Saturday, August 16, 2014
Making Small Batches of Red Currant Jelly
Lately after work I've been making small batches of red currant jelly with the kids. This summer the red currant bushes in our yard outdid themselves in the berry production department, and the kids have been picking loads of berries. They store them on a tray in the freezer and then when I get home we have been making small batches of jelly.
The first couple of times we only made three half pint jars, and last night we made 5 jars. So it is a small batch operation. Since they made it the kids feel ownership and love to give the jelly away and eat it. Jelly on toast has never tasted so good. They've also labelled the jars and made cards for the various people they plan on giving jelly.
Jelly is incredibly simple to make - all you need are jars and lids, berries, sugar, pectin, and cheese clothe. I generally follow the directions that come with the pectin box. The most difficult part is that the directions generally assume that you are buying berries and making big batches - they call for exact amounts of berries to which you add so much sugar etc.
Since I never know how many berries we have or how much juice we'll create, I do it a little differently. I put all the berries in a sauce pan and put in some water - maybe fill up a third of the way through the berries. I turn the heat on and Nora or Stuey mashes all the berries in the pan and stir, stir, stir until the mixture boils. We then pour the mash into cheese clothe set in a bowl and strain out all the seeds, stems and pulp.
Next we measure and pour the juice back into the saucepan. This is when we add the pectin - we generally have to guess the amount based on directions on the packet. And since I am using red currants that have natural pectin I generally go a little on the light side. We then return the mixture with pectin added to a rolling boil. Sometimes I add a splash of lemon juice.
After it reaches a rolling boil we add the sugar. I like to add a little less than an equal amount to the quantity of juice used. Hence if we had 2 1/2 cups of juice I'll add a little over 2 cups of sugar. In general the directions call for the same amount of sugar as juice, but this seems excessive to me - and our jelly seems to taste just fine without the extra sugar!
Stirring constantly we bring the syrup back to a rolling boil. And then we let it boil all foamy, and stirring CONSTANTLY for one minute. Turn the heat off and pour into the jars leaving a little space at the top of each jar (maybe 1/4 inch). In the old days I used to boil the mixture until I could get it to 'double drip' off of a spoon. But the pectin these days seems to set just fine without candy thermometers, double drips etc.
Then following the directions off the packet I put the lids on the jars and put them into a water bath. I boil them under the water for 10 minutes - and then take them out with tongs. And viola - the jars seal. The kids listen for the jar to 'pop' indicating that they have sealed.
Pretty easy and the whole process takes way less than an hour total (not including berry picking).