Here at CropShare we know how to make the most of a great, fresh harvest.
One of the things produced in large volumes on the farm is redcurrants. Our volunteers got together and decided to make the most of this local glut of fruit, and share it with the community.
The redcurrant season was late this year because of the lack of sunshine, which is needed for ripening the fruits on the bush. When we went out to the farm on the last day in June, fruits were just ready for our workshop the next day- you can see a few greener berries in the punnets. The farm has a about 1/4 acre of well established redcurrant bushes, that are about as tall as a person, and were thick with fruits. We picked about 5 1/2 kg for the workshop.
Our redcurrant harvest- ready to be jammed…
So what did we make? We had to do a preserve- surely one of the best ways to capture a seasonal harvest of fruit. Redcurrant jelly is traditional, but we wanted to rock the boat with a redcurrant jam- why not? Redcurrant berries are lovely and tangy when eaten raw, so one CropShare volunteer devised a great salad which combined the sharp redcurrants with creamy brie and crunchy lettuce from the farm (we had a sneak preview on a previous farm day).
First job was to strip the berries from their trusses and give them a wash. We then added about 5kg of berries to a large heavy bottomed pan and cooked these until the berries broke down and resembled a thick pulp. We had plenty of people on hand to keep stirring the jam.
Keep stirring the jam!
We chatted about the different preserve-based fates for our berries. At this point, if we wanted to make a jelly (a translucent, smooth preserve) we would strain all the cooked pulp through a muslin bag overnight, and continue by boling and adding sugar to the strained juice. The pulp is good to make fruit leather with -mixed with golden syrup or honey, spread out on greaseproof paper and dried out in a low oven. You can then store strips of the leather in airtight jars and dip in whenever. Yum!
But we pressed on with our jam plans! We decided to preserve some of the tangyness of the original fruit, and went for a 3 kg sugar to 5kg fruit ratio. Jams should have about 40% sugar to 60% fruit to be well preserved. So we gradually added the sugar, stirring all the time, until it had dissolved. Next job was to bring the jam to boiling point and keep boiling it until the setting point was reached. We popped some clean jars and lids into an oven on lowest setting to heat them up and make them sterile.
So while we were waiting for all the jam magic to happen, Reggie took us through his beautiful salad recipe. The only thing not from the farm is the brie and breadcrumbs! We used whisked up farm fresh eggs to coat the brie in breadcrumbs, and lightly fried the cheese. Added to shredded farm lettuce and topped with redcurrants, of course, it was a taste sensation. Thanks Reggie!
We had put a saucer in the fridge earlier (we’re so prepared), so we used that to cool down the boiling jam and test – the blob of jam on the cold saucer should have a wrinkly skin when the setting point is reached- see below!
Testing the jam for setting point
All hands on deck to pour the hot jam into the sterile jars, and put the lids on. Nice one guys!
Spot of finger-licking as we taste the redcurrant jam
Thanks to Jaysen for the great photos!
Cheese on toast with redcurrant jam anyone? Mmmmm yes please