Mon, 2 December, 2019
Making my redcurrant jelly is easy: no need to wait for an overnight drip of juice, you can speed it up by squashing the pulp. And did you know that currant jelly can be as expensive as caviar?
Bar-le-Duc confiture de groseilles is a French currant preserve, indigenous to the town of Bar in Lorraines, somewhere between Reims and Nancy. One tiny jar of the confiture costs 20 euro and it is also known as le caviar de Bar. What’s special?
Jelly or jam?
The reason why currant jam is not as hugely popular as, say, strawberry is the pips. You can presumably mash the currants and de-pip them by pressing through a sieve, like you do (pointlessly, in my view) raspberries for seedless jam.
But red- white- and all-currants have softer seeds and so you generally lose the fruit along the way to smooth perfection. Jelly is the answer then, dripping juice slowly then crystallising into solid with a little help from copious amount of sugar.
Bar-le-Duc redcurrant jelly
But the good people of Bar le Duc, originally monks of the local order are not the faint-hearted. They make their jam – confiture – from whole, specially selected white or redcurrants, handpicked, blemish free.
They also like them whole, as you do in posh confitures; suspended, like flies in amber, in delightful syrup/jelly made from currant juice. Pips don’t bother them? Au contraire, they remove them.
One by one. By hand. With a fine goose quill. From each single currant.
No wonder it's pricey
It would be awe-inspiring if it wasn’t totally bonkers; but the Maison Dutriez, the only surviving producers of the old style confiture, count Mary Queen of Scots and Alfred Hitchcock among the fans of the preserve so perhaps the thing is indeed mind-blowing? Don’t know, haven’t tried but sure will do next time I’m around Lorraine and have twenty euro spare.
Redcurrant jelly with a bit of chilli
Mine is not such a high horse; I do not reach for my quill nor pick the pips out with a miniature syringe (there’s a thought). I add a few dried cranberries to the mix which pretend to be de-seeded currants but in spite of that I won’t be able to flog it for 40 euros.
I also add a pinch of heat in the shape of ancho chilli flakes. Like sweet and salty, sweet and spicy go together like yin and yang.
Redcurrant jelly is incredibly awesome on a lamb roast or a turkey pie. But it is also the secret ingredient that makes the absolutely best gravy - try next time and see what I mean...
redcurrant jellyServings: makes 1 small jar, about 200mlTime: 2 hours
- 125g (4 oz.) redcurrants, with stems
- 100ml (½ cup) water
- a pinch of ancho chilli flakes
- 3 cloves
- 130g (4 oz.) caster sugar
- 1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dried cranberries
1. Place the redcurrants in a small saucepan with 100ml water, a pinch of chilli flakes and the cloves. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, squashing the currants with a wooden spoon, until completely soft.
2. If you have a jelly bag, use it according to the instructions. Otherwise place a colander over a tall pot or jug. Make sure there is enough clearance between the colander and the bottom of the pan, so the juice can drip freely. Additional scaffolding using a cake tin ring or something similar might be useful. Line the colander with a layer of muslin.
3. Pour the fruit into the bag or muslin cloth and leave to cool completely, about 1 hour.
4. Squeeze the remaining juice out of the bag by twisting it lower and lower; take care not to burst it. Pour the juice back to a saucepan. Add the sugar, vinegar and dried cranberries and bring to a vigorous simmer. Let it cook for about 20 minutes until the temperature reaches 105C – or a blob dropped onto an ice cold plate sets to jam/jelly consistency.
5. While the jelly cooks, wash a small jam jar, kilner or lidded, in hot water. Place it in an oven heated up to 120C and immediately switched off.
6. When the jelly is ready leave it to slightly cool down, about 5 minutes. Carefully fill the jar, close it tightly and leave for at least a few days to mature before eating.