I originally wrote this post last October but then never got round to inserting the pictures, recipe, finishing it off and posting it. However, I hope you'll forgive me, because now seems a pretty good time to post it, since redcurrants are actually in season and you'll be able to use fresh ones, preferably from the pick-your-own rather than the frozen ones I used to create some freezer space. I would have pretended that it was jelly from this year, but most of the pictures feature jars labelled 'October 2010' so I think you would have guessed....... so here is the post I wrote last October, modified only slightly!
Regular readers of this blog will know that I seem to have a perpetual freezer problem - there's never any space in there at all. In fact I would go so far to say that my freezer is like a reverse tardis - the freezer looks big enough on the outside but actually seems to hold very little. So, fed up of trying to shoehorn more stuff into it, I decided to have a go at actually using some of the things in there. When redcurrants were in season during the summer I stashed quite a few of them in the freezer with no particular plans in mind - summer fruit pudding perhaps. But months pass and summer fruit pudding no longer seems desirable. So I hunted through and found I had quite a few.
Now for my birthday (some months ago) my darling brother T was kind enough to give me two of the River Cottage Handbooks (he probably won't remember this as I actually bought them ;-)), one of which was No. 2 Preserves by Pam Corbin. I only looked in it recently and am sorry I didn't do so sooner as it's stuffed full of delicious things that I really, really want to make. I've made my own jam for a number of years and enjoy it, and J used to make redcurrant jelly when I still lived at home, so I wasn't too daunted by the prospect of a jelly bag and all the associated sterilising jars palaver that goes with preserving. Hmmm, perhaps I should have thought harder about it before I started.
I went to buy my jelly bag and stand, but discovered that the stands were really expensive, so I thought I'd save myself some money by just getting the replacement jelly bag that was sold separately. Having followed the recipe through to the stage of soft fruit hot in the pan ready to be dripped through the jelly bag I realised the error of my ways. How was I going to hold the jelly bag (complete with clever elasticated neck for holding it securely onto the jelly drip frame) open to add my (very hot) fruit and then stand and hold it while it dripped. Hmmm. So don't follow my example - if you want to make jelly, fork out for the stand too! In the end I had a bit of an elaborate palaver involving various contortionist positions to reach hot fruit on the stovetop whilst holding a bag of dripping hot fruit and pouring aforementioned hot fruit with only one hand from a large pan..... I'm sure you get the picture. Luckily I'm not all that bothered about a crystal clear jelly (which is why you let it drip through under its own weight rather than squeezing) so I cut short the dripping stage by squeezing the bag (did I already mention how hot that fruit was - I really don't recommend this stage!) - I think this also increased the yield. There are no photos of the in-process stages, for reasons outlined above - I could already have done with spare hands; there was no way a camera was being involved too.
July 2011 insertion: As you can imagine I can no longer remember exactly how closely I followed the recipe, but think I was pretty close so I'll give the recipe here:
Makes 4-5 x 225g jars
You will also need sterilised jars.
-The redcurrants do not need to be top and tailed or even taken off their stalks. Simply wash them, put into a preserving pan with 400ml water then simmer until they are very soft and have released all their juice, approximately 45 minutes.
-Strain through a jelly bag - see discussion above!!! Overnight will give a clear jelly, forcing the fruit through the bag will result in a cloudy jelly.
-Measure the juice, put into a cleaned preserving pan and bring to the boil. For every 600ml juice, add 450g sugar, adding it only when the juice is boiling. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, ensuring the sides of the pan are free of undissolved sugar crystals. Boil rapidly for about 8 minutes or until setting point is reached. I can't remember how long my setting point took, but I used the wrinkle test to tell when I had a set - small plate in the freezer, jelly onto plate, push with finger and see if it forms wrinkles, if it does, it will set.
-Remove from the heat, stir to disperse any scum, then pour into warm, sterilised jars and seal. Tap the jars to disperse any air bubbles caught in the jelly.
Use within 12 months.
In spite of all the problems I had with straining the jelly, I really enjoyed making the jelly and if you reuse jam jars with tamper proof seals hearing the little pop as they pop down must be one of the most satisfying noises I can think of in the kitchen!
Note to self - when reusing jam jars (or honey jars in my case) it's worth trying to get the label off before you sterilise them. The smell of baking label/glue is really unpleasant. However you can use magic sticky stuff remover to get rid of the label. (Available from Lakeland) I wish I'd invented this because it truly is amazing. Remove as much of the paper part of the label as you can and then use the magic sticky stuff remover to .... well, remove the sticky stuff. Bingo, clean tidy jar ready for labelling up!