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Red Currant Jelly

Tart, sweet, and gorgeously ruby-hued, this red currant jelly is the perfect way to make the most of a relatively small amount of currants.

Six half pints of fresh red currants.

Over the years, I’ve canned nearly everything there is to be canned. I’ve done every stripe of stonefruit, all the common berries, and have pickled nearly everything I could. The list of things I’d not worked with was relatively short. However, there were a few notable things that had thus far avoided my jam pan. Chief among them, currants.

Red currants in a yellow colander

It wasn’t that I was disinterested in currants. The issue was simply that they were either impossible to find or cost-prohibitive when I did come across a small display. And so they remained on firmly on the list of things I wanted to experience but just hadn’t gotten to yet.

Happily, Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm has started growing an array of hard-to-find fruits, including gooseberries and currents in multiple colors. A couple weeks ago, he cut me a deal on a mixed flat of currants so that I could finally see what all the fuss was about.

Red currants in a stainless steel pot on the stove.

I brought them home and promptly consulted Pam Corbin’s The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (like I mentioned in my gooseberry jam post, she is my first stop any time I’m working with unfamiliar fruit that is common in the UK). I followed her instructions for simmering the fruit in water until soft.

Three cups currant juice, soon to become red currant jelly.

Somewhere in my apartment, I have a jelly bag and draining rig, but I could not put my hands on it the day I started this jelly. I used a nut milk bag to separate the pulp from the juice and it worked nicely.

I also flouted the advice* in the book and squeezed the heck of out of the currant solids, trying to wrest out every last bit of juice (I only started with a little less than two pounds of red currants, so I wanted to get as much from them as was possible). I wound up with three cups of juice, when all was done.

Red currant juice in a pot, soon to become red currant jelly.

Once you’ve extracted the juice, the work of making the red currant jelly is quick. Currants are quick pectin-rich, so all they need is sugar and a few minutes of boiling and they’re ready to set into jelly. I used Pam’s ratio of 1 cup of juice to 1 cup of sugar. While I normally opt for lower sugar preserves, currants are so tart and tannic, that in this case, the sugar doesn’t feel at all overwhelming.

Red currant jelly in assorted jars.

Following Pam’s instructions, I brought the juice to a boil first and then added the sugar. Once combined, I noticed signs of setting within five minutes. The temperature was a gel-friendly 221F and the droplets hanging off the spatula were thing and viscous. In the end, I had four half pints of glowing, gorgeously red jelly.

*Both Pam and conventional wisdom says that if you squeeze the bag, you’ll end up with cloudy jelly. I don’t particularly care if my jelly isn’t perfectly clear, so I pressed and squeezed that bag. I got an additional 1/2 cup of juice for my efforts, so it was well worth it.

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Yellow Plum Apricot Jam + Facebook Live

This little batch of yellow plum apricot jam is sweetened with honey and is gorgeously sunny and bright.

yellow plum apricot jam

A giant thank you to everyone who joined me on Facebook Live last night! I had a great time talking my way through a batch of jam and answering your many canning questions. I had such a good time that I’m going to do it again next week. Join me again on Tuesday, July 19 at 9 pm EDT/6 pm PDT. I’m not sure what I’ll make yet, but I’ll announce it over the weekend (when I have a better idea of what produce I’ll have on hand).

If you missed it last night, you can still watch, and in fact, the video is embedded below. Just skip over the first 3 minutes, because I started a little early to make sure the technology was going to work and then left it running while I finished getting ready. I won’t do that next time. Live and learn.

Finally, the recipe I made last night is after the jump. You could easily double the batch, should you wish! It’s set up with Pomona’s Pectin, so there’s a bit more flexibility in the size of the batch than there is when you’re not working with pectin.

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Tiny Batch Gooseberry Jam

In possession of just a few gooseberries? Make this tiny batch gooseberry jam!

A single pint of green gooseberries.

I have a standing work date with my friend Audra. Once a week, we meet up at a coffeeshop to catch up, do a little work, and do our best to shake off the inevitable sense of isolation that comes when one works from home.

Audra and I met in early 2009 because we both happened to be Philadelphians who were blogging about food preservation (she was once the primary voice behind the site, Doris and Jilly Cook). While our friendship has long since expanded beyond the kitchen, we do often find ourselves on the topics of cooking, gardening, and sourcing produce for our canning pots.

Eight ounces of trimmed gooseberries, in a saucepan.

A few weeks ago (and knowing that I would appropriately value them), Audra showed up with a pint container of gooseberries from the bush in her backyard. Gooseberries are notoriously hard to come by in Philadelphia (at the turn of the last century, they were thought to harbor a fungus that was a threat to pine forests, and so were banned in many states. Their commercial production has yet to recover) and so my excitement was audible.

Once home with the container of gooseberries, I debated how to best make use of my small cache. I pondered incorporating them into some larger recipes, before deciding that their highest purpose was to become a tiny batch of gooseberry jam.

My tiny batch gooseberry jam, in a 12 ounce jar.

I consulted The River Cottage Preserves book (written by Pam Corbin, who is the reigning queen of gooseberries) to refresh my memory on ratios and preparation before diving in. With so few berries, it took no time to trim away the tops and tails, before heaping them in a pan.

I made this jam with one part fruit and one part sugar, by weight (it’s more sugar than I normally use, but gooseberries are quite tart). I also added a generous splash of water, to dampen the sugar until the berries burst and added their liquid. The finished jam vibrates with the tangy essence of gooseberry and I’m saving the sole 12 ounce jar I made as a mid-winter treat.

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Strawberry Ginger Jam

strawberry ginger vertical

Strawberry season is breathing its last gasps, and before it’s over for good, I wanted to share one last recipe.

Flat of strawberries

This recipe for strawberry ginger jam is one that I can’t quite believe I haven’t shared at some point in the past. Truly, I thought I’d posted every variation on strawberry jam that was possible. Happily I was wrong.

strawberries in a colander (1)

This jam gets its kick from a goodly application of freshly grated ginger root. I’ve found that there’s no better tool for grating ginger than a microplane zester.

sugared berries

With small berries, I don’t even bother to chop them. Instead, half way through cooking, I go in with a potato masher (this is my favorite) and work them until the fruit is pulverized. It works nicely and saves you a goodly amount of knife work.

finished strawberry ginger jam

Finally, if I’d had my wits about me, I would have canned this one in five half pint jars (as that makes for better quantities for sharing). However, I was clean out of half pints the day I made this jam and so used a motley collection of pints and quarter pints.

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Low Sugar Apricot Strawberry Jam

This sweet, tangy, and bright apricot strawberry jam is the perfect marriage of early season stonefruit and juicy berries. Try it stirred into yogurt or as a glaze for roast chicken.

A stainless steel pan, filled with chopped apricots and strawberries.

Several weeks ago, before the local season for either apricots or strawberries started, I found myself wandering through Reading Terminal Market. I was there to pick up a few things for a recipe development gig, and had no intention of buying out-of-season fruit that had traveled great distances.

A stainless steel pan filled with sugared apricots and strawberries.

I was walking with purpose towards the herbs, when the sight of a pile of tiny, brightly hued apricots stopped me mid-step and I was suddenly powerless to resist them. Before I knew what I was doing, I had a plastic bag in my hand and I was filling it with perfect fruit. With the bag nestled into my basket, I went a few more steps before I was again stopped by a display of incredibly fragrant strawberries. They joined the apricots. This is the not the first time I’ve fallen sway to fruit.

The chopped and sugared apricots and strawberries, after they've sat and gotten juicy.

Once home, I snacked on the fruit a bit (both to get a sense of their state of sweet and tart, and because it all smelled so good) and then weighed out what remained. I worked up a recipe ratio in my head and got to the work of pitted, hulling, and chopping.

The fully cooked apricot strawberry jam.

In the end, I used 2 1/2 pounds of apricots and 1 1/2 pounds of strawberries. Using a ratio of four parts fruit to one part sugar, I measured out 2 cups of sugar, which is approximately 1 pound. I settled the fruit into my Kilner jam pan, added most of the sugar, gave it a good stir, and then let it sit for several hours, so that the sugar could dissolve and help draw the juice from the fruit. Later, I added some lemon juice to help balance the flavors, and used Pomona’s Pectin to get it to set up.

Five half pint jars filled with apricot strawberry jam.

Once cooked, I had exactly five half pints of really delicious jam, that starts with the flavor of apricots and finishes with the strawberry. I typically keep a box of recently made jams and preserves next to my front door, so that I can easily grab things to share with friends and neighbors. However, this is one that I’ve actively kept out of the box, because I want to keep it all for myself. It’s just that good.

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Honey Sweetened Strawberry Vanilla Jam

Five jars of honey sweetened strawberry vanilla jam.

If this post is accurate (which, to my best count, it is), there are at least 14 ways to preserve strawberries in the archives of this site. There are yet more versions in my books. And yet, despite all these approaches, I can’t resist adding this honey sweetened strawberry vanilla jam variant to the conversation.

Sliced strawberries in a large pot, with honey drizzling down.

A couple of pieces of advice before you take on this recipe. Number one, use really delicious honey. The flavor of the honey really comes through in this recipe, so you want to use one that tastes amazing (I used some of the honey that Camille from Old Blue Raw Honey gave me when I saw her back in March).

Six jars of honey sweetened strawberry vanilla jam.

My second piece of advice is to get yourself a small stash of grade B vanilla beans from a purveyor like Beanilla. They have all the flavor of the grade A versions, and are markedly cheaper. And if vanilla beans aren’t in the cards for you, a jar of vanilla bean paste is better than vanilla extract, because you’ll still get the speckle and flavor from the seeds.

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