#422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly

This is the last fruit jelly recipe in the book, and I’ve become somewhat of a seasoned jelly maker, making up my own recipes and these days cooking them up at The Buttery to go with meat and cheese platters, roast meats and the like. This is the second of two redcurrant jelly recipes from English Food.

Redcurrant jelly is considered a rather niche preserved, being served with rich meats such as lamb, venison and other game, or as an ingredient in Cumberland Sauce, but it is versatile; I like it with cheese.

Redcurrant jelly is very much the preserve of the gardener – the delicate berries do not transport well and have a short shelf life, which is why they are expensive to buy fresh. On a recent walk around nearby Chorlton Meadows I found dozens of sprays of ruby-red currants growing out of sight beneath a huge mass of thick brambles. Typically in these situations, I brought neither bag nor tub and so I ate them straight from the bush until acid reflux began. It was a shame really, as I could have made a huge amount of jelly. Hey-ho, I’ll remember this secret spot next year.

Our cultivated redcurrants are actually made up of three distinct species, and the less common whitecurrant is simply a variety of redcurrant that has lost the ability to produce the distinctive red pigment. There is also a pinkcurrant.

Country houses and kitchen gardens particularly in the 18th Century, grew vast amounts of red and white currants; their pectin-rich and tart juice used as a base for dozens of other preserves and sauces. I have never made whitecurrant jelly, and I wonder why one doesn’t see it anywhere?

This redcurrant jelly is enriched with red wine and contains cracked black peppercorns, I imagine it would work just as well using whitecurrants and white wine.

This recipe can be easily scaled up or down, depending on how many redcurrants you have, and the great thing about making a jelly is you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of stripping the berries from their stalks as they all get left behind during straining.

Put three pounds of redcurrants in a saucepan. To this, add around 2 ¼ pints of liquid; between 8 and 16 fluid ounces of it should be red wine, the remainder water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the currants are soft and pulpy. Pass through a jelly sieve or bag and allow to drip overnight.

Next day, place the juice in a saucepan or preserving pan with three pounds of granulated sugar. Put over a medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the spoon and turn the heat up so that the fruity syrup boils enthusiastically. At this point put a saucer in the freezer so you can test for a set later.

After 15-20 minutes boiling, test to see if the jelly has set. There are two ways: (1) use a thermometer, pectin gels set at 105C; (2) the wrinkle test where a few drops of jelly on a cold saucer cool and wrinkle when you scrape them with a finger. I usually do both to be on the safe side. If the jelly isn’t set, boil for another 10 minutes and retest.

Finally, roughly grind about a teaspoon of black peppercorns using a pestle and mortar and stir in right at the end of cooking. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before potting in hot, sterilised jars.

#422 Peppered Redcurrant Jelly. This is a delicious jelly, spiked with rough spicy peppercorns giving it both interesting flavour and texture. The red wine doesn’t make it too rich, as you might expect it to, so be generous with it. I am going to use it for some future lamb dishes I think, though I did try a little sample with some good cheese, butter and bread. Very good, 8/10.

#44 English Game Pie, #45 Cumberland Sauce


I invited Clive from work to help me finish off the last of the game I got from Bury Market last night in the form of (#44) English Game Pie. Looking through the ‘Stuffing, Sauces and Preserves’ chapter of English Food for something to go with game, I found (#44) Cumberland sauce. I’ve never had it before, and had no idea what it was. Everything was straight-forward, though the pie had lots of preparation. Anyways, here’s what I did…

The day before I simmered a brace of pheasants and a pigeon (essentially everything I had!) in a very light chicken stock along with a good seasoning and a bouquet garnei of parsley, bay leaves and thyme springs. Jane recommends between 2 and 4 birds. It took an hour and a half for the meat to become tender enough for me to pull the meat from the bone with relative ease. I cut the meat into chunks and kept them in a sealed tub topped up with the stock so it didn’t dry out over night and reserved the remaining stock.

Next day I arranged the meat in one large dish, and a smaller, as I made an extra one for my PhD supervisor too. Then hard-boiled and quartered three eggs and tucked them between the pieces of meat along with small rolls of grilled bacon (though not in yours Jason, don’t worry!), and chopped parsley. Next, I fried a large onion and about 8 ounces of mushrooms in 2 ounces of butter until they were golden. A tablespoon of flour was mixed in to the mushrooms and onions and stirred around so that the butter got absorbed, and then stock was added a ladelful at a time until a thick sauce had developed – about the thickness of double cream. Make sure the sauce is seasoned very well. It was simmered for about 5 minutes, and I added extra stock whenever the sauce thickened too much. The sauce was poured over the meat and then a puff pastry covered the pies. The large pie was cooked at 200 degrees for 20 minutes and then the oven was turned down to 170 for a final ten.

The Cumberland sauce was very easy. Make sure you make it in advance as it should be served cold. Whisk together a jar of redcurrant jelly and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a pan over a low heat. Meanwhile blanch the thinly pared peel of a lemon and an orange that have been cut into matchsticks for 5 minutes, then drain. Once the jelly has melted, add the peel, the juice of the two fruits, 5 tablespoons of port, plenty of black pepper and salt and ground ginger to taste (I used a scant teaspoon). Pour into sauce boat. Easy peasy.

FYI: Cumberland sauce is, in fact, German – the recipe was brought over with the House of Hanover in the late Eighteenth Century, and is named after George IV who was the Duke of Cumberland.

#43 English Game Pie – 10/10. This is my first full point dish I think! It was absoluely delicious. Although I’d never had it, there was something very familiar and comforting about it. It was also, for me, the epitome of English Food. The meat was beautifully tender, and he sauce had turned into a delicious gravy and the salty bacon added an extra dimension. The full flavour of the pheasant and pigeon coped very well with the rich Cumberland sauce…

#44 Cumberland Sauce – 8/10. A perfect complement to the game. Although it was very rich and sweet, the savory additions such as the pepper and mustard allowed you to add loads. All in all a fantastic meal!