This recipe series was first published in the summer of 2006 in The Sunday Times, but read on and you'll see it's perfectly relevant 10 years later... and if you want to make it out of season you'll find it's much easier now to buy frozen blackcurrants.
You may not have enjoyed the cold winter and chilly, damp spring, but Britain’s blackcurrant bushes did. Currants need a proper winter to produce a good crop and this year, at last, they got one. The 2006 harvest is looking as if it may be the biggest and best ever. Even after Ribena has taken its huge share of the commercial crop, there should be more than usual left for the rest of us, but the season isn’t long, so don’t hang around. Taking your cue from the recipes below, prepare to recharge your batteries ready for the winter’s onslaught: blackcurrants are high in vitamin C and retain a high proportion of it when cooked. They’re also so packed with flavour that you don’t have to do much to them. Delicious, healthy and easy. What could be better?
Everyone likes homemade blackcurrant jam and there isn’t a fruit better suited to jam making or the novice jam maker. Blackcurrants are rich in acid and pectin, the keys to perfectly set jam. You will need to use sterilised jars, which have been washed and dried, then heated in a moderate oven for 5 minutes.
The quantities here make about 6 jars.
1.4kg granulated sugar
Put the fruit and water into a large heavy-based stainless steel pan. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft (usually 10-15 minutes, but it depends on ripeness).
Meanwhile put a small plate in the fridge to chill, then warm the sugar to hand-hot by putting it in a baking tray or cast-iron casserole in a moderate oven for about 15-20 minutes.
Stir the warmed sugar into the softened fruit and boil fast until setting point is reached. This can take up to 20 minutes, but test after 10, removing the pan from the heat when you do so.
To test for setting point, take the chilled plate from the fridge and put a teaspoon of the liquid on the chilled plate. Wait a minute or two, then push the surface gently with your finger: it’s ready when it has formed a skin which wrinkles when you push it.
Pour the jam into the sterilised jars. Cover each with a waxed disc if you will be keeping the jam for more than two or three few weeks, wipe any moisture from the top of the jars with kitchen paper and put the lids on tightly.
Original photograph by Rob White.