The red currant is proof that bigger is not always better. Under optimal conditions, each 4-foot bush can produce up to 12 pounds of tart red berries which can be served raw, as a salad accompaniment, or used in a number of cooking preparations. The jam made from red currants is popular in the U.K. where it generally accompanies dinners such as lamb and Sunday roast. But you don't have to travel all the way to England to enjoy this condiment; you can easily make this sweetened spread at home.
For the best flavor, choose berries which are at their peak of color. Place approximately 8 cups of red currants into a large kettle. Add ½ cup of water and bring to a boil. Allow fruit to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until softened. Crush boiled fruits with a potato masher and then stir in 4 cups of sugar. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat. Quickly stir in 2 oz. of liquid fruit pectin. Stirring continuously, allow the jam to return to a rapid boil. Cook over high heat for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the stove and skim any foam from the top.
To can the jam, ladle the hot mixture into sterilized jam jars, leaving at least 1/4 inch of space at the top. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth to remove any food that might prevent the formation of a proper seal. Place flat metal lids with built-in sealing compound on the jars and add screw bands. Place each jar into a canner or large pot filled with boiling water. Be sure the jars do not touch. Make sure the water completely covers the jars. Cover the canner and simmer the jars for 10 minutes. The timing does not begin until the water boils. If at any point the water stops boiling, stop the timer, increase the heat and resume timing once the water begins to boil again. Remove the jars from the water one at a time and place them on a towel to cool. Leave at least one inch of space between jars. Allow the jam to cool for at least 24 hours and then press on the lid of each jar to ensure it has sealed. If you hear a popping sound when you press on the lid, the jar failed to seal and must be moved to the refrigerator and eaten immediately or reprocessed.
To freeze the jam, ladle the hot mixture into half-pint freezer containers, leaving at least 1/2 an inch of room at the top; this will allow the jam to expand as it freezes without damaging the container. Seal tightly with lids and label. Allow the containers to stand for 24 hours at room temperature and then move to the freezer. Frozen jam can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. Thawed jam will keep for three weeks in the refrigerator.
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Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.