It was 12 years ago when my husband and I got our first allotment. The plot and our relationship were new experiences to us then. My husband informed me that this favourite jam was blackcurrant and that we should try to grow some on our allotment. So that year we planted 3 blackcurrant bushes. Then the same summer I harvested our first soft fruit and looked up a recipe for jam making... and the rest is history, as they say.
That year I picked about 2 lbs of blackcurrants and since then the yield of blackcurrants has gone up every year. I don't know how many pounds of fruit the 3 bushes give now - I don't even pick them all, not worrying too much if I don't stripe every currant from the bush nor picking up any that I drop. I make blackcurrant jam, blackcurrant and liquorice jam, blackcurrant and apple jam, blackcurrant cordial, blackcurrant ice-cream, blackcurrant jelly, blackcurrant cheesecake... and then wonder what to do with the remaining currants. Oh, and I'm generous with them too, giving them away to my friend!
I've already had one friend over this year to do a "pick your own" job on the blackcurrants, and in the week I picked about 4 lbs in a spare 20 minutes before picking up the girls from school. But today I decided to tackle the job in a more serious way, although I didn't intend to complete it in one go. My youngest daughter was a willing helper but I was realistic about how much help she would actually be. It's a week until she's five and her attention span is still equivalent in minutes to her age in years! So as I grabbed handfuls of currants, stripping them into a container clamped between my knees, she delicately picked individual currants and carefully placed them into her container. In the time it took me to harvest a couple of pounds she had picked about 8 currants. "I've got lots!" she proclaimed proudly, "Yes, dear, well done," I replied. Then when she had picked about 20 she declared, "I think we have enough now," to which I said, "No, we have to pick them all." She looked alarmed, "But there are too many!" she cried, "There much be a hundred million!" And just for once I don't think she was exaggerating!
This is a very easy jam to make because blackcurrants are high in pectin and the jam sets well.
Ingredients (makes 4 to 5 jars)
4 lb (1800 g) blackcurrants
2½ pints (1400 ml) water
4 lb (1800 g) sugar
NB: Every pound of blackcurrants requires 12½ fl oz water and 1 lb sugar
Pick over the blackcurrants but there is no need to wash the fruit. Put them into a preserving pan with the water and bring it to the boil. Simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the skins are tender. In the meantime, warm the sugar. When the fruit is cooked, add the sugar to the blackcurrants and stir over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for 6 to 8 minutes until the setting point is reached.