16 June, 2009

Hot and bothered.

I got some serious back burn while picking cassis--black currant--and am now intensely aware of my skin. This while running around trying to keep up with harvesting all the other berries (one day older but wiser, I am now aiming for the milder parts of the day). There is such a bumper crop of black currants this year that I will try my hand at making my own crème de cassis, or black currant liqueur. It is the defining element of a champagne Kir Royale, but crème de cassis can also be added to red or white wine for a very satisfying early summer cocktail. And can be lovely in desserts.
There are two types of cherries in the orchard which, while mouth-wateringly luscious, are suddenly a pain in the neck to pick for the even remotely height-challenged, thanks to excessively ardent pruning. (All the conveniently low-lying branches? Cut. Why, oh why?) But the cherry stains and clafoutis make all the clambering and teetering on a ladder worthwhile. Right? Right now, I'm also picking raspberries and white currants--which are simply an albino, less tart version of a cassis. I'm hoping you'll enjoy getting familiar with les fruits rouges; 'tis the season...
So now, while the fruit bubbles on the stove, I thought I would quickly jot down the very basic steps to making this brightly colored and flavored jelly.

Gelée de Framboises et Groseilles Blanches (Raspberry and White Currant Jelly)

Boil smallish glass jars and their tops for a good quarter hour to sterilize. Allow them to dry completely.

You'll need your largest (and, ideally, heaviest) pot. The fruit may not even fill it halfway, but this is good, as the pot will help contain any splatters.

Find the best and freshest raspberries and white currants you can, about one kilo total, and put them in the pot. Add about 3/4 kilo of sugar, and cook at medium heat for a good half-hour. Taste-test, adding a bit more sugar if your fruit calls for it. Since the currants are naturally high in pectin, you don't need to add anything to make the jelly "set".

After the half-hour or so has passed, you can test if it's ready by sticking a clean spoon in the pot and seeing whether the jelly rather thickly coats the back of the spoon. If so, get a fine-mesh strainer, place it over a mixing bowl, spouted if possible, and pour the mixture in. Allow the jelly to strain. Resist the very strong urge to push down on the fruit solids in order to extract the last bits of fruit, because this will make your beautiful, sparkly jelly go cloudy. Carefully pour the jelly into the sterilized jars, cap them tightly and flip the jars upside down. That's it.

Kick back and wait for the applause, come breakfast time. Having said that, the praise could also come at dessert time, as this makes an excellent glaze for tarts, if reheated and thinned slightly with some water. Everything in life should be this easy--and rewarding.

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