Tuesday 29 June 2021

RECIPES - Red currant jelly


Red currant jelly

This year we had a plentiful supply of red currants from our two bushes.

In 2019 we lost almost all of the crop to the birds, so last year I invested in a fruit cage - which has paid off.  I removed the netting to get down on my hands and knees to pick them.

They were real beauties

And I managed to pick 1.25 kilos

In the past I have laboriously spent time taking the currants from the stalks with a fork, but several online recipes suggest it is not necessary to do this if you are making jelly as the stalks will not impair the flavour - if anything they improve it by adding tannin - and they contain pectin which aids the setting and will be removed during the straining process.

Most recipes I have seen are for only 500 grams of fruit as red currants are not usually plentiful and come with a high price, so the figures I give here are for 500g of fruit but I increased all quantities proportionately to take account of my weight of fruit.


500g red currants
500 ml water
Sugar - app 500g*
Juice of half a lemon

*The quantity of sugar will depend upon the volume of liquid after straining - see below.

You will also need a jelly bag or clean sheet of muslin to strain the fruit.  Before I acquired a jelly bag I used to turn a kitchen stool or chair upside down and use drawing pins to fix the muslin to the chair legs to form a bag to strain the fruit and place a bowl underneath. Alternatively you could spread the muslin across a colander - but it's much easier to buy a proper jelly bag and stand!


Wash the fruit to remove any dirt and remove any leaves.  

Place the fruit in a stainless steel or enameled pan - not aluminium nor cast iron (unless enameled) with the water.

Bring to the boil slowly, stir over low heat for about 15 minutes to release all the juice.  

I gave them a bit of a mash with a potato masher to help them on their way.

Leave to cool a little then pour or ladle the contents into a jelly bag to strain and leave for twelve hours or overnight.

Do not be tempted to squeeze the bag - if you do, you will extract more juice and pectin but are likely to end up with cloudy jelly.

Before you do anything with the juice, get your jars ready by sterilising them.  I usually do this by washing and rinsing them and then putting them upside down in the oven at 100C.  Wash and dry the lids and keep covered until you need them.

Measure the volume of juice and pour into the saucepan and add the sugar in the following proportions: for 600mls of juice add 450g sugar - in my youth the general rule for jams and jellies was "a pound to a pint", 1lb sugar to a pint of liquid.  Add the strained juice of half a lemon. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar whilst stirring all the time.

When the sugar has dissolved bring rapidly to the boil and continue boiling until the setting point is reached. 

If you have a sugar thermometer heat to 105C.  If you don't have a sugar thermometer continue boiling for 10 minutes or so, scraping off any scum that forms and then conduct a "setting test".

I do this by what is also called the "wrinkle test". This requires a cold, dry plate or saucer (it's advisable to put a couple in the fridge before you start cooking).  When you think the jelly is ready, drop half a teaspoon on to the cold plate, leave to cool and then touch with your finger - if the surface has formed a skin and wrinkles you have reached setting point, alternatively you can tilt the plate and if the jelly runs off you haven't!   If the setting point has not been reached, continue boiling for another 5 minutes and test again.  You can repeat this as necessary.  Usually you get an early good set with red, white and black currants as they are high in pectin.

When the setting point has been reached, leave to cool a little (not too long or it will start to set) and then pour into the hot sterilised jars.  I use a ladle and jug for this.  If you have one, a jam funnel is useful for avoiding any mess from splashes.

Jam funnel

When you have filled each jar, attach the lid loosely.  When all jars are filled tighten the lids and place the jars in a cool place.  When the jelly is set and cold, store in a cool, dark, dry place.

This jelly is an excellent accompaniment to any fatty roast meat joint such as lamb and is good with venison.  Kids seem to like it spread as jam on anything as it has no bits!

A few years ago I made Red currant jelly with port which added two tablespoons of Port per 1kg of fruit, stirred in to the jelly just as it reaches the setting point and cooling.  BBC Food has a recipe for Red currant jelly with mint which entails adding a sprig of mint to the fruit before boiling and straining and adding chopped mint to the jelly at the setting stage.

John Austin

Hove, June 2021