So I bought some currants awhile ago at the North Market (from Comb's Herbs, the only people to sell currants so far that I've seen), and they kind of languished in the fridge for a day or two. Every time I looked at them, I thought about how much I love red currant jelly, and thought to myself "If only I weren't so afraid of canning. And surely there aren't enough currants to make a decent batch of jelly." And then I decided fears were to be confronted - or avoided, rather - because I was going to make jelly! One pint! That was the perfect solution. Then there would be no canning! Nothing to be frightened of! Just one pint for eating right away!
It was the perfect solution. Too often, I think of preserving as this huge process that's going to take all day and be hot and miserable, but it doesn't have to be; you can just use whatever you have on hand. In this case, I used up the currants and also the sugary liquid from some leftover sliced strawberries for a little sweetness.
Here's my method, which I can no way guarantee will work with all sorts of fruit, and you might want to consult your nearest preserve-making book to see what sorts of fruits might need added pectin, etc. Here is a more reliable source for jelly-related information. I just wanted to show how you can make small amounts of preserves without getting in over your head. I think it should go without saying that you should not attempt to make preserves with anything except the best fruit. If you can't do that, you may as well buy a good pre-made preserve and just let someone else do the work.
Red Currant Jelly - makes about one pint
1 pint red currants, stray leaves plucked off but stems left on
1 cup leftover juice (I had one cup of juice leftover from sliced strawberries; this is optional)
1/4 cup lemon juice
Place the currants, stems and all, in a large sauce pan and sprinkle with just a tbsp or so of sugar and about the same of the fruit juice, just to get the juices flowing. Heat over medium heat, mashing with a pestle or potato masher until all of the currants are mushed and you have a lot of juice - about 10 minutes. Place in a jelly bag, fine mesh sieve, or chinois set over a bowl to allow the juice to strain out. I like to set it over a big (one liter) measuring beaker so that I don't have to measure the juice after this step. You can gently press down on the fruit pulp to extract all the juice, but keep in mind this might make the jelly slightly cloudy. Allow to drain until all the juice has run off (I like to leave it an hour or so). Add in the leftover juice, if using, and measure. I had about 2 1/4 cups.
Place the juice back into the saucepan, add the lemon juice, and add sugar. I think the standard on sugar adding is to add 3/4ths sugar to the amount of juice. Some people even go up to equal parts juice and sugar, but that is way too much for me. In this case, I added about half as much sugar as I had juice, but that was because there was already sugar in the strawberry liquid. I like jellies made from sour fruits because I am a sour girl who likes things to maintain their sourness after processing (currants, cherries, rhubarb, Husbands, what-have-you).
Heat the juice over medium heat until it begins to simmer, and keep at a simmer (turn heat to medium low if necessary). Simmer, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, for about 30 minutes and then begin to test your set. Place a few saucers in the freezer. Test your set by placing a spoonful of jelly onto a cold saucer and then running you finger through it. Your jelly is ready when your finger leaves a line in the jelly and you can lick jelly off your finger. Be careful, because there is nothing hotter than simmering sugary liquid. Allow the jelly to sit on the plate for a few seconds before you put finger in. There is a more technical way to do this with a candy thermometer, but this is the lazy, artistically minded guide to jelly making, not the sciency brain way of doing it. If you want that, you'll have to convince Husband to make some jelly. Good luck with that.
My jelly took about 45 minutes to reach a set, but you should begin checking after 30 minutes just in case. You don't want to end up with hard candy. When the jelly is set, place it in a hot, clean jar (such as one fresh from the dishwasher) and allow it to cool to room temperature before refrigerating.
When the jelly is cool, go to the North Market and pick up a croissant from Omega bakery, bring it home and spread on your new jelly, enjoying it bite by bite as you pat yourself on the back and commend yourself on your amazing housewifery skills.
Tune in later this week for the lazy girl's guide to sour cherry jelly making! Will it set? Nobody knows!