On a hot Sunday afternoon recently, we headed out for a late lunch at our friends Tama & Koichi’s. If you live in Nelson and like sushi you will quite possibly have eaten at Tama & Koichi’s fantastic Sushi Bar – Ikko Sushi in the Marble Arch Arcade (near No. 1 Shoe’s). There super fresh and inexpensive sushi is one of our families favourite places to eat out.
However, this is not a post about sushi. This is about a forage in a garden and a promise of jam… On a tour of their very tidy garden I noticed 3 blackcurrant bushes. At closer inspection I found the bushes laden in ready-to-pick fruit. But as Tama explained to me, they work 14 hour days (4.30am – 6.30pm straight, these guys work hard!) so she doesn’t have time for her own garden let alone cooking from it. Well… never one to let food go to waste and I love to try something new (I have never cooked blackcurrants before), I offered to make jam from the berries and split the profits. Tama’s eyes lit up, ‘oh yes please’. I think I was excited as she was…
Blackcurrant & Bay Leaf Conserve
This recipe is loosely based on James Wong’s recipe for Elder berry & Eucalyptus Jelly from his book Grow Your Own Drugs – A Year with James Wong. If you don’t have blackcurrants on hand this recipe could also be made with other summer berries such as boysenberries, raspberries, blackberries etc.
- Harvest blackcurrants with the help of eager little hands.
- Weigh the currants and add the same liquid quantity of water. For example I had 350g black currants so I added 350ml water.
- Put the currants and water in a heavy based sauce-pan with 2 bay leaves and the juice of 1 lemon. Make sure the lemon pips go in as well as they have valuable pectin in them for setting the jam.
- Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.
- Cool a little then strain through a sieve using the back of a wooden spoon to press as much of the pulp as possible. Discard the leftover skin and seeds.
- Weigh the pulp and pour into a saucepan. Now weigh the same quantity of sugar. I had 385g pulp so added 385g sugar. Add this to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring so the sugar dissolves and doesn’t burn.
- Simmer for approx. 30 – 45 minutes, stirring regularly, until the syrup reaches setting point. This can be tested be dropping a little jam on a cold (from the fridge) plate, wait 1 minute and test. The jam should wrinkle when pressed and not run when the plate is tipped.
- Sterilise small jars – clean them thoroughly in hot soapy water and air dry on a rack. Once dry fill with boiling water and leave for 1 minute. Sterilise the lids in a bowl of boiling water for 1 minute. Tip out the water and air dry – they will dry fast. Set the hot jars on a wooden board and fill immediately with hot conserve. Screw on the lids as they will seal as the mixture cools. (I ended up with 2 jars as pictured – not a lot but so worth the effort.)
- That is it. Give half to the lovely owner of the blackcurrant bushes, and keep half for a sweet conserve with soft goat cheese and toast.