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
- 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.
- 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.
- Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.