Yesterday I finally picked what I hope may be the last of the redcurrants.
My little patch is tremendously rewarding, although it contains fewer than 10 plants.
The first picking, a week ago, yielded enough for 15 jars of beautiful jelly, and yesterday’s picking was more than a gallon – so another 20-30 jars.
Redcurrants are perfectly hardy here, and may be increased by layering, or by soaking the prunings until they make roots and then planting out. They are little harmed by pests.
The juice is sour, very acidic, and very high in the important winter vitamins, C and A.
The best method of preservation is to turn them into jelly. It is easy, essentially fool-proof, and you will love it for your morning toast or as a wash for fruit tarts or their bottom crusts.
Have ready sealable jars of your favorite size, new canning lids, and a good strainer lined with muslin (I have a wire gizmo with three legs that can stand right in the draining pot. This is great if you find one, and it also works well for straining yogurt.)
METHOD: Pick the whole of each cluster of fruits and put them into a stainless bowl, not worrying too much about leaves and stems. When you have done a bit more than you can stand, move to a shady place and sort through the crop, discarding any stems, leaves, cinch bugs or dried-up berries. Rinse under cold water and discard any floaters.
In a large stainless steel pan, put about ½ cup water and the cleaned and rinsed berries. Cook slowly until they lose nearly all their color. Strain through the muslin and measure. To the washed pot, add an equal volume of granulated sugar. Heat again to a rolling boil and until the juice hovers on the lip of a metal spoon and then comes off in a small sheet.
Immediately pour into the hot jars, top with lids, and seal until hand-tight. Set aside to cool, and the next day tip a jar slightly to its side to check the jelling – the jar contents should hold their shape. If they do not hold their shape, empty and wash the jars, re-heat and do this part of the process again. The final texture may take a week to set, especially in larger jars (I nearly always use ½ pint jars. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. This keeps the color strong. White currants will make good jelly, too, but are nothing like as beautiful.