Last summer, we had just moved to our village along the Avon River in England. It was the season of fetes and festivals and we were determined to go to every one! I learned to throw a mean wellie boot, played the human fruit machine, and put my money down on what was surely the winning yellow rubber duckie as it floated down the river and disappeared over the weir. After munching on a hot dog (which by the way is not a hot dog, but a rather thick sausage - a nice one, mind, not-too-greasy with just the right amount of seasoning) we tried our luck at the Tombola booth. 5 tickets for a £1 - you win if the number on a ticket matches the number attached to a white elephant item on the table. I won!!!! My prize - a small black currant plant in a six inch pot. For the rest of the summer and throughout the winter, I babied that currant, provided it with a bigger pot, gave it the best potting soil and tons of fertilizer that promised a growth miracle. And did it ever! Sadly it grew too big for the finely manicured beds of delicate flowers, so we planted it in a corner of the garden that we called: The Darwin Patch (if it survived the snails, slugs, and grubs, we'd be happy to eat it). Much to our surprise, the black currant seemed to like being next to the oil tank. This summer, it produced enough fruit to make a single jar of jam using a very simple recipe!
Making black currant jam is the easiest task. There are a lot of recipes that require you to do this and that but quite honestly, all you need for a spectacular tasty pot of jam is a clean empty jam jar, fruit, sugar, and a lemon. Remove stems, wash berries, pat dry and weigh them. My bush produced 7.7 ounces. Place berries into a stainless steel pan. The amount of sugar added should be the same weight as the berries. I added 7.7 oz. of sugar to my pan plus the juice of half a lemon. Turn on the heat and while waiting for the berries to come to a boil, mash them with a potato masher to release the juice. Currants are high in pectin, so the jam sets in about 10-20 minutes. Jam-makers seem partial to their own particular method for testing to see if the jam is ready to set. My grandmother taught me the "Moses Method". I dollop a spoonful of jam onto a plate and draw my finger through the jam to "part the sea". If the valley stays dry, the jam is ready to set. If the juice seeps back into the valley - well, my grandmother would say:"Moses better not take his people across yet!" and may need to simmer a bit longer. When ready, pour the jam into a jar and twist the lid on tight. As the jam cools, the lid should pop - a sign that the jar has nicely sealed. How easy is that!?