red currant jelly: fancy edition

Growing up, we always had a veggie garden. We also had a small variety of fruit trees on our suburban lot, including several red currant bushes. So, it’s not unusual that I also have two currant bushes in my garden, one red and one white.

I religiously harvest the red currants (late June) and sometimes not very often, the white currants. I was told by a ‘professional chef’ that the white currents do not have much flavor compared to the red currants!? Well, I don’t know about that, because I think the white currants are actually a bit sweeter (than the red) and produce a pale pink ‘jelly’. Perhaps the pink/light blush colored currant jelly isn’t as appealing/traditional??

But, I digress! Earlier this month, I picked enough red (and a few white) currants to extract the juice for three ‘future’ batches of jelly. In all my years of jelly-making, I have never used a jelly bag! I’ve used kitchen towels and layers of cheese cloth which time-and-time-again simply ‘blinded’ and made a mess of everything.

currants_farmfresh

Red currant harvest from one bush.

I finally surrendered knowing that my red currant jelly would never receive a blue ribbon (for lack of clarity) at the Fair. Instead, I typically use a food mill to obtain the juice (and some pulp which coincidentally contain all the good health essentials… according to my sister) and a fine sieve to catch any wayward seeds. The remaining ‘juice & pulp’ is delicious nevertheless (but, definitely NOT the gorgeous clarity of red currant jelly)!

red currants

De-stemmed and washed.

Most recently, I picked the last of the remaining ripened red (and a few white) currants. I honestly did not believe I would have enough JUICE to make another batch of red currant jelly! I began to investigate the history of red currant jelly and look for alternate recipes.

Beekman Boys

I found an interesting read at Beekman1802 here. Josh and Brent have a wonderful article about red currant jelly and their recipe here.

Did you know…? “In France, the clarity of a homemaker’s currant jelly was long considered an indicator of her wifely skills. In fact the french are so enamored with this tart berry that a small town in Northeast France has been producing what might be the world’s most expensive jam since 1344.”

Next, while I thought I would not have enough red currants, I began to ponder what ‘juice’ I might use to supplement the extracted juice necessary for the recipe… about six cups of this wonderful ‘jewel-like’ red beauty?!  Did you know… a mere three ounces of this specialty jam retails for more than $40 in the U.S.??? What??? My pantry-full of red currant jelly is worth a fortune and should be under lock ‘n key!! HAHA

Then I thought +++WINE+++. I thought about a locally cultivated Michigan wine (versus a commercially manufactured grape or apple juice) that would compliment my red currant elixir?? I’ve seen a lot of wine jelly at craft shows in recent years… so, why not add a bit of wine instead? Another recipe/how-to search ensued. Wine jelly recipes abound and was simple enough for a well-seasoned jelly-maker like moi! Here’s one using a Riesling wine!

Next, I barred no expense!! Since this was going to be a supreme fancy red currant jelly, I decided to purchase my first jelly bag (just like Josh and Brent)!!

red-currant-jelly-3

But, I found my jelly bag at Meijer for $6.99. WOOT!! Next, I prepared my red currants by removing the stems and giving them a gentle wash (any missed leaves, etc, float and can be easily removed). I actually followed the Beekman1802 recipe to make my jelly… I actually had eleven cups of red currants (more than the requisite 10-cups).

juice_jelly bag

After allowing the juice to drain overnight, I measured only four cups juice. BOO!!!

Pulp from red currants.

Pulp from red currants.

The 'juice'.

The ‘juice’.

WHAT!!!???? Only four cups of the elixir!??? I was very careful NOT to squish the pulp through the bag… since I was also looking for award-winning clarity. HAHA

I would need an ‘award-winning’ local Michigan wine to supplement my red currant juice for the jelly recipe! I selected a red wine from Chateau Grand Traverse also found at Meijer!

Drum-roll please…

my jelly_sheepyhollow

The Mr., my mom (who’s 90 years-old) and myself had a great evening making our ‘fancy’ red currant & wine jelly (about an additional 2-cups of wine was necessary)… and enjoying the rest of the bottle of Select Sweet Traverse Red wine! So good!!

The final product!

The final product!

Lovely red currant (and wine) jelly!

Finally, crystal clear jelly!

Finally, crystal clear jelly!

Something homemade and delicious to go with our farmstead goat cheese!!

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12 thoughts on “red currant jelly: fancy edition

  1. Need somewhere to ship the surplus? 😉 My one bush never really thrived, not sure why. I need to get another one or more, I like jam made with halfnhalf red and black currants.

    • Thank you! I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted black currants!! 😦 I’ve already gifted four jars of this deliciousness and love to share the bounty! Unfortunately, currants and gooseberries are not widely grown today. Their lack of popularity is due to unfamiliarity, the home gardener’s preference for other fruit species, and disease problems. Early in the 1900’s, white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) became a serious disease problem in the United States. White pine blister rust requires both a Ribes species and white pine to complete its life cycle. The disease causes little harm to currants and gooseberries, but is often deadly to white pines. In an attempt to prevent the spread of white pine blister rust, the federal government banned the planting and cultivation of currants and gooseberries early in the twentieth century. The federal government lifted the ban in 1966. Several states, however, still ban the planting and cultivation of black currants. (Black currants are very susceptible to white pine blister rust, gooseberries and red and white currants are somewhat resistant.)

    • Too pretty to eat!! That clarity, haha! That’s a FIRST for me too. I know you can add a bit of water or apple or grape juice (to make-up the volume you need). Then I thought why not wine? I used not quite 2-cups (the alcohol flashes off), so about 2/3 red currant juice and 1/3 wine. It’s very good!!! I would use a wine that you really like so you’re not disappointed. America’s test kitchen had a recipe for wine jelly and they actually ‘reduced about 1/3 of the wine to concentrate the flavor and then added it to the balance of the wine for jelly making!

  2. Red currant jelly is not only beautiful to look at but goes with anything!!! I love it…on cheese, on cakes, on biscuits, with sautéed sweet onions, and garlic and than let sausages simmer in it, on cottage cheese pie for breakfast…ohmy, can you tell how much I love red currant jelly ;0) Wonderful to have some wine left too, xo Johanna
    ps great photos!!

    • I’ve been making current jelly for a long time. It was THE first time I used a jelly bag and ohhhh, the clarity of the jelly!! Last year, I infused several different batches with herbs. Rosemary was my hands-down favorite. Lemon thyme was ‘meh’. Sage and mint (very traditional) was also good. I would like to infuse basil into a batch… I have three batches already extracted/prepped and in the freezer. All from one red currant bush. I also wish I had a black currant bush!

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