. They then stayed in the oven for 15 minutes before I turned the heat off and let them cool.
That is however, not an approved method of sealing preserves so as mentioned if this is your first go round use the link above and process 5 minutes. I am assuming your jars will be bigger than mine and they will fit more readily into a water bath rack.
My six tiny jars sealed but there are some very real reasons to make sure that proper steps are followed so your family stays safe.
Into each jar place a dry blanched sprig of rosemary and fill with the hot liquid. Top with sealers and lids and process. It is not until the jars are processed and fully cooled that the mixture inside will thicken. So just like the raspberry jelly reference at the start, it will take time before the jelly firms up. Have patience.
Red currants and “Gooseberries” is a stirring short story by Kim Adrian that speaks to the power of food memories. She writes, “The mouth simply grasps some truths more easily than the mind. And on my tongue, red currants will always taste of affection and indifference, comfort and loss, poverty and pleasure. Only not in so many words”.
May you find the affection, comfort and pleasure in these tiny balls of mouth puckering juiceness.
Red Currant and Rosemary Jelly from My Kitchen Wand