A close friends has an allotment, and it was (and still is) FULL of blackcurrants. Blackcurrants…well, they aren’t my favourite fruit, and to be honest I was disgusted by them when I first moved to Britain (ie I thought they tasted, well, musty or something). FYI: everything blackcurrant flavoured in Britain is grape flavoured in America (and probably all of North America). So, blackcurrant kindof took me by surprise. Anyway, my friend gave us about a bushel of blackcurrant branches laden with fruit. My husband and I thought–hey, lets make some jam. Now, I’ve never made jam before. My mom made some strawberry jam when I was younger, and although she canned alot of vegetables, she never ‘jammed’ alot. So, this was my maiden jam voyage.
I found a reciped in a battered copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook (an edition from the 70s…you should see the glorious pictures). Basically, with most jam, it seems that you have to match fruit and sugar pound for pound. Not with blackcurrants. The recipe called for 4 lbs of blackcurrants and 6 (6!) lbs of sugar. We ended up making half of this recipe (due to lack of jars and fear of disastrous failure).
I simmered the cleaned and de-stalked fruit in a large stock pot with about 1 1/2 pints of water. The reciped said to leave the fruit for about 30-45 minutes, or until the skins were soft. Once this was done, I took the pot off the heat and added all the sugar, stirring it until it dissolved. Then, I put the pot back on the burner and CRANKED the heat so the mixture really came to a rolling boil. I used a food thermometer make sure the jam got to its set point (about 221 degrees F). Once the jam got to this magic temperature (it took another 30 minutes or so), I spooned a little out onto a cold plate. After it cools for a moment, the jam mixture should develop a ‘skin’ and when you poke it, the skin should wrinkle up. Once our jam mix did that, I turned off the heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The recipe said to do this so that the whole fruits wouldn’t swell up in the jars, and although I timed everything, I still think it would have been best to only let it cool for 5 minutes or so. The jam jars should have been cleaned and stuck into a warm oven in order to heat the glass up gradually (otherwise, when boiling hot jam is put into cold ones, the glass will shatter into a million tiny, globuled pieces).
I put the jam into the jars while it was still pretty hot. I placed greaseproof paper over the jar top and then, while holding down the popper, I screwed on the lid. I was told that the collective heat from the jam and jar would suck the popper down, sealing the jam. This happened with one and not the other jar. Then, the next morning, both were de-poppered. So, really, I don’t know what I could have done, save not letting the jam cool for so long. I do remember, when my mother canned, her putting the filled and lidded jars into a boiling pot of water to seal them, but I didn’t want to risk it without knowing for sure what to do.
For all intensive purposes, I consider this batch of jam a success! The jam set wonderfully, not runny and deliciously spreadable. The texture is nice, and the taste…mmmm! Its tart and tangy, but nice and sweet. The sugar really helped, and I understand why there was so much now. I might try with a little less next time, but no too much less. My husband and I now have high hopes for jam-making in the future, and I’d especially like to try a recipe I’ve found for apple and ginger jam. I’ll keep you posted on any futher jam adventures!