This is probably the first and last time you’ll see red currants on this blog.
See… they don’t grow locally. And they’re usually imported, and they’re usually pricey. Like $5.99 for 6 ounces pricey. Mmm hmm. And they’re not for everybody. They’re not like apples or oranges that everyone loves. They’re kind of a niche product. Most Americans don’t even know what a red currant tastes like, let alone have they seen one.
I’m telling you. My whole life and I’ve seen fresh currants TWICE in a market. TWICE.
But that’s why they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day. Because they’re hard to find, they cost a pretty penny, and they’re just pretty. They have these perfectly round, translucent little orbs on the cutest little vines. They’re very delicate, too, and you realize when working with them just how hard it must be to pick them without crushing them. Which I’m sure only adds to the price.
I stretched out 12 ounces of red currants to make two 8-oz. jars of red currant jelly and then I used a bit of that jelly to fill some cupcakes. And I had to top them with fresh red currants too. I mean… if we’re gonna be decadent and floss a little bit… *pops collar*
RED CURRANT JELLY (from Martha Stewart & Christine Ferber)
- 2 3/4 pounds fresh or frozen red currants, stemmed and rinsed if fresh, partially defrosted if frozen
- 3 3/4 cups sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Place currants, sugar, and lemon juice in a large saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large glass bowl; cover with a sheet of parchment paper, pressing down on the surface. Transfer to refrigerator; let chill overnight.
- Place 3 clean 1/2-pint jars right side up on a rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill the canner and jars with hot water, about 1 inch above the tops of jars. Boil jars over high heat for 10 minutes. Remove and drain hot sterilized jars one at a time, reserving hot water for processing filled jars. Place jars on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, bring another medium pot filled with water to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer, then add clean lids and lid rings. Simmer lids for 10 minutes; do not boil, as this may cause problems in sealing jars. Drain lids and lid rings and set aside.
- Pass currant mixture through a food mill fitted with a fine disk into a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; let cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, carefully skimming surface. Check set on a candy thermometer — it should reach 220 degrees.
- Fill jars with jam mixture up to the fill line. Put lids and rings on jars and tighten; do not overtighten. Reheat water in the canner until it reaches at least 180 degrees, within 10 minutes of filling the jars. Place filled jars into the canner one at a time, using a jar lifter that is securely positioned below the neck of the jar. Keep jars upright at all times.
- Add more boiling water, if needed, so that water covers jars by at least 1 inch. Increase heat to high and cover. Once water begins boiling, heat jars for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and gently transfer jars to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, taking care not to tilt jars and spacing jars at least 1 inch apart. Avoid placing jars on a cold surface or near a cold draft.
- Let jars sit undisturbed until fully cooled, 12 to 24 hours. Do not tighten ring bands on the lids or push down on the center of the flat metal lids until jars have cooled completely.
- Once jars have cooled completely, test to make sure each jar is completely sealed. Press down on the middle of the lid with a finger. If lid springs up when finger is released, the jar is unsealed. Store sealed jars in a cool place for at least 2 and up to 4 weeks to allow flavors to thoroughly combine. If any of the jars are unsealed, store in the refrigerator and use within several days. Always refrigerate jam after opening.
Straining the mixture is important. Whatever you do, don’t skip that. While the seeds are edible, you really want it to be clear and jelly-like. Theres so much natural pectin in red currants, it makes a gorgeous jelly!
Now, for the cupcakes… it’s just a plain old vanilla cupcake recipe. Nothing fancy. I wanted to really showcase the jelly filling and the fresh currants on top. You could add a little lemon zest to the cake or frosting if you wanted a bit of bright pucker, but currants are sour anyway. I’d leave it alone with a rich, vanilla cake and thick vanilla buttercream to let the currant cut through and shine.
I have quite a few vanilla cupcake recipes and vanilla buttercream recipes at the Recipe Index. Take your pick!
Then just make holes in your cooled cupcakes with either a sharp knife or a round pastry tip. Fill the holes with the jelly, and frost right over it. Super easy.
The best thing about these, I think, is just how they look. They’re really striking. And red currants are so old timey, too, that it makes me feel so Victorian to have these in a cloche on my counter.
And the jelly makes a great gift for someone who loves fancy artisan jams and jellies, or someone who loves homemade gifts.