Hanging in golden splendour underneath vast vine like leaves, like little summer baubles, the prettiest of pearls, lives the lesser spotted white currant.
We had a very small crop in one corner of the garden in early summer and I had a tiny, tantalising taste of what the little jewel had to offer.
Then the birds got stuck in.
Thus, heeding the sound advice of England Head Gardener Monty the Don, I netted the rest of the currant bushes, and was rewarded with a yield so glorious it took me a good couple of gleeful hours to collect the bounty.
But now what? White currants don’t have the cold-meat-friendly tartness of the red current nor does it pack the unmistakable punch of the blackcurrant. It is a subtle thing the white currant; a thing not steeped in childhood nostalgia; it conjures no memories from infancy and therefore no magic family recipe in the far flung regions of my mind to re-create. I only received one piece of advice on what to do with the white currant and that was that they looked and tasted good in a gin and tonic.
The white currant is an awkward guest; the blonde at the table who’s all mystery, novelty and allure, but who refuses to join in on the conversations. But perhaps one just needs to be more accommodating; offer up the conditions in which it can sing and dance, charm and dazzle, to become the star and transform from Norma Jean to Marilyn.
The currant is naturally high in pectin, and therefore makes a perfect candidate for jam. I’m not an accomplished jam maker, my Granny Sea (who lived by the Sea) was excellent at it. She had a larder so full, so well stocked that any fruit you can imagine had been jammed in a jar by her. Recollections of dusty, peeling labels, and finding jars in the deepest darkest corners that were older than us. And so, channeling her, I got my biggest saucepan at the ready.
It was a fairly manageable affair. 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of currants to 1 cup of water (I used a high pectin sugar for reassurance) I heaved everything in and let it boil. I did the measuring by sight, mainly because I was channeling Granny and she was more for enthusiasm than perfection.
The magic moment is when the jam reaches 105 degrees, you can tell by using a thermometer or, do as Granny and I do and put a saucer in the freezer, and after about 15 minutes of rolling boil or when the patience begins to wane, get the cold saucer and plop a bit of your jam on the side. If after 30 seconds it’s not exactly liquid then it’s probably done.
Sieve your beautiful jam into a large bowl and then into sterilised jars and pop into the fridge to cool. I did my jam in three batches, the second did not set, I poured it back in and boiled it again and now it’s just fine. Enthusiasm, not perfection.
It came out the most glorious throwback Victoriana peach colour, think apricot bathroom tiles in a faded beach resort with brass taps. Im most pleased with it, even if it tastes a bit like strawberry jam, a bit like apricot jam and a bit like nothing. Next year I will take the gin and tonic advice and build on it by steeping the currants in gin before we jam. I think this could elevate it to icon status.
1 cup of white currants
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
Boil until set