When God was handing out patience I just couldn’t be bothered to stand in line and went off to have a fag behind the bike shed.
When it comes to cooking I therefore have to find quick and simple ways to produce good food or I get bored and end up with black chewy stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan … jam and jelly is no exception.
So you open a preserves book and start off with a shopping list the length of your arm … there’s a jam pan, jelly bag, a jam thermometer, jars, wax discs, citric acid, pectin, etc, etc.
That’s enough to put anyone off even trying … so this is how I do it and if I say so myself I make brilliant blackcurrant jelly (well if I don’t blow my own trumpet nobody else will).
Equipment (all found in any normal kitchen):
a large soup/stew pan (just use the biggest pan you have)
jam jars with well fitting lids
knob of butter
Put the oven on to a medium high heat (don’t waste the oven and pop a pie or cake in to cook).
Wash the fruit well, it doesn’t matter about stalks as you will be removing the skins and pulp.
Add water until the fruit is only just covered and a knob of butter (the butter stops scum from forming on the top .. it may be an old wives tale but I never get scum forming so thanks for that tip Mum).
Simmer gently for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Carefully sieve the pulp from the juice (do not try to force it through the seive or squeeze the pulp or your jelly will get “bits” in and jelly should be clear), just let the juice run through (scrape the pulp out of the sieve before filling again). When you get the hang of it this will take 5 minutes, which is nowhere near the painful overnight wait of letting it run through a jelly bag.
Measure the juice, you will need 1 lb (0.5 kg) sugar for each pint (0.5 litre) of juice.
Pop the small plate into the fridge to cool and the jars into the oven to warm.
Put the juice back in the pan and heat gently adding the sugar, when the sugar is disolved turn the heat right up and boil the juice really hard.
After 10 minutes of boiling take your cooled plate from the fridge and with the teaspoon drop a spoon of juice onto the cold plate.
After 15 seconds run your finger through the cooled juice, if it is at setting point it will wrinkle slightly as you push it along, as though it has a very light skin on top … when this happens the jelly is at setting point so remove from heat immediately. Keep doing this every couple of minutes until you see the wrinkle effect.
Remove the warmed jars from the oven and fill using the ladel (BEWARE jelly is incredibly hot and can really burn you so work very carefully not to splash the jelly).
Wipe any spilled jelly from the sides of the jar and leave to completely cool.
Once totally cool (I always leave overnight) put a tight lid on the jar, stick a label on with the date and eat it within about 6 weeks.
When Jelly Goes Wrong:
Unlike cakes, where a disaster means the dog gets an extra meal and you start again, blackcurrant jelly is quite forgiving.
Most preserve books tell you that if you miss the setting point and keep boiling the jelly then it will never set, no matter what you do.
I disagree completely.
If your jars of jelly are still liquid the next morning then just pour it all back in the pan and re-boil it … start to test for setting point after just 3 minutes of boiling.
This isn’t a perfect solution as the more you boil jelly the less fruity and fresh it tastes but it does work (I had to learn the hard way).
I don’t measure anything other than how many pints of juice I get but if you’re not very brave then use 4lbs (2kg) blackcurrants and 3 pints (1.5 litres) water, then add 1 lb (0.5 kg) sugar for each pint of juice.
I don’t add pectin or gelatine, blackcurrants have a lot of natural pectin and if you simmer the fruit well and use the right amount of sugar the jelly will set without a problem.
If you are going to pick your own blackcurrants then take along a fork, just place the stalks in the teeth of the fork and run the fork down the stalk gently, it’s much easier than crushing the fruit in your fingers.
Here’s the long version of the difference between jam and jelly but the quick version is jam is made with the whole fruit and jelly is made with the juice of fruit (a fruit like blackcurrants has a thick skin and lots of pulp so I prefer it in jelly form).
Making jelly is much easier than people believe or books make it sound, it has no colouring or preservatives so can be much healthier than shop bought jams.
Please let me know if you try the recipe and how it turns out and please enjoy making the no patience blackcurrant jelly.