Summer has arrived here in NEPA, and as usual, our garden has started to explode with produce. I really appreciate being able to step out my back door for fresh fruits and vegetables, and the early summer provides a special treat that I’ve never seen at the grocery store, or even at the farmers’ market. Red currants are considered a superfood, full of antioxidants. SP planted several a few years back, and we are starting to see excellent harvests. The light and the soil in the part of our backyard that is closest to the house seem to be great for most fruit shrubs. Baby Girl has been waiting for what seems like forever for the tart-sweet currant berries to ripen, as she loves picking and eating them right off the bush.
Commercial red currant jams are quite expensive, probably because the berries are what you could call a high-maintenance harvest. Picking currants can be a bit of a challenge, since they don’t always ripen all at once, and the berries tend to hide underneath leaves and even between branches. They grow on long stems like tiny bunches of grapes, and removing the stems can be quite labor-intensive. Once the fresh berries are stemmed and washed, however, they become very cooperative as a jam ingredient, being acidic enough to eliminate the need for added lemon juice, and even providing their own pectin.
The process for making currant jam is pretty straightforward: bring two quarts of crushed berries and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a non-reactive pot, add 4 1/2 cups of sugar, cook it to the jelling point. The finished jam will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week ( it won’t last that long ), can be cooled and frozen for up to a year, or canned using the water bath method as I did, which will keep it for at least as year without the need for refrigeration (again, it won’t last that long!). For the batch pictured, I ended up with about five half-pints of jam.
More information on the canning process for fruit jams can be found in my previous post on blackberry jam:
As usual, a fiber craft also grew out of this project, another beret-style hat. Since canning anything is a hot, steamy, sterile process, the hair has got to be out of the way, and a snood-like slouchy usually does the trick. I call these hats the “Happy Hippie Hair Holder”, and have come up with many versions over the years. For this knitted one, I used up the pretty red and brown organic cotton I’d made a mesh headscarf with a few weeks back. This yarn is soft, cool, and has a nice variegation of deep brown to a berry red very similar to color of the finished red currant jam.
To keep it loose and airy, I used a US size 11 circular needle, did about an inch of knit 2 purl 2 ribbing in a coordinating brown cotton yarn before knitting the body of the hat in a “beehive” stitch pattern, alternating 5 rows of knit with 3 rows of purl. This stitch pattern allows the decreases to create a flower shape in the center of the hat.
I’m happy to report that the finished hat is cool, comfortable and serves its purpose quite well, keeping my rather bulky (more on this in a later post) hair out of the canning process.