What do you do when having guests from abroad over for a week? You put them to work in the garden of course!
I and two of my lovely Dutch friends spent some horrifically hot hours in the sun picking blackcurrants the other day. We have a grand total of four blackcurrant bushes – of which three of them are producing lots and lots while the fourth is a bit of a sad puppy- and the branches were heavy of dark berries that just needed to come off.
Some of the berries were used for a pie, and some were put out on a baking tray to dry (still no real progress there, it’s taking ages), but the rest? Blackcurrant jelly!
I have never attempted this particular kitchen craft before, so before starting I of course googled for recipes, checked the cookbooks at home, and since I as always had trouble picking just one, I ended up doing a sort of combination.
The result? Dark, shiny and sweet blackcurrant jelly.
The process was simple, I’d like to say – but of course it wasn’t really, since I had little clue what I was doing and nothing really went according to plan. But I’m sure it can be simple if you just don’t mess up like we did!
Jam sugar (gelling sugar)
A sieve (or sieve cloth, which didn’t work for us)
Step 1: Pick berries.
This we did well enough. Spiders, snails, ladybugs, and other little creepy crawleys were removed and we were left with lots and lots of berries. I’ve now learned that for making jelly the best berries are the ones that are barely mature, as that makes for better jelly. Of course since I didn’t know that our berries were fully mature, close to bursting with sweetness. Welp, not much to do about that, we carried on with what we had!
Step 2. Put in a big pot with some water and cook!
We used 1,5 dl or water per liter of berries. It was all brought up to a boil and the berries were mushed up a bit, much like for a jam.
Step 3. Strain!
Ok, so the point here is to get the juice out of the mush. All instructions I found said to just put the mush in a sieve cloth and let the liquid drip through on its own. Instructions specifically said NOT to try and push it, but to let it drain slowly and on its own, but well… that didn’t work. It was dripping WAY too slowly and it just wasn’t going anywhere, so after a while we switched tactics and started using a metal sieve instead. We thus did exactly what we shouldn’t have done, pushing the mush to get the juice out, but it seemed like the only option at the time. And we did get juice!
Step 4. Sugar!
Next we brought the juice to a boil – only to swiftly take it off the heat as soon as bubbles appeared. We then stirred in the gelling sugar (jam sugar) a bit at a time until it all dissolved. 1dl of jam sugar for each dl of berry juice! In retrospect I think that might have been a bit too much sugar actually, because I would have wanted it a bit less super-sweet, but it’s still good. With the sugar all in we brought it to a boil yet again, letting it go until the entire surface was covered in bubbles, as described by the cookbook.
Step 5. Jars!
Hygiene is super important here to avoid anything starting to grow. You don’t want poisonous jelly! What we did is the same as we usually do when bottling mead – we filled the jars with boiling water to kill off any germs. To be extra sure I also used a bit of atamon (a preservative bought at the store) to rinse the still warm jars with. Then finally the hot and liquid jelly was poured into the jars, and the jars were quickly sealed shut before it cooled down.
Step 6. Let it set!
This just means waiting. Once the jelly cooled down it set nicely, and the whole thing was done. Tadaa!
It’s tasty, very tasty. A bit too sweet, so next time I’ll be using less sugar, but overall I am still happy with the result!