Friday, July 2, 2010

Red Currant Jelly

The community garden is an Eden in my urban neighborhood. Inside its gates, honey bees hover over flowers, powdered with pollen. Squirrels scurry across tree branches that gardeners wove into fences. Rabbits appear out of nowhere, silent and watchful.

The garden is particularly magical by mid-June. Tiny pale blossoms cover the red currant bushes. Within a week, the blossoms transition into the caps of green berries that dangle from branches in loose strands. By mid-July, the berries ripen into a breathlessly regal red. Somewhat translucent, they pick up the sunlight and glow like the uncut rubies once worn by the Nizams of Hyderabrad.

In some ways, I feel silly harvesting such dazzlingly beautiful fruit to make jelly. The berries seem more fit for the hands of jewelers. (Perhaps that's why pastry chefs across Paris use them to crown tarts and tortes and other masterfully crafted confections.) Are there novel ways to incorporate their tart flavor?


Makes about 3 1/2 cups


2 pounds red currants
1/2 cup water
.5 ounce dry pectin 
3 1/2 cups sugar


Gently wash the berries. Pull them off of their little branches and place in a saucepan. Crush the berries with a potato masher or the bottom of a cup.

Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place a 12 x 12 piece of cheese cloth over a bowl. Using a spoon, place 1/3 of the cooked berries over the cloth. Squeeze the berries to release their juice. Repeat with the rest of the cooked berries.

Pour the juice into a saucepan. Mix in the sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pectin. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Carefully remove from heat. Skim off the foam with a spoon.

Cool and transfer to glass jars.

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