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Garden recipe: redcurrant jelly

A summer classic to use the abundance of redcurrant berries in the garden, and a great way to preserve sweet flavours into autumn and winter. This is a traditional recipe for redcurrant jelly by cookery writer Eliza Acton (1799- 1859) from her book, Modern Cookery for Private Families.

The currant is a real asset in any kitchen garden. They are heavy croppers, require low maintenance and the berries can be expensive to buy in any quantity. Most importantly, the flavour of jellies, tarts, jams, cordials and puddings made with currants is superb. The berry season is short, and picking is essential. If you can’t use the berries as fast as you pick them, freeze lots so you can use them throughout the year. Below are two redcurrant recipes; one for redcurrant jelly and one for an uncooked Swedish dish that can be used in cakes or served alongside meat.

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I love the way a bowl of redcurrants gleam in candlelight
Gardener cook, Jojo Tulloh
Close up of Clusters of Red Currants (Ribes rubrum) 'Jonkheer van Tets'
Shiny redcurrants dangle in clusters on a redcurrant bush. Photo: Getty Images

Redcurrant Jelly

Eliza Acton (1799 – 1859) was our very first truly modern cookery writer. Her book Modern Cookery for Private Families was the first aimed at the totally unexperienced cook, and her inclusion of accurate quantities and cooking time was innovative. Acton notes some readers found that her redcurrant jelly while ‘of the finest flavour, is scarcely firm enough for the table’. It does have a rather runny set but don’t let this deter you – it has ten times the flavour of commercially produced jellies.

  1. Strip carefully from the stems, some quite ripe currants of the finest quality (3lbs)
  2. Mix with an equal weight of good sugar reduced to powder (3lbs)
  3. Boil these together quickly for exactly 8 minutes
  4. Keep them stirred all the time, and clear off the scum – which will be very abundant – as it rises.
  5. Turn the preserve into a very clean sieve
  6. Put into small jars, the jelly that runs through it, and which will be delicious in flavour, and of the brightest colour.
  7. It should be carried immediately, when this is practicable, to an extremely cool but not a damp place, and left there until perfectly cold.

Rårörda röda vinbär

A Sweedish dish which translates to raw moved redcurrants.

  • Take 200g of redcurrants washed and picked clean of the stalks.
  • Add 85g of sugar and stir.
  • Leave for three or four hours until the sugar has dissolved, stirring once or twice.
  • Decant into a clip-top jar and store in the fridge (use within a week)

You can use it in crêpes, or cakes, on your muesli or alongside meat.

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Illustrations by Sarah Young
Words by Jojo Tulloh