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James Street Cookery School: Blackberry and cherry preserve, redcurrant jelly

Niall McKenna's blackberry and cherry preserve
Niall McKenna

THIS week’s recipes are taking full advantage of all the luscious berries that are in season at the moment.

Northern Ireland is home to a number of really great jam makers, many of these home-based producers making small-batch jams. This industry is thriving and I thought I would add to this with my own two recipes, Redcurrant Jelly and Blackberry and Cherry Preserve.

By preserving seasonal produce, you can enjoy your favourite food all year round.

The preserve is great paired with all breads while the jelly is delicious served with all birds such as pigeon, grouse and chicken, or event just spread over plain white toast.

BLACKBERRY AND CHERRY PRESERVE

350g cherries, washed, pitted and crushed

350g blackberries, washed and crushed

1 tbsp lemon rind, chopped

900g sugar

½ tsp ground nutmeg

Place all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot. Place on a medium heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Once all of the sugar is melted through, boil the mixture but be careful not to burn it. Using a handheld thermometer, bring the mix to 120C and then remove from heat.

You can strain the mix through a fine sieve if you prefer – my preference is for retaining the seeds and texture, but this is not to everyone’s taste.

Ladle the mix into sterile jars (the best way to do this is to place any jars in boiling water and then leave to dry). Leave a good couple of centimetres free at the top. Cut out some round shapes on greaseproof paper and place on top of the jam. Seal with an elastic band and place the lid on.

Then place the jar into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes, remove and leave to cool.

REDCURRANT JELLY

(Serves up to 12 but can be stored in Kilner jar in fridge)

400ml of orange juice (freshly squeezed, approx. 6 oranges)

400g caster sugar

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1/3 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1kg redcurrants

Peel and roughly dice the redcurrants (discarding the pith) and put into pot with cold water. Add 1 tsp of caster sugar and bring to boil. Refresh in cold water and repeat this process three times.

Place the orange juice, mixed spice and remaining sugar into the pot with the cinnamon stick, bay leaf and ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and then simmer to reduce liquid by half.

Add in your redcurrants and bring back to the boil and reduce by half again. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pass through a sieve if you prefer smooth redcurrant jelly.

If, however you prefer chunky jelly strain all juice away and let cool. Place in bowl and refrigerate until required.

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