Sunday, August 30, 2009


My grandmother kept currant bushes in her garden and made some of the best jellies from it. Red currants are indigenous to this continent and care must be taken not to substitute these tart berries for the currants used in European recipes, which are tiny and sweet and much like grapes. The three pictures below are currants in snow, in bloom and in berry. This variety is red lake.
I have made it my mission to develop recipes to use these productive berries. Currant sorbet was wonderfully refreshing for those of us familiar with the berry. Too tart for others. Substituting up to half the amount of rhubarb with currants in the recipe works well in a rhubarb custard pie. It was a bit seedy in a sauce. So much to explore. So little time.
Of course, there is always the jelly. I usually make it using a commercial pectin. The other day I found my entry currant jelly recipe from the early 1990s used for a Wisconsin State Fair competition. This recipe was made without commercial pectin. It takes a bit of time to cook down the jelly from juice alone. It also intensifies the flavor. When I tasted this jelly my lips puckered up and my wisdom teeth sang out.

How to make currant jelly without commercial pectin

Before cooking:

1- Buy a house.
2- Plant 3 currant bushes.
3- Smile when the children build a sled hill on the bushes.
4- Prune all the broken branches and those larger than my thumb.
5- Buy sugar and hunt down a grocery store manager trying to find 8oz jelly jars. Buy out all the jelly jars at K-Mart.
6- Pick the bushes clean before the branches are flattened out permanently from the weight of the currants.
7- Rinse in water to clean the berries, cook to boiling in just the water left from washing them. Strain through clean old table napkins ... don't squeeze.
8- Freeze the juice.
9- Go on vacation.
10- Come back from vacation and defrost the currant juice.

Cooking Currant Jelly
11- Measure 5 C Currant juice, 5 C Sugar, 3/4t. Lemon juice into a large kettle.
12- Bring the liquid to 220°F, stirring constantly or it will scorch.
13- Have clean inverted jelly jars, lids, ladle, funnel and tongs on hold in a pan of simmering water.
14- Have the work surface prepared with a clean dry towel to place the hot jars onto when filling with the boiling jelly and lots of hot pads.
15- The procedure for the canning portion must be done quickly to avoid the introduction of airborne bacteria.
A- Remove one jar from the simmering water.
B- Place the funnel in the top of the jar.
C- Ladle the hot jelly into the jar stopping 1/4 - 1/8" from the upper edge.
D- Pull one lid from the simmering water with tongs and place on the jar.
E- Immediately tighten a screw band over the top of the jar.
F- Invert the jar for 5 - 10 minutes. Meanwhile fill the next jar.

Note: This is a traditional method of canning high acid foods. I am scrupulous about cleanliness and quickness of processing with success in my canned goods. Should you not be confident in your skills, use the hot water bath method I describe for re-sealing a failure described in G, below.

G- Turn the jar of jelly upright and let cool to room temperature. At this point the lid will seal and as the jelly cools a vacuum is formed pulling the center of the lid into a concave shape. This can be tested by pushing on the lid. If it goes down and springs back it is not sealed. If the lid does not seal by the time the jelly is cooled refrigerate the jelly and use right away, or remove the lid, carefully wipe the top edge of the jar with a clean cloth, replace the lid with a new one, screw on the ring band and process in a hot water bath. (5 minutes in a pot of boiling water 1" above the top edge of the jar).
H- Remove the screw bands of the cooled jelly and wash the outside of the jars.
I- Label the lids or jars with 'Currant MM-YY'.
J- Store in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Church Campout 8/9/09

On the lake

Enjoying the beach

Watermelon ready for watermelon rugby

Lighting the bonfire with an explanation of why 'green' is a great color.

Camp out Sing-a-Long

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cassie Rock Hopping Memorial Day Weekend 2009

Cassie doing a narration of her Lake Superior rock hopping on Presque Isle off Marquette Michigan.

Memorial Day 2009

Before the ceremony
The band is in place.
The ladies from the 'post' are ready to place the flags.

The band plays.