My red currant bushes are 11 years old now and still produce dependably every year. I wasn’t sure how they would do this year since we built a hoop house right next to them that shades the sun from them a bit. Well, it doesn’t look like they were affected at all. The berries are plump and red and beautiful as usual! According to my harvest notes from last year, I picked 3 3/4 pounds on August 15. So this year they are ready early like the other berries have been.
The weather was dry on Friday evening, so I decided to pick the red, ripe berries. I think they are my favorite kind of berry to pick because they are so easy. Just pluck off the stem with a whole string of berries. Picking goes quickly. I filled up my milk jug and my coffee can in an hour – about 5 1/4 pounds! There are many more left on the bushes too.
I only have a few recipes using red currants. The best I’ve made is Raspberry Currant Jelly, but we don’t have any raspberries right now. Red currants have a pleasant, tart taste, but they have fairly large seeds, so jam isn’t a good choice. Jelly is better. To get the juice out of the berries, I heated up them up with a little water, crushing them with a potato masher and warming the mixture to 165 degrees.
I lined a strainer with cheesecloth setup over a large bowl. I put the mixture in the cheesecloth and let the juice drip out slowly.
When it was about done, I hung it to get out every last bit without squeezing the bag. Squeezing makes the juice cloudy. I simply gathered up the edges of the cheesecloth and tied with cotton string. I have a small nail pounded into the top of my cupboard where I hang the string from when I do my jellies. You could also hang it over a cupboard door.
I let it drip for a few hours then put the remaining pulp in the bag to go to the chickens. I transferred the juice to jars to go in the fridge until the next day. I ended up with about 10 cups of juice.
Normally jelly recipes using commercial pectin call for more sugar than berry juice. I’ve seen on the pectin container there is an option for lower sugar, which interests me because all that sugar makes it hard to taste the berry flavor. Using less sugar in each recipe brings the cost down and will make what we have in our pantry last longer.
I looked up the lower sugar proportions for currants. It calls for 1 1/2 cups currant juice, 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons pectin for 16 ounces. With a little calculation, I converted it to 7 1/2 cups currant juice, 5 cups sugar and 10 tablespoons pectin. I like to use the 12 ounce quilted crystal jars for my jams and jellies. This made 7 (12 oz) jars plus a little extra.
After I processed the jelly, I went ahead and made some syrup since I had all the equipment out and the water bath was still hot. The syrup recipe is 1 cup juice to 2 cups sugar, which I doubled to use up the rest of my juice. I put that in the big stockpot and brought up to 160 degrees while stirring to keep the sugar from burning. I ladled this into 3 (12 oz) jars and processed for 5 minutes in the boiling water bath. Then I lined them up to cool with the jelly and the pickled cabbage I made earlier in the day.