I’m still not quite firing on all cylinders with jet lag, a nasty cold and the shock of re-entry into parenthood… Taking a break from being a mummy was such a luxury but you’re soon reminded of the stamina it takes to keep the wheels of the family machine turning!
So what could be more soothing than hanging out in my mum’s kitchen getting a laid back lesson in jelly making while the boys enjoy the retro toys on offer from my childhood. The Fisher Price garage never fails to entertain them.
Mum’s jam masterclass back in July after a family fruit picking adventure really gave me an excellent grounding in preserves.
It inspired me to knock out some plum jam in September which turned out really well and has pretty much all been scoffed.
So now it’s onto jelly. For me redcurrant jelly is the perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, but it is also a great ingredient to add to gravy to give it a sweet quality which is ideal with lamb or venison. I’m sure there are loads of other uses for it too!
Mum had been given some redcurrants from our old garden, so she put them straight in the freezer until she was ready to make jelly.
I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of the process. It starts out like making jam, boiling up the fruit with water until it mulches down and the pectin’s been released. You don’t even have to take the redcurrants off the stems.
Then you move on to the straining process which I think looks like some kind of dark art. Quite on theme with Halloween around the corner. The crimson liquid drips through the muslin bag… Drip, drip, drip… Mwahahahaha!
It’s best to leave this spooky practice to unfold overnight so you get every last drop. And you should NEVER squeeze the bag… No no no! Jelly needs to be completely clear, but if you squeeze it it’ll become cloudy.
So once you’ve got your extract you can continue with the process to make your yummy jelly. Or you could simply freeze the extract and make the jelly another time.
Redcurrants (fresh or frozen)
1. Put your redcurrants in a large jam pan and add water – but don’t completely submerge the fruit. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the currants mulch down nicely.
2. If you like, perform the pectin test using some meths. Take two small jars. Fill one 1/3 full with meths. Put some fruit mulch in the other. Pour the meths on top of the fruit and swirl it around for a few seconds. Then pour the mixture slowly back into the empty jar and if the fruit gathers in a jelly-like blob then the pectin has been released. If not, simmer the fruit for a bit longer and perform the test again.
3. Set up your strainer over a bowl. Spoon your fruit into it and leave it to strain for a good few hours, ideally overnight. DO NOT SQUEEZE IT!!!!
4. Pour your fruit extract into a measuring jug. Use this measurement to calculate how much sugar you need to use. The basic rule is 1 pint of liquid = 1 pound of sugar. We had 2.5 pints of extract so used 2.5 pounds of sugar.
5. Return the liquid to the pan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile warm the sugar in the microwave and then stir into warm liquid until it’s dissolved.
6. Put your thermometer into the pan and bring the liquid up to a rolling boil until setting point is reached. For more on how to check this, see my jam masterclass post.
7. Pour the liquid into sterile and warm jars, screw lids on and leave to cool before labelling.