Tuesday July 10th 2012, 6:37 pm

pink currants Gloire de Sablon

For anyone reading this in sunnier climes, in the UK it has rained and rained and rained. Other countries have their rainy seasons but our monsoon season always comes as a complete surprise. Even the most determined gardeners have had their endeavours thwarted by perpetual rain. Food producers have lost their crops on flooded land. God forbid, we’re all set for a scarcity of potato crisps in the months ahead! Whatever happens, food is bound to cost us more.
I’d been waiting for a dry sunny day to go and harvest the fruit on my allotment. Despite my lack of horticultural effort this year, I have been rewarded with a fair amount of produce. The berries would no doubt have benefited from a bit more sun, or any sun, but a few days ago I was still able to pick strawberries, raspberries, white, pink, red and black currants, gooseberries and even a handful of alpine strawberries. The currants were tedious to pick and the red ones turned mouldy in an instant, before I had time to get them in the pan. So sad as they are such a glorious fruit. There are still more white currants to harvest as patience got the better of me after stripping 5 bushes. This is my first year of any kind of crop as the bushes were planted just a few years ago.
The pink currants are particularly beautiful and as this is my first opportunity to preserve them I was curious to see whether their marvellous colour would follow through in a jam. They are a variety called Gloire de Sablon. I made the simplest jam with them, just berries, sugar and water, pushed through a food mill to remove the seeds, but not dripped in a jelly bag which would have given a clearer result. The jam has the look of a jelly but with just a tad more texture, a bright tangy flavour and will be eaten with relish on toast for breakfast. All currants contain plenty of pectin, the stuff you need to help jam set, so achieving a firm set shouldn’t be a problem.

pink currant jam


Makes approx 750g (3 x 1/2 pint jars)

550g (1 1/4lbs) pink currants
500g (1lb) sugar
300ml (1/2 pt) water

Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring slowly to a simmer, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until the currants are cooked and burst. Take the pan off the heat, pour the contents into a bowl and leave covered overnight.
Next day push the currants and syrup through a sieve or food mill, collecting the juice and puree in a bowl underneath. Prepare your jars by sterilising them and their lids in a warm oven for 15 minutes or alternatively prepare a water bath, preserving jars and seals, if you plan to process (can) your jam.
Place the puree and syrup in a preserving pan, bring to a rolling boil and maintain to setting point, which should only take around 5-10 minutes. Skim to remove any froth from the edges of the pan, then pour into hot jars and seal. Alternatively, pour into hot preserving jars, seal and water process for 5 minutes. Remove from the water bath and leave to cool for 24 hours before testing the seals.

Sunday August 03rd 2008, 8:11 am

punnets full of summer fruits

Everyone has food stuffs or flavours that they aren’t particularly fond of. Sometimes we decide early on that we don’t like something when in actual fact we just haven’t eaten it prepared in the right way. That’s what I’m like with blackcurrants. I think my mind was made up after drinking Ribena in my youth and without ever having tasted them freshly picked. My neighbours blackcurrant bushes are heaving with fruit right now and noone seems interested in using it up, so not keen to see a crop go to waste I have decided to harvest the berries (I do have permission!) and find ways of using them that might change my mind.
As I am in jam-making mode I thought I’d start with a preserve and am really thrilled with the result. Blackcurrants are a great fruit to work with as they have a distinctive flavour with a tart kick, quite similar to damsons, which I really love. The recipe that follows is somewhere between a jelly and a jam; it is without the bits, as the skins and seeds are pureed out, but doesn’t need straining through a muslin bag as required to make clear jelly. The resulting jam has more body and texture than a jelly. Rather than the fruit being boiled to smitherines, the cooking time is minimal and so ends up absolutely bursting with flavour. This jam has a lower sugar content than usual which gives a lovely softish set and as the skin of the currants are removed there is no need to cook them first by boiling the fruit in water. It has just the right sharpness to make it ideal as the filling for a chocolate cake and is fab slathered on sourdough toast. This jam has turned me into a blackcurrant enthusiast, it’s that good.

1 Kg blackcurrants, leaves and stalks removed
800g granulated sugar
1 lemon

Choose ripe or slightly under ripe fruit. Rinse the fruit if you must but make sure to drain off the excess water by patting dry with kitchen towel. Place the blackcurrants, sugar and juice of the lemon in a preserving pan. Gradually bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar then remove from the heat. Pour into a glass or ceramic bowl and cover with greaseproof paper pushed down onto the surface of the fruity syrup. Leave in the refrigerator overnight. (I went away for a couple of days at this stage with no adverse effects!)
Put the fruit and syrup through a food mill fitted with a fine disk or push through a sieve held over the preserving pan to remove the skins and seeds. Bring the resulting puree to the boil, stirring occasionally, and cook at a fast boil until it reaches setting point (it only took me 5 minutes). Skim if required and pour into hot clean jars, filling right up to the top and seal, preferably with screw top lids. Cool the jars upside down.

A punnet of blackcurrants