My mother is Estonian, and as a very young girl she was forced to flee her home and life on Muhu Island (part of Estonia) when the Soviets were re-invading the country, out of fear of the purges that the Soviets were so well known for at that time. Her story is compelling and complex, and I won’t attempt to describe it here; I mentioned this fact only as a way to mention that she ended up as an immigrant in Sweden, and that she grew up there, learning Swedish customs and cuisine.
One thing that is a part of Swedish cuisine that seems to be almost completely unknown in the USA is currants. These are berries of a particular kind of compact bush that is largely unknown in the USA, which is a shame because they are AMAZING. They are a mid-summer crop that is harvested quickly and processed immediately, because they go bad fast. Black currants are sweet and delicious; red currants are tart and will make your right eye squeeze shut if you try to eat too many at once. Both of them are loaded with nutrients! My european friends here in the USA all pine for the flavor of black currants.
One of the first things that I did when I moved to my current home was to plant 13 black currant plants, and they’ve been producing faithfully ever since. A flat (about one quart) of black currants in the grocery store costs $17 here, when you can find them. If you DO find them, I recommend that you buy them right away! Why? Because of the following recipe. This recipe can be easily doubled, and it always jells because currants are loaded with natural pectin. The resulting jam lasts for a long time and is wonderful on oatmeal in the morning, or toast, or whatever.
- 5 cups black currants
- 4 cups sugar (yes, you read that right)
- 1/4 cup lemon juice (preferably freshly squeezed, but that’s not crucial)
- 2 cups water
- Place the fruit in a sauce pan with the water. There should be several inches of headspace above the currants, as the combination will need to boil high.
- Bring to a low boil, stirring often to help break the fruit down. Once at a low boil, cook for 10 minutes.
- Turn down the heat and add the sugar (slowly) and the lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Raise the heat up and bring to a full, rolling boil. Keep stirring.
- Boil hard for 10 minutes.
- Once the 10 minutes are done, turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then pour into jars.
- If you want to can the jars, process them in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
Depending upon your technique, you’ll get about 4 to 10 eight-ounce jars of jam. And it will DEFINITELY set: currants are loaded with pectin, so you never have to test the batch for its jell-point. Your result might look like mine, as I finished cooling my black currant jam jars this afternoon:
I’ve already traded one of those jars for some ripe tomatoes, which go for $$/lb at the market, and each of those jars cost me next to nothing (less than a dime and a few hours of my time).