We have an ancient redcurrant bush on the allotment, distorted branches and often short of leaves. So every year we wonder if it will have any fruit and every year it has a good crop, as long as we net it well in advance of berries ripening. Birds seem keen on very sour unripe redcurrants that are still white not even pink!
Here is the bush this year – taken on the 18th June.
And this is the crop as I started picking into punnets.
When I got home I weighed the three punnets – 1 kilogram. It’s clear here just how I pick, ‘milking’ the bushes so the sprigs of berries come away intact. This means that there are sometimes white berries alongside the red ones, and often a few leaves.
I washed the berries and ‘strigged’ them, ie took them off their stalks. This isn’t necessary if the next step is making jelly. The berries can be stewed on their stalks because it is only the juice that goes to make jelly and everything else is thrown away. But I always freeze my crop ready to use later in the year especially for summer pudding or similar, so it needs to be just berries.
I put them in freezer boxes and that’s it for this year’s crop.
Last year’s berries have not all been used for puddings etc so I dug them out of the bottom of the freezer and emptied them into a large saucepan. In order to add the right amount of water I weighed them first and, unsurprisingly, they were approximately the same weight as this year’s crop. I stewed them until they were soft, then I mashed them and this is pretty much what those lovely bright berries turn into – a mushy pulp. It seems such a pity until you see the jelly.
I put the pulp into a jelly bag. We have an assortment of old pieces of cloth for this. The effect of straining redcurrants, blackcurrants, apples etc through a bag is to stain it irrevocably so it all looks remarkably primitive, which I suppose it is! In this case I chose the largest ‘bag’ and tied it under a chair so the juice could drip through into a bowl. I took some photos of the cloth after straining, with the relatively dry pulp ready to be thrown away but the pictures looked rather gruesome. So below is the folded cloth and pieces of string that I’ve used year after year. I took this picture after I’d washed the cloth, dried it outside then folded it up ready for next time.
It’s important to measure the volume of juice in order to weigh out the correct amount of sugar.
And here we are – a mere three-quarters of a pint! Patrick keeps his lovely teapot in his study next to a glass in a tea holder. Both are used every day to make Russian tea which is why the teapot is in the photo, next to the kettle.
The book I use for all jam, jelly and marmalade recipes was given to me in 1984 by Patrick’s father. It is absolutely fool proof. I weighed the sugar into a saucepan and poured the juice in on top. The jam jars are ready to be sterilised.
Here are the jars, sterilising in a low oven for 20-30 minutes (or more, depending on how long it takes for the jelly to reach setting point).
I stirred the juice and sugar over a low flame until the sugar dissolved, then raised the temperature so it came to the boil.
Once the boiling mixture has reached setting point (which I always identify with the flake test and also checking wrinkling on the surface of a small quantity cooled on a plate) it is ready to go in the jars. So they came out of the oven and I used a funnel to pour the juice into each jar. Even on a low heat the jars are hot enough to make the juice boil.
These are the finished jars of redcurrant jelly – one full ‘1 lb’ jar, one three-quarters full jar and one miniature jar.