Red currants are magic in jam making. Acidic and full of pectin, they cause jam to gel quickly and allow you to diminish the amount of sugar. Natural pectin also occurs in green apples, so you can make your own additive instead of using the powdered stuff (or that nasty gel, which I avoid). The chance of developing a good gel is aided also by letting partially cooked or macerated ingredients stay overnight in the fridge, especially when combined with citrus peel and seeds, other natural pectin producers. Since currants are seedy, I boil them until tender and pass them through a sieve to capture the precious liquid and isolate the tough little seeds.
I use currants in fruit jam to offset the cloying sweetness of strawberries and to give tang to apricots. Here, by combining red currants with red rhubarb, I was aiming for a slightly tart jam, rosy in color, and I got it. I think I could have cut the sugar by ¼ cup and still have gotten a great result. This jam is so good that I’m planning another batch while red currants are in season and available at a local farm.
Rhubarb Currant Jam
1 lb red rhubarb stalks (4 c cut into 1/3-inch dice)
1¾ c granulated sugar
½ pt (1 c) red currants
1 c water
Trim the rhubarb stalks and cut the stalks into 1/3-inch dice. Toss with sugar and set aside to macerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
Carefully remove the currants from their stems, rinse and place them in a saucepan with the water. Bring the water to a boil, slightly lower the heat and cook the currants until they pop, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool, press them through a sieve set on top of the bowl where you are macerating the rhubarb, pressing to release every ounce of liquid. Stir to combine. Discard the seeds that are left in the sieve. If macerating the fruit overnight, crumple a piece of parchment paper and set it on top.
Prepare jars for water bath canning. Set a saucer in the freezer.
Bring the fruit mixture to a boil in a large wide saucepan set over medium-high heat, and cook the jam until the gel tests set when a drop placed on a frozen saucer crinkles to the touch. Ladle into hot jars and seal. Process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid, and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to sit, undisturbed, until cool.
Make 6 four-ounce jars.