We had a great crop of black currants this year despite the ongoing drought. This meant that I had a little bit of room for experimenting and decided after making the jam to have a go at making my own Ribena, a european black currant syrup that you use by adding plain or soda water to for a refreshing drink. I used this recipe from Canuck Cuisine which seemed to work well, and I water bath canned it as I would jam or jelly since the amount of sugar should keep the syrup preserved. This worked well, and I ended up with about 9 quarts of syrup which worked well with both water and soda.
Even better though, was my "invention" of a drink I later discovered can be called a "Witches Cocktail", "Blackcurrant Bramble" or "Blackcurrant Gin Fizz". My version is Ribena with a gin and tonic on ice and as you can see it was very refreshing on a hot summers day!
½lb white sugar, or alternatives: coconut palm sugar, sucanat, or rapadura (use slightly more, or less sugar according to your taste)
1 cup of water
Pour the blackcurrants into a sink filled with water and skim off impurities like leaves and floating twigs, then drain the water. Transfer the blackcurrants into large cooking pots, filling about ¾ of the way up. Pour in the sugar and water and mix. Set the heat on medium and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for another 10 minutes, until all the juices run.
Remove from heat and let cool enough to handle comfortably. Pass the mixture though a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Pour into sterylized bottles, or freeze in plastic bags, or containers for later use.
Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Use frozen syrup within 3 months.
To serve, dilute the syrup in water, to taste.
With a great harvest underway with our black currant bushes, it was time to find something to do with them, and of course our favourite is jam! I made the jam and lost no time in trying it out with some vanilla yogurt and it was delicious, sweet but tangy with a robust deep flavour. The only difficulty in making this jam is cleaning out most of the tiny stems that are attached to the small fruits. However this time is well spent in order to end up with a hard to find jam in our cupboards for the upcoming year.
The recipe I used is pretty basic and doesn't use commercial pectin as this is naturally occurring in the black currants.
Add an weight of sugar equal to the weight of the black currants, bring to a boil and boil hard until it tests for set. I usually keep a saucer in the fridge and add some of the jam to it to see if it has thickened.
Water bath using proper techniques, usually boiling for 10 minutes for pint jars.
Ummm, is there ANYTHING better than fresh strawberry jam on homemade bread with a thick layer of butter? I don't think so...until the next seasonal fruit comes in and I make something out of that which will be my new favourite. Until then, I'll indulge in the decadence of having this for breakfast, maybe lunch, certainly mid-morning snack and afternoon tea. Oh and dessert as well..
Makes 6 pints (adapted from the Bernardin Pectin insert)
5 cups cleaned and washed fresh local strawberries
7 cups sugar
4 Tbsp lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin (such as Bernardin)
1 tsp ground cardamon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Instructions:• Wash, hull and crush strawberries, one layer at a time. Measure 5 cups
• Measure sugar; set aside.
• Combine prepared strawberries and lemon juice. Add 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine in a large, deep stainless steel saucepan. Whisk in pectin until dissolved.
• Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Add all of the sugar and ground spices. Stirring constantly, return mixture to full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off foam, if necessary.
• Can following water bath instructions for jams (usualy 10 minutes of full boil) and allow to set undisturbed for 24 hours. Enjoy!