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