I’ve preserved all our other allotment and foraged fruit in one way or another – raspberry jelly, redcurrant relish, rose hip syrup. I thought this time I’d give canned blackcurrants a go. Home canning (in glass jars that is!) is much more popular in the US than it is here in the UK, but I’ve always fancied giving it a go.
Canning, according to Wikipedia, “Is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a shelf life typically ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances it can be much longer.”
Some websites I’ve visited say you need special equipment; a big stove-top canner – much like a pressure cooker – for starters. A jar rack, jar lifter, funnel… In practice, the only foodstuffs that need to be canned in a high pressure canner are meat, seafood, dairy and most vegetables (sweet tasting ones such as carrots, beetroot, sweetcorn, peas and beans). Fruit (which is what I’ll mainly be canning) and acidic vegetables can be done using the water bath method in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. It’s not absolutely necessary for them to reach the 116-130ºC temperature necessary for the first group of foods.
I used utensils I already had to hand. Aforementioned heavy bottomed pan. A jam thermometer to be perfectly sure the water bath got to the optimum temperature. A funnel to make sure the little berries didn’t bounce all over the floor and under the kitchen cabinets as I tried to pour them into the jars. A wire cooling rack to keep the jars from rattling against the bottom of the saucepan during boiling. A pair of tongs to lift the jars out of the hot water. Some vintage Mason-type jars with new rubber seals. It is important that jars are in perfect condition with no chips or ill-fitting lids. If they aren’t they won’t be air-tight and contents will spoil and may prove a health risk!
Here’s the method…
- At least 500g freshly picked blackcurrants. Use only perfect fruit - no bruised, over-ripe berries need apply!
- For the sugar syrup
- 1 part sugar to 2.5 parts water (e.g. 200g granulated sugar to 500ml water)
- Sterilise the jars & lids - you can do this by putting them into a large saucepan and covering them with water and bringing it to the boil. Once it boils, turn off the heat and leave them in the hot water until you're ready to use them
- Top & tail and rinse the fruit well in a colander
- Decant the fruit into the sterilised jars (using a funnel if you have one). Leave a space of about 2.5cm/1inch from the rim of the jar
- Put your sugar and water into a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat
- Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn off the heat
- Carefully pour the hot sugar syrup over the fruit - enough to completely cover the fruit but leaving a gap of 1.25cm/½inch to the rim of the jar
- Remove any air bubbles using a plastic or wooden knife (like the ones you get from a take-away)
- Screw the lids onto the jars firmly, but not too tightly
- Put a wire cooling rack into the base of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (if you don't have one or the one you have doesn't fit - use a folded tea towel)
- Put the jars into the saucepan and fill the saucepan with enough hot water to completely cover the jars by at least 2.5cm/1inch. Make sure there's at least 5cm/2inches gap to the top of the saucepan; if there isn't you'll need a larger pan
- Put a lid on the saucepan
- Bring the water to a low, rolling boil. Once it gets to this point, boil at this level for a further 15 minutes
- Turn off the heat and carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter or metal tongs
- Put the jars on a thick tea towel or wire rack to cool. The lids on the jars should be concave and should not move when pressed down with your finger. If one of your jars has not formed a vacuum - just refrigerate and use it's contents within a week
- Label, date and store the jars in a cool, dry, dark place. The fruit will store for at least next year when you can do it all over again! 🙂
This recipe will work for any kind of similar fruit - redcurrants, white currants, bilberries, blueberries etc.
Last week we brought you a sweet, baked redcurrant recipe. This week, some more of our redcurrants are being used in a savoury preserve – spiced redcurrant & red onion relish. We’ve slightly altered a recipe we found on the BBC Good Food website.
We’ve not tried out our relish yet – we’re giving the flavours some time to steep. It’s meant to be really good teamed with a creamy goat’s cheese or charcuterie.
Spiced redcurrant & red onion relish
- 2 medium red onions, peeled & sliced into ½cm square pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried crushed chillies
- 2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely
- 1 small knob of fresh ginger, grated
- 200ml red wine vinegar (I used some of our home-made blackberry vinegar)
- 140g muscovado sugar
- 1tsp Chinese five spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 200g redcurrants, de-stalked
- In a heavy bottomed frying pan, cook the onions and dried crushed chillies in the olive oil over a medium heat until softened
- Remove from the pan and set aside
- Without washing out the pan, add the garlic and ginger with half the vinegar, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes
- Add the cooked onion & chilli mix, sugar, Chinese five spice, salt and the remainder of the vinegar
- Bring back up to the boil then simmer for about 5 minutes until thickened
- Add the redcurrants and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until some of them have burst and the liquid has become syrupy
- Remove and pour into a sterilised, 450ml heatproof jar
- Screw the lid on tightly while still hot. Once opened, it keeps in the fridge for up to 3 weeks
So far on our allotment, the only things that have come to fruition are the currant bushes that we inherited. The last time we were there we did a little bit of weeding but we spent the vast majority of our time picking shiny, jewel-like blackcurrants and redcurrants. We harvested almost a kilo of the latter – that’s over £10-worth from a supermarket! 125 grams of it was put towards making a batch of redcurrant muffins.
We acquired a silicon muffin tray in a boxed lot at an auction many moons ago that we surprisingly, have never used. Fished out, dusted down and washed; it turned out 6 big, beautiful muffin specimens! Silicon is a revelation – baked goods ease out of it with no cajoling whatsoever! If you’ve not tried it before, Lakeland does a good range of affordable silicon baking tins, pans and trays.
The redcurrant muffin recipe used here was found on the Abel & Cole website. The rest of the redcurrants have been put into the freezer temporarily, waiting to be turned into jam, jelly and relish; so keep a watch out for some more redcurrant recipes to follow!
Cakes & Bakes: Redcurrant muffins
- 60g Stork or butter
- 175g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- ½tsp salt
- 120g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 120ml milk
- 125g fresh redcurrants
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350ºF/Gas mark 4
- Grease a 12-hole muffin pan (We have a 6-hole silicone muffin pan that makes lovely large, tall muffins!) or insert paper muffin cases
- Put the Stork/butter into a microwave-proof bowl or measuring jug and heat on a low setting for 20 seconds. Set aside to cool
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl
- Add all but 2 tbsp of the caster sugar - this is being reserved to sprinkle over the muffin tops prior to going into the oven
- In a small measuring jug, beat the egg a few times until the yolk & white is just combined
- Whisk in the milk and melted Stork/butter
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring quickly and gently until flour is just dampened
- Gently fold in the redcurrants, being careful not to burst too many of them
- Spoon the batter into prepared muffin , filling each slightly more than half full
- Sprinkle the 2tbsp of reserved sugar over each muffin
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes away clean
- Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes prior to serving
- Keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 3 days