It’s mid-July and berry season here in Normandy has arrived in full force. I don’t know about you, but the look, taste, and abundance of fresh sweet berries just puts a smile on my face. Making this jam was a cinch because “cassis” or black currants are a bit acidic so you can’t eat too many of them without pursing your lips, which helps the objective of using them to make jam rather than just pop them in your mouth…
But wait, what are black currants anyway? The taste is sweet and acidic. Perhaps if you combined a cranberry, grape and a blueberry, that’s what you’d be tasting. If you’re American, it’s quite likely that you’ve never tasted these berries. Their nickname is “America’s Forbidden Fruit” because they have been illegal for more than a century, based on some hokey scientific research that concluded they were a threat to the US Lumber industry. Recently, several states overturned this ban, including New York. But they are still very scarcely grown. Lucky for me, here in France, they are widely available in the countryside and I couldn’t resist picking up a little 250g “barquette” with some Confiture de Cassis in mind.
This jam is a snap to make, and uses a high fruit-to-sugar ratio, about half less sugar than normal, and instead makes use of agar-agar to gel it up somewhat instead of relying on a heavy dose of sugar. I didn’t go through the whole canning process which involves water baths, etc, since I’m sure this jar is going to disappear rather quickly, but I may go into that in the future once I learn how to do it 🙂
Let’s get on with it!
First you boil 250g fresh black currants, washed and stemmed in 3/4 cup (180ml) water. Patience, it takes while to de-stem these marvels… but isn’t that half the fun?
Boil for 10 minutes.
Then add 3/4 cup sugar + 2g agar-agar, pre-dissolved in cold water, + 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice. Continue stirring until the jam boils vigorously for about 5 minutes.
Pour into clean jam jars, turn over, and let cool to room temperature. Then place in the refrigerator at least 4 hours to let the agar-agar do it’s thing.
Et voila! This was delicious just on a regular baguette tradition… but shhh! I actually put a dollop of all natural unsalted unsweetened peanut butter on that one on the right…. it’s only been millennia since I’ve had a good old PB+J…. If I can recommend a delicious way to enjoy Confiture de Cassis, PB+J wins as the tangy sweetness is perfect with peanut butter.
PS- this recipe is modified from the original by David Lebovitz.