Jam season is upon us. And there’s nothing subtle about jam-making. Not in my book anyway. No nuance, no vagueness. Just big, intense flavours and twee, chintzy jam lids.

This week I’ve been let loose in my neighbour’s envy-inducing fruit cage to strip the redcurrant bushes. They are enormous and weighed down with fruit. I pick nearly 6kg from just one plant.

Back in the kitchen there’s only one thing on my mind. Redcurrant jelly. Is there anything else to made with redcurrants? Is there anything more eternally useful? I doubt it. (Actually I do find something, more of which later).

Redcurrant Jelly

I take instruction from Pam ‘the jam’ Corbin of River Cottage since her Preserves handbook has never failed me. It’s a long process and quite messy, but here we go…

  • 1kg redcurrants
  • granulated sugar
  • sterilised jam jars

Wash the redcurrants (no need to strip them from the stems or top and tail them) and put them in a preserving pan with 400ml of water. Simmer until soft (about 45 minutes). Strain through a jelly bag for several hours taking care not to poke or prod as this will result in a cloudy jam (cue horrified stares from the WI).

Measure the juice into a clean preserving pan and boil. For every 600ml of juice add 450g of sugar but only when the juice boils. Continue to boil until it reaches 104.5°C which will take about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, skim off any scum and pour into still-warm-from-the-dishwasher jam jars then seal.

Label and top with the most pastel chintz you can find then distribute to unsuspecting friends and neighbours, ideally from a wicker basket for that extra Larkrise to Candleford feeling.

Currant Shrub

Sweet, fruity, alcoholic. My idea of nectar. Another Pam The Jam creation, this takes a few months to mature so you’ll have to wait until Christmas for the verdict.

  • 300ml redcurrant juice
  • 600ml rum or brandy
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 300g sugar

Mix the redcurrant juice, rum or brandy, zest and nutmeg together in a wide-necked jar. Seal well and leave for 7-1o days in a cool, dark place. This is the stage I have got to. Worth noting that the juice sets like a jelly when you add the alcohol (because of the high pectin levels in  redcurrants apparently. That’s the wonder of science) but it will, Pam assures me, return to liquid when the sugar is added. I’ll let you know.

After a week, transfer the mixture to a pan, add the sugar and heat to 60°C. When the sugar has dissolved, strain the liqueur through a jelly bag and decant into sterilised bottles. Store for several months to mature before indulging in a wee tipple (hic). We wait with bated breath…