Last year I planted two small redcurrant bushes with the idea of using their berries to make delicious homemade jelly. Redcurrants are tart and loaded with pectin so you really only need white sugar and water in order to preserve them. However the best thing about Redcurrant jelly isn't how easy it is to make but the fact that it's really quite versatile in the kitchen. Though it tastes great on traditional baked goods such as toast, scones and cakes I prefer using it as an accompaniment for meat. It's brilliant as a substitute for lingonberry when serving up Swedish meatballs and can also take the place of cranberry sauce with roasted turkey and game.
As far as my harvest of berries is concerned, the two bushes I planted were healthy but really didn't produce much that first season. This year I've piled up plenty of compost and manure around their feet and they've responded well to the additional nutrients. Over the summer they've put on quite a bit of growth and have produced about 600g of berries in the last few weeks. This isn't a whole lot but they'll continue producing heavier crops in the years to come.
My latest collection of berries came in at only 255g but I decided to go ahead and make a single small jar of preserves rather than eating them straight. Ordinarily you really don't want to spend the time making preserves unless you have at least a kilo of them but I don't imagine I'll get much more from the bushes this year and anyway prefer the berries preserved opposed to fresh. To make your life easier I've listed the recipe with using 1000g (2.2lb) of berries rather than the quantities from my own tiny batch.
Makes 4 225g (8oz) jars
1kg (2.2lb) Redcurrants - rinsed
500ml (17 oz) Water
1. Rinse the berries but don't bother taking the stalks off if you don't wish to - it's not important. Put the berries and the water in a sauce pan and simmer until the berries are extremely soft and mushy. This will take around 30-45 minutes.
2. Pour the berries and juice into a jelly bag and allow the liquid to filter through the bag overnight. You don't want to squeeze the bag or your jelly will end up cloudy. Leaving it to drip overnight will result in most, if not all, of the liquid ending up in the bowl you've placed under the jelly bag.
3. The next day, measure the juice that has strained through the bag and for every 600ml (20 oz) you'll want to measure and set aside 450g (16 oz) of sugar.
4. Bring the juice to a boil then add the sugar. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and then allow the mixture to continue boiling for around 6-8 minutes or until the setting point has been reached.
5. Remove the jelly from the stove top and skim any of the scum off the top before pouring the liquid into clean jars and sealing them with lids and/or wax paper. Stored like this the jelly will keep for about a year without any further processing. If you've poured some jars that haven't quite filled the container (such as mine above) then make sure to use those ones first.
If you haven't made jelly before then I'd really recommend it as a first type of preserve. It's relatively easy and satisfying to see all of the brightly coloured jars lining your shelves. Most people will have all the equipment they need in their kitchen already but if you're wondering where to get a jelly bag I can recommend looking in John Lewis for the one that I have. I've also been looking at this one from Lakeland and think it might be a sturdier option. And if you want to save your money you can always make your own contraption using an old pillowcase or cheese cloth. Where there's a will there's a way :)