Posts Tagged redcurrants


Once a year, canning buddy and I have a marathon pick ‘n jam session, hitting the market at 7am, then the pick-your-own and then retreating to the house for as many batches of jam as we can be bothered to make. Raspberry and strawberry jams are givens, but there are so many options for things to add and subtract that the fun could go on all day.

We started with this, which included the last of my black cap raspberries from the community garden, and a small container of red currants, also from the garden. They yellow raspberries were a gift. We ate them, unwashed, between batches of jam.

jam3By 4pm, with the shortest possible breaks for coffee and lunch, we had 55 jars of jam, plus a container each of strawberries, raspberries and cherries to keep for eating fresh. It was quite the production line. At any one time we had one or two jams prepped and one on the boil. As soon as the on-the-boil one was ready, we moved one of the prepped jams to the stove and started on that. And rather than waterbathing each batch as we finished it, we did four big water baths of around a dozen jars apiece, coding the lids carefully so we knew which jam was which. It would be so sad to think you’re opening a jar of raspberry lime, and it turns out to be raspberry lemon instead.

jam1We mostly worked with a proportion of 7 cups of fruit, four cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons, which cut the sugar somewhat from our normal 6-4-2 ratio. It seemed to work, although the jams are mostly a little on the runny side. Not a problem my end, given that most of my jams end up in yogurt rather than on bread:

Strawberry raspberry jam (7 jars)
This has to be one of my always-favourite jams, melding two tastes of summer into one glorious mix. It’s so good that I tend to save it rather than open it, so there’s still a jar of 2013 strawberry-raspberry in the cold room.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Yummy. What else can I say?

Raspberry jam (7 jars)
The KISS principle jam. (Keep it simple, stupid). You can’t go wrong with raspberry jam.

Two-cherry jam (5-1/2 jars)
I think this one was half sour cherry, half sweet. We used kiwi instead of pectin. Using kiwi instead of pectin may change my jamming life.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I’m surprising myself with this one. After insisting repeatedly that I don’t like cherry jam, this one is wowing me. I ate it in midwinter, spooned over Greek yogurt or slathered on home-made bread. It was very, very good.

Red-black raspberry jam (6-1/2 jars)
Half red raspberries, half black-cap beauties, like the ones in the black-cap raspberry jam a week or so ago. My arms and legs are still scratched up from picking these. My partner in community garden crime says it’s like we’ve been wrestling with kittens.

Sour cherry jam (4-3/4 jars)
Kiwi for pectin again. Do you see a trend?

Raspberry lime jam (7 jars)
It looked as though we were going to run out of lemons. Besides, it tastes good.

Strawberry lemon verbena jam (5 jars)
This is that New York Times no-pectin strawberry jam again. I’ve done it with mint and with lavender, so it was time to give lemon verbena a try. That came from the community garden too.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I have to admit the strawberry mint is better.

Raspberry-mint-chocolate jam (7-3/4 jars)
The jury is still out on this one. We threw chocolate chips in at the end, and they didn’t melt in that well, so we have chocolate blobs as well as raspberry seeds. And I’m not 100 percent convinced about the idea of raspberries and mint. But it might grow on me.

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of 5). In all honesty, I can barely taste the mint, and the chocolate blobs are a little disconcerting. The spouse says they taste of soap. But it works nicely with plain yogurt or with home-made bread.


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Blink and you’ll miss it

reducrrant jelly3I always forget how easy jelly is, especially if you’re using redcurrants, which I suspect consist of 99 percent pectin. I picked a small container of them at the garden this week, added the few dozen berries from our own crowded out redcurrant bush and simmered them up with a drizzle of water last night before leaving the goop to drip overnight. The recipe says weigh the liquid, add an equal weight of sugar and then boil up for five minutes until it sets. I didn’t even add the juice of a lemon.

redcurrant jelly2

All I can say is that redcurrant jelly doesn’t need anywhere near five minutes to set. I had 218 grams of liquid, according to my trusty digital scale. So I added 190 grams of sugar, heated gently until the sugar melted, and then boiled the liquid. By the time I looked back round from setting the timer, the bubbling mix had that jelly tone already, and my set test proved that there was no need to wait any longer. What was that, a 3-minute boil? Maybe even less. It was all over before I’d even had time to make my morning coffee.

I poured into hastily sterilized jars (one regular jar and half a small one), and sealed them. Too small a batch to think about water bathing. There’s plenty of room in the fridge.

redcurrant jelly

Very productive.

Rating: 4(out of 5)

This is a lovely jelly, soft enough to spoon from the jar, and firm enough to spread on bread. It’s tart, but not too tart, and the PBJ (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) it makes might even be better than the PBM (peanut butter and marmalade) I’ve been taking on bike rides up to now.

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Simple small-batch stuff

Last year I discovered the small-batch jam, throwing together the ingredients needed for 2-3 jars and giving the botulism killing waterbath a miss because I knew I’d eat it all up so fast. And it was such fun that I’ve kept the process going this year, even though I’m also back with the bigger-volume madness like last month’s massive raspberry-plus adventure.

The sour cherry vanilla jam I wrote about here was one example of the small-scale stuff, and I riffed on that last week with a  similar cherry-redcurrant venture.  I added a cup of redcurrants instead of one of the apples, and I boosted the sugar too, because I was afraid of too much bite. It set within minutes.

Sour cherry redcurrant jam (based on last week’s recipe that was in turn based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
1 quart pitted sour cherries (I think it came out as 4 cups)
1 chopped, peeled apple
1 cup redcurrants
3 (and a bit) cups sugar

Simmer fruit for 15 minutes until they are soft. Add sugar, in 3-4  batches,  bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets.

Lovely taste, but a notch too much of a set, and it’s a little sweet. Three cups of sugar would  have been plenty. Maybe even two and a half.

It’s still a cherry jam though. I still suspect that cherries are best enjoyed raw.

So given that the super-short sour cherry season is already over, I moved on to apricots, after finding a farm stand in Niagara that had clearly escaped the apricot eating frost we got earlier this year.

I mixed a couple of recipes, did a lot of guesstimating and ended up with this.

It was actually a three-day recipe, because I chopped the apricots up on Sunday and let them sit with the sugar in the fridge until Tuesday because I didn’t think I had time to cook them up.

And then, of course, I realised that apricot jam takes no time at all to cook. I won’t post a recipe, because it was all a bit hit and miss, but basically I chopped up 2 quarts of apricots, added 3 cups of sugar and the juice of a lemon and a bit and let it sit around for a while. Then today, I cracked open the apricot stones to get the kernels and threw a couple of bitter kernels into each of my five sterilized jars.

Next stage was the boil, which took maybe 5 minutes, because the sugar was more or less melted before I started, and finally I threw in a handful of redcurrants to produce the red streaks we liked so much a few years back.

Curious factoids about apricot jam. It foams like mad at the start, but the foam disappears to produce a clear, apricot-colored jam. Watch it carefully. Apricot jam sets fast. Before you know it, it can burn.

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Silly season

Raspberry jam is one of my recommendations for the starter canner, because it’s so easy and so amazingly, deliciously good. Raspberry jam sets in the twinkle of an eye, looks beautiful and tastes like summer, whether you lick out the preserving kettle after the boil-up venture, or whether you serve it on fresh-baked bread in the middle of winter. But we might have gone a little bit crazy after a raspberry picking venture this weekend.

The original plan was  cherry jam, mostly for canning buddy, and raspberry jam, mostly for me, and perhaps one or two more if we felt really enthusiastic. But after picking 10 pounds of raspberries in something under an hour, as well as smaller quantities of strawberries and peas, we moved into overdrive, with an intense production line of six different sorts of jam that filled the whole house with the smell of summer.

Cherry jam
I admit this isn’t my favorite jam, and I ended up with cherry syrup last year after trying to wing it without a recipe.  But canning buddy likes it, and the spouse is a fan as well, so there was no choice. We followed the Bernadin recipe, we used pectin (which I usually resist) and we got five jars. Pit cherries, add pectin, add sugar and boil for just over a minute until it sets. I may have got the order wrong on that one. I will make it another version when the sour cherries roll in later this month and will post a proper recipe then.

Raspberry jam
This was the main point of the fruit picking exercise, and we liked the idea so much we did it twice, once with the basic “best every raspberry jam” recipe  from “Jellies, Jams and Chutneys” (one pound sugar, one pound raspberries) and once with my tried and tested 4-3-2 ratio (four cups fruit, three cups sugar, juice of two lemons). I admit I think raspberry jam needs lemons to give it a kick, but will wait for a more formal taste test to determine if this is true.

Raspberry cherry jam

Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves was our inspiration for this one, although we only had one type of raspberry (she suggests black raspberries and red raspberries) and we had sweet cherries rather than sour. We used two pounds of raspberries, one of cherries, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and a mere 2-1/2 cups of sugar. It set fast, and is deliciously tart.

Raspberry strawberry jam
We made this one up, on the 4-3-2 principle. Two cups raspberries, two cups strawberries, three cups sugar, juice of two lemons. Heat gently until sugar dissolves, then boil like crazy until it sets. It takes a little longer to set than raspberry jam does, but has a lovely taste.

Raspberry redcurrant jam
4-3-2 raspberry jam recipe, with a generous handful of redcurrants thrown in at the end for fun.

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Apricots vs raspberries vs strawberries

Each time I think I have a favorite jam, another one comes along and bumps it off the list, and this year I’m struggling to decide between three of my favorite summer fruits, strawberries, raspberries and apricots.

I fell in love with strawberry lavender jam when I made it early in the summer (I liked it so much that I made it twice), and then I fell in love with a raspberry lime jam made with fruit from the front yard.

My latest love affair is with apricots, and I haven’t even started thinking about last year’s favorite peach peppercorn jam yet.

I already blogged about the apricot jam I made one evening a couple of weeks ago, and there have been two more micro batches since, an apricot rosemary jam and an attempt to recreate the apricot redcurrant jam we’ve been making every year since we started this can-and-jam adventure. The apricot rosemary has a wonderful taste, and it certainly set like a charm. But it’s a little bit woodier than I would have liked, even though I thought I chopped the rosemary virtually to dust with my sharpest knife. Maybe I need to separate every single bit of stem even more carefully rather than just stripping the leaves off by hand and hoping I did it right, or maybe I need to find another herb.  And after almost burning my first apricot jam of the year, I think we were too cautious with the apricot redcurrant, which is a little runny and not really very redcurranty at all.

(Oh, and my thanks to the cat for again conceding to pose for the picture. Her name is Billie. The spouse complains that she’s getting rather fat, but I promise it’s not from jam.)

Other ventures in a quickfire Saturday morning can-o-rama were a tried and tested apricot lemon chutney (also a little runny), and a peach chutney from Doris and Jilly Cook that was a recommendation from the awesome Food in Jars Facebook feed (and web site). It’s also a little runny, if truth be told. We got impatient, perhaps.

There are so many bloggers/canners/jammers out there, that I really feel pretty insignificant.

And a question:

The blackberry bushes are almost as prolific as the raspberry ones were earlier this year (and the zucchini have got out of hand again). Do we just eat them fresh, or does anyone have a knock-your-socks off blackberry jam recipe to share?

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Less than five dozen jars to go

I did a quick count of the jams and chutneys today, and we’ve crashed below the 60-unopened-jar level, which means all that eating and giving away has made a serious dent in the collection. There are less than a dozen in the fridge (those are the jars that I never got round to water-bathing) and four boxes of jars in the basement, now carefully sorted by age, with the oldest in the box at the top. And excitingly, the sorting unveiled a couple of jars that I had forgotten about, including some 2009 creations that were so special that I saved them rather than opening them. There are a couple of dozen jars of tomato concoctions too, but I was counting jams and chutneys, remember. Crushed tomatoes don’t count.

So for this week, I am opening the seriously spectacular fig-tomato jam from September last year, as well as the July 2009 rhubarb marmalade that ended up forgotten on top in the fridge. I opened it tonight to refresh my memory on the taste, and it’s really rather nice, with a decent set, a pleasant tang and some slightly chewy chunks. It might work with yogurt, or it might need a nice plain pound cake, to counter the sweetness.

Now there’s an idea. A seedcake, perhaps with double the quantity of caraway seeds.

Now I know what my weekend cooking project will be.

That rhubarb marmalade was definitely better than the other 2009 holdout I finished this week, a redcurrant cardamon jam that reminded me why people make jelly out of redcurrants.


Rhubarb marmalade: 4 (out of 5)
Very nice tang, decent chunks, good texture and an unmistakable taste of sweet-sour rhubarb with a little bit of a candied twist.

Redcurrant cardamon jam: 2-1/2 (out of 5)
The taste and the color are specatcular here, and the set is pretty much perfection. But there are too many seeds and too much chewy skin to make a knock-your-socks off jam. And apart from anything else, I really couldn’t taste the cardamon.

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This is not a chutney

Instead, let me present today’s result of a semi professional cooking class that I started this fall, a crab quiche with a crumbly all-butter pastry, and I’m damn well going to eat it with a chutney. Besides it gives me an excuse to update an almost dormant blog with some ratings from a summer of canning and jamming, with a few stars and a couple of so-whats. There already were wonderful successes like tomato basil jam, and the peach peppercorn concoction I took to Santa Fe for sharing there. But what about everything else we made?

Here some comments (in alphabetical order, to avoid any semblance of favoritism for the jars that I really liked.)

Apricot lemon chutney: 4 (out of 5)
This was a bit less chunky than last year, perhaps because the apricots were riper and fruitier. It is a glorious yellow orange, with soft lemon rinds adding a welcome tang and enough heft to pair even with the strongest cheese. I’m rather fond of it with with a creamy goat cheese for a lunchtime sandwich, preferably with avocado or arugula too. But it still needs a bit more zip.

Apple onion relish: 2 (out of 5)
It may be too early to judge this one — we only made it a couple of weeks ago — but it strikes me as not quite rewarding the 2-day process. You slice onions wafer thin and salt them, soak them overnight, rinse, squeeze, rinse, repeat, then add the other ingredients, including two sorts of apples at two stages of the cooking process. It’s nice enough, with a five-spice tang. But so many other things are so much better.

Apricot redcurrant jam: 4 (out of 5)
Also a good set and a lovely apricot tang. It loses a point because the redcurrants in our made-up recipe really only add color and not taste.

Crabapple jelly: 2-1/2 (out of 5)
I made two small batches of this one, and while I’ve only tasted one, I also admit to being a little disappointed. There’s something very satisfying about a jam (or jelly) where most of the ingredients were free, gleaned from a crabapple tree by the side of the road. But it’s a little too sweet and a little too solid. Maybe wild crabapples need to be treated differently from the ones you buy in the store.

Crushed tomatoes
I’m not rating these, because they just taste of very nice crushed tomatoes. But I admit I love the idea that I made them, and I know exactly what went into them. I’ve used two jars in two somewhat different soups, and both were good. Depending on how many soups I make, they may even last out the winter. Something to make again, perhaps in larger quantity.

Pickled fruit 2 (out of 5)
I think I threw a few too many things in this one, with allspice berries, dried orange peel, peppercorns, cinnamon and I can’t remember what else. It works in my breakfast cereal when there’s no stewed fruit to add, but it’s not really special enough to make again. It used a mixture of peaches and plums, canned in vinegar-spice-sugar syrup and it’s a bit of a disappointment. But there’s only one jar left, so it can’t be all bad.

Plum ginger jam: 4 (out of 5)
Careful here. I admit I’m critiquing a jam that canning buddy made. Nice taste, nice color, nice set with seriously big chunks of pleasantly crunchy preserved ginger. But ginger fan that I am, I’m somehow not 100 percent sure about those chunks. I’m voting for grated raw ginger next time.

Raspberry redcurrant jam: 3-1/2 (out of 5)
This was a 2009 jam that somehow managed not to get eaten last year. I think we used redcurrant juice with the raspberries, and they added a welcome tartness. But while the taste is knock your socks off awesome, it actually lost points for being too dense. It’s a bit ironic really, after all those complaints about jams running off the plate. But I like a jam that I can spread, not one that I can cut with a knife.

Strawberry gooseberry jam: 4-1/2 (out of 5)
Saving the best for last, and this one reminds me of summer, with the sharpness of the gooseberries combining well with the strawberry sweetness, and probably giving several extra notches of set as well. It’s a nice rich red with a lot of satisfying fruity lumps, but I can’t quite give it the jackpot, perhaps because jammed strawberries have a slightly overdense texture. But I’ll make this one again. It’s too good not to.

Any requests for next year?

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Thirty five jars?

Now I know it’s fresh fruit season and all that, but whatever possessed me to end up with 35 jars (some of them small) after a marathon canning session today? OK, I am only keeping half of them, and OK I expect to give a lot away, but that’s still a lot of jam. But the fruit at the market was so wonderful, it’s the end of the cherry season, and the apricots have taste this year, so I couldn’t resist. Here, in no particular order, is what we made in a 3-1/2 hour session after an early morning trip to the glorious farmers’ market.

1. Apricot lemon chutney.
This is an old favorite from last year, a deliciously sweet-sour concoction from a recipe book I got at Costco last year. It includes softened lemon peel for tang and ginger and cayenne for bite. We notched the spices up a little, with extra ginger and a little extra cayenne and will wait for a month before tasting. From memory, it’s a chutney that goes amazingly well with both meat and fruit. You can almost eat it by itself, straight from the jar.

2. Sour cherry jam. This is a pretty straightforward creation, easy to make (especially when there’s a volunteer to pit the cherries), and relatively quick to set. Simmer cherries with lemon juice, add sugar, simmer, boil hard, add pectin, boil some more, bottle and enjoy. It will work best with yogurt or vanilla ice cream on a hot summer’s day, of which we seem to have many right now.

3. Sweet cherry jam. This was an experiment from the internet, from a link from a seriously enjoyable blog that I’ve been following off-and-on for a while. Tigress in a Jam sets her readers a monthly challenge of making something to follow a particular theme and another blogger, the aptly named Sugarcrafter, offered a recipe last month for an enticing sounding cherry jam with cardamon, cinammon and rum. I mean how can you go wrong with ingredients like that? We didn’t have rum, so threw in cointreau instead, which seemed sensible at the time. No tasting yet. It filled exactly six jars, two of them little giveaway jars.

4. Apricot redcurrant jam. We made this a couple of years ago, throwing in redcurrants at the last minute after an apricot jam declined to set and then failed to recreate it last year by adding too many redcurrants too early and then letting the jam stick to the bottom of the pan. (This did add a caramel taste). So this time we went back to the original, which was a basic apricot jam (apricots, sugar, lemon juice), with a handful of redcurrants thrown in as we took it off the boil. It’s a brilliant orange with little red spots that don’t really show in the picture. I’m looking forward to trying it.

5. And now things got silly. There were loads of sour cherries left, and lots of apricots too, so we just threw them together for an instant experiment. Three cups sour cherries, two cups chopped apricots, a bit of lemon juice, simmer a little, add 4 cups of sugar and boil until it jams. No clue what it will taste like, but the jewel like color is good.

For those in Toronto, jams are available on request. For those outside Toronto, suggestions on what we could have done better are welcome.

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