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.

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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)!

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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)!!

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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).

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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…

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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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re-packaging jelly jars

I spent [almost] the entire day ‘re-thinking’ the presentation/packaging of my farm-raised home-made red currant jelly. If you recall, this past Summer, I had several marathon sessions of red currant jelly-making: plain red currant and/or with a hint of rosemary, lemon thyme or sage (and mint)! YUM!

Some will be gifted, but, I’m also hoping to sell ‘surplus’ red currant jelly in my shop!? I can’t possibly eat it all.

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This is what my jelly jars currently look like: simple brown craft paper with twine and three old bitties on a label. The ‘threesome’ represented my two sisters and I, even though ~ W E ~  never made currant jelly together!!? It would have been a blast! [Sidebar: My younger sister and I have had salsa-making parties and was a ton of fun!!]

I like the brown craft paper – simple, less-is-more mentality. The twine can be difficult to work with especially when another finger is necessary to tie the knot!!? If not ‘tight’ enough, they can slip off! Oh dear!

As for the label, the sticky-ness just doesn’t adhere very well, especially if you have crystal-pattern (vs. smooth/plain glass) jars. I usually reinforce with some clear packaging tape. More work/effort! And, truthfully, since my sister passed a few months ago… the threesome just doesn’t seem right.

So, you can really lose track of time perusing Pinterest for brilliant ideas, ‘ya know!!?

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I like the brown craft paper ‘top’ (five-inch round will do). I ‘personalized’ it with a Sheepy Hollow rubber stamp [I ordered quite some time ago on Etsy]. I thought the heavy/thick rubber band was a good alternative to the twine; less fussy. But, I love the R E D butcher’s twine – perhaps for a few special jars!??

Ebenezer: I must have a label… label label label label label! ((My fav movie at Christmas-time, A Christmas Carol, 1951))

Possibilities: I thought ‘over-the-top’ slip of paper was workable, but, it clearly hides interferes with my cute sheepy stamp. Does it really matter??

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How about a tag over the side (with all the pertinent info) also attached by slipping it into the rubber band? Perhaps a colorful piece of washi tape to affix it to the jar at the bottom, if necessary????? UGH!?

… AND THEN I REMEMBERED I ALSO HAVE 4-oz. JELLY JARS, half the size of the pint-size jars you see in the photos!!! NOOOOOOOOOO!!

So, back to the drawing board!! However, before I leave, I just want to say, GO MAKE JELLY [or whatever] WITH A LOVED ONE!!! Hugs!

Jellymaking: red currants

Jelly making won’t wait. When the currants are ripe/nearly ripe, they need to be harvested… or the birds will do the picking for you!

So, I recently made red currant jelly.  It took me a total of three days: picking, de-stemming (is that a word?) and a full day of jelly making. F O U R batches of red currant jelly from one currant bush!!

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Cleaned, washed and de-stemmed red currants. Crushing the currants help release their juice. The recipe says to simmer on low for 15-minutes. I use a food mill and then wire mesh strainer to remove all the seeds while measuring the juice per my recipe. [I don’t use a jelly bag.]

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Bring the juice to a simmer, add the sugar [and pectin, optional] and stir. Bring to a full rolling boil for EXACTLY [it sounds very scientific] one minute and fill jelly jars immediately. Since I picked enough red currants for four batches of jelly, I ‘flavored’ each batch with a different fresh herb from my garden. I used rosemary, sage and lemon thyme. I have used mint in the past [and I would really like to try basil in the future]. My favorite??? No contest!! Rosemary!!! So, I made a double batch with rosemary.

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Currants have a lot of natural pectin and sets-up immediately.

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I hot pack all my jelly.

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Viola!! We have red currant jelly! All in a day’s work… that is, three days work! YUM!

catch-up

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Catch-up??!! Now, there’s an oxymoron!! Is it ever possible, I wonder?? I find great joy [if only momentarily], in crossing-off something on my ‘To-Do’ list, only to replace it with at least another half-dozen more things to-do!! I NEVER lack for things to do…do you???

Today, I’ll be making currant jelly +++ finally+++ after having picked/prepared the juice earlier this summer and freezing it. So, now I’m ready to make jelly!! YAY! I hope I have enough jelly jars on-hand!

Happy Day!

Too hot to handle

Hello dear friends!

It’s been unusually HOT HOT HOT here in Michigan, and elsewhere!

I’ve been keeping a vigilant watch on all my critters! I lost my Jersey Wooly bunny (she was only five) earlier this week – I can only attribute her sudden death to heat stress?

I’ve been dragging out the garden hose to water the veggie garden – a ‘downside’ to raised beds – they tend to dry out very quickly! Katie and I managed to pick the red currants for jelly making…before the wildlife got them all! I spent the evening hours de-stemming the berries (a very time-consuming undertaking, but that’s the way I prefer to prep them for my jelly). If you’re not familiar with currants, they grow in little clusters.

I was able to extract enough juice to make several batches of currant jelly. However, due to time constraints, I put all the juice in the freezer…for jelly making LATER…perhaps a chore for the next rainy day? I hope it works!?

I found this awesome RASPBERRY jam label in a recent issue of Flea Market Style. It’s a FREE download from Heather Bullard at www.heatherbullard.com to see more!

What could possibly be more FUN than a get-together with girlfriends to make farm fresh jam, pickles, cheese or whatever happens to be in season??? What’s the old saying…many hands make light work?

I’ve been busy making cheese and doing a little experimenting with different cultures, pH and such. I have yet to try goat’s milk cheddar. But, more on that later.

Yesterday, we made CAJETA – a Mexican caramel-like treat from goat’s milk. I should have done more homework – didn’t realize it would require several hours of stirring over a simmering pot (in +90 degree weather!) before achieving the right caramel consistency! But, a worth-while endeavor! YUM!!! I love caramel topping over ice cream. I’ve heard it makes a nice fruit dip (for apples too). Don’t ya think a jar of Cajeta with string and a pretty label would make a delightful gift!? Just thinking out loud…

The recipe for Cajeta is quite simple. You’ll need 3 quarts goat’s milk (you may substitute fresh cow’s milk), 3 cups sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 2 tablespoons corn starch (optional). Dissolve baking soda and corn starch into 1 cup milk and stir well to dissolve lumps. Add this to rest of milk and add sugar. Bring mixture to the boiling point, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low simmer and stir every 15 minutes or so until mixture is thick and looks like caramel sauce (several HOURS). Pour into clean jars, cool and refrigerate. Note: Jars may be further processed in a hot water bath. Tighten lids and rings and boil in hot water bath for 20 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool undisturbed for 24 hours.

Here’s my ‘finished’ jar of Cajeta…recipe included on back of tag…inspired by Heather!

Enjoy!