Monday, August 19, 2013

Quick Blackcurrant and Rhubarb Jelly – Appeals to my inner cave-dweller !

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From disgusting to delicious in about 20 minutes

As a devoted eater, I love trying tastes new to me. This isn't always a success initially. I often need to try a food several times to check if I still don’t like it, or whether the taste is something I could get used to – or might even get to like.

Among the foods that have grown on me over time are: avocados, anchovies, olives, asparagus, some blue cheeses, oysters, smoked fish, snails, liver (but only in certain guises) – I could go on but there’s quite a list. 

We can acquire a taste for something previously repellent, but it needs repeated trials before your inner cave dweller will accept that you are not trying to poison yourself.

When it comes to blackcurrants, however, repeated trials have failed … eh… repeatedly. The cave-dwelling part of my brain flatly refuses to allow fresh blackcurrants past my lips. The taste of this beautiful little berry nauseates me... which is funny because if I could eat just one jelly or jam for the rest of my life, I would probably choose blackcurrant. There is obviously some alchemy in the cooking that magically transforms the taste from disgusting to delicious.

For a small pot of jelly (approximately 400g) you will need…

260g blackcurrants
140g rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1cm chunks
4 tablespoons unsweetened apple juice (or water)
400g sugar
4 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash the blackcurrants and pick them over to remove any stray leaves etc. You needn’t be too fussy about removing the stalks as the solids will be sieved out at the end.

You’ll need to select a saucepan large enough to allow the ingredients to expand up to 5 times without bubbling over. Place the washed berries in the saucepan with the rhubarb and apple juice (or water). Cook for about 20 minutes over a medium-low heat until the fruit has softened.

Meanwhile, place 3 saucers in the freezer – use these later to check if the jelly will set.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and keep the heat low until the sugar has completely dissolved. (If you stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, you will feel any undissolved grains of sugar on the bottom of the pan.)

When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat so that the mixture begins to boil energetically. Boil for 6 minutes before testing to see if the end product will set.

To test that the jelly will set: remove one of the saucers from the freezer and spoon a little of the mixture onto it. Let it cool for a minute then push your finger through it. The surface should wrinkle and your finger should leave a clear path. If not, continue to cook for a further minute or two before testing again on another cold saucer.

Pour the mixture into a metal sieve set over a bowl to catch the liquid. Press the fruit with the back of a spoon to extract as much juice and pulp as possible (We’re not aiming for a clear jelly here). Transfer the contents of the bowl to a *sterilised jar and discard the solids left in the sieve. 

This quick and easy preserve will keep for up to a month in the fridge and is delicious on toast, with goats cheese, or as an unusual filling in a Victoria Sponge.

The End

What foods have you come to like over time? What tastes are still to pass the cave-dweller test?

*The easiest way to sterilise jars is to run them through a hot cycle of the dishwasher. Otherwise, wash in hot soapy water, rinse, and dry in the oven at 100°C. 

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