July 29, 2009

red currant jelly

slacker red currant jelly
I found them, the elusive currants and it wasn’t easy. It has been so wet and cold here on the east coast that currants, usually available in June, are now in season. I went on a few walkabouts before finding them, on one of which I found gooseberries, but that’s another story.

The Lorraine region of France produces the most famous currant preserves, Bar-Le-Duc. Currants, hand seeded with goose quills, are suspended in jelly. Considered the caviar of jams its berries pop in your mouth. A jar of this precious stuff, if you could even get it, will set you back $40.00. Originally done by monks, the seeding tradition is now passed down from mother to daughter. I am sorry, but that sounds like a mind dumbing, awful, tedious and might I say, thankless job. I hope they are well paid. Needless to say I am not seeding my currants, nor am I advising my daughter to go out and pursue a career as an épépineuse.

So I give you slacker jelly, poured through my moms trusty jelly bag. Not only did I not seed them but I have been advised, on high authority, to leave the stems on. I did a bit of research on this and came up with three possible reasons for leaving them on. Please, let me know if you can shed any light on the stem mystery.

1. The stems contain pectin
2. The stems add flavor to the jelly
3. Pure laziness and efficiency (I’m going with 3)

This was my first batch of currant jelly so I resisted the urge to add additional ingredients. Currants are high in acid and pectin so they gel quickly.
I love making jelly, it is so easy, no peeling or coring. I used the most basic recipe from the original Joy of Cooking.


  • Currants, washed with stems on
  • Water, ½ cup per lb of fruit
  • Sugar, 1 cup per cup of currant juice


  1. Place currants and water in a non-reactive pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Mash the fruit a bit and continue simmering for 20- 30 minutes. Drain the juice through a dampened jelly bag left to hang over night. Do not squeeze the bag! This will result in a cloudy jelly.
  2. Place equal parts currant juice and sugar in a preserving pot. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is disolved. Raise heat and bring to a slow boil. Skim as needed. Watch carefully for set, it happens quickly.
  3. Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.


  1. Hi, I just wondered if you can only fruits and vegetables and pickles?
    Do you also can meats, soups and stews? I have been canning for nearly 35 years, and I have noticed reading through many blogs that all but a few seem to stick to pickles these days. I still can everything, having grown up Mennonite, I learned to can it all, the average Old Order Mennonite family cans over 1,000 qts of food a year. Not meant a criticizm just and inquiry, I like your blog for all the different things I see here.

  2. @Mitchell: It probably comes down to ease and accessibility, as well as the seasonal nature of fruit and veggies. Canning meat almost always requires a pressure canner, which is a piece of equipment not everyone owns. Plus, most people buy meat from supermarkets, where the quality and prices are generally consistent year-round. Still, if people bought meat locally and outside of feedlots, it'd probably be just as seasonal as other foods.

  3. Mitchell,

    I can primarily fruits and veggies as I do not have a pressure canner (getting one soon). I think most people freeze things like soups and stews. I am eager to try canning tuna though, but will save that project for the winter as right now there is too much glorious produce available. I would be honored if you would share some of your Mennonite recipes.

  4. Nina! Claudia just told me about your blog. Haven't seen you since I made your baby shower cake, then moved to NYC. Was just telling Claudia about a story I wrote for this month's ReadyMade magazine on pickled fruit and vegetables and that's when she started whoopin and a hollerin about you. I am now a faithful follower. Oh and the stems are full of pectin. So are the seeds, and sometimes the stems and seeds are wrapped in a piece of cheesecloth and cooked with the jelly, then removed afterward.
    Whose this Mitchell guy? I want all his recipes. I'm experimenting with curing my own bacon this week...and now I'm rambling. Thanks - LOVE your blog!

  5. Thanks Darling,

    So glad to hear feom you! I am working on a queen annes lace jelly recipe. I hear you have a gorgeous little boy. I am going to Ready Made to check out your article.XO nina

  6. I just finished making my red current jelly and it turned out beautiful! I extracted the juice using a steam juicer. Which was easy and yielded perfectly clear jelly... and delicious.

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