This red currant jelly recipe starts with a pint of currant juice (or more) and sugar. You don't need commercial pectin. I sometimes add almond extract to switch up the flavor, but it's good with or without.
If you'd like a currant spread recipe that uses less sugar, see “Apple Currant Spread“. This recipe is safe for a water bath canner or steam canner. You can use red, black, pink, or white currants. Currants also blend wonderfully with raspberries.
Grandma's Lost Currant Jelly Recipe
I think God has a funny sense of humor. I was thinking last weekend, “Hmmm, I wonder if my neighbor will have any extra currants this year. It wouldn't be too bad if she didn't as I am quite busy enough already.”
Said neighbor called later the same day. She had a bumper crop of currants, and asked if would I like to come over and pick some.
The neighbor who shares her currants (Betty), told me that her grandmother used to make currant jelly without using added pectin. She remembered years ago when her grandma sent the grandkids to pick the currants. When they came back in the house with berries, grandma was steamed!
You see, the secret to her jelly was using the stems to provide extra pectin. Without the stems, the jelly takes longer to gel. Betty had lost her grandmother's recipe, but remembered the jelly fondly.
Note: We relocated the neighbor's currant plants to our yard in 2021 since they were downsizing. You can read more at “Currants – Growing, Harvesting, and Uses“.
Over the years, I've been building my recipe library, and I have a book called Jams and Jellies by May Byron. It contains 543 recipes for just about every type of jam, jelly, and preserve that you can imagine.
Some of the recipes are a couple hundred years old. (For instance, one recipe calls for using a spaddle to put berries in your hair sieve after cooking them over the fire). This recipe was from the book, adapted for current canning guidelines.
How to Make Red Currant Jelly – Step by Step
We start with the mounds of clean berries – a lot of berries. These currants are about the size of peas, so we probably had over a thousand of the little buggers. You'll need around 5 pounds of red currants to get 4 cups of prepared juice.
It's okay to scale the recipe up or down to use the berries that you have available. Smaller batches will gel faster, larger batches take longer to cook. We picked out leaves and debris and rinsed the berries well.
Preparing the Juice
I smashed the currants with a potato masher and cooked them down in two heavy-bottom pots. You can add a little water if you like to help prevent scorching.
I have a jelly bag and stand, but this batch called for something a little larger. I tethered an old pillowcase to a cabinet handle, shoveled in the red stuff, and we were in business. Here are the two drip devices in progress sitting next to the initial juice runoff.
You could also use sturdy cheesecloth or a flour sack towel. I let them drain for a couple of hours. It seemed most of the juice was out, as the flow had slowed to barely a trickle.
Straining the berries keeps the juice clear for a prettier jelly. If you're in a hurry and don't mind some pulp, you can use a food strainer to remove the stems and seeds.
Making the Jelly
Measure the juice, and for each pint of juice, measure out one pound of cane sugar. (1 pound of granulated sugar is roughly 2 1/4 cups of sugar.)
Prepare canning jars, lids and water bath canner. In large, heavy bottom stockpot, boil juice for 10 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken and gel.
About ten minutes of boiling seems to be enough (although 20 would certainly give a firmer product). The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives more specific guidelines. I just stir and watch for the gel.
Add the sugar and stir constantly until dissolved. Continue stirring until mixture reaches a rolling boil. Boil over high heat for one minute. Remove from heat and add almond extract, if desired.
The kitchen started to look like a crime scene as the night progressed.
Fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims and place two piece lids. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place on a cloth out away from drafts.
Our final product – 10 jars of currant jelly and currant almond jelly. Allow to cool completely or overnight.
In the morning, the rings come off, and the jars get a quick wipe for any spills. I use a Sharpie marker to write the name and date on the lid. You can use stick on labels, but a Sharpie is the quickest, easiest thing I've found to date.
We store the sealed jars in the basement pantry, which is cool and dark. For best quality, use within 2 years.
Ways to Use Red Currant Jelly
Currant jelly has a sweet tart flavor similar to cranberry sauce, so it works well with meats and cheeses. It's quite yummy spooned over a nice baked Brie.
It's also lovely with pancakes, toast, or mixed into yogurt. You can use it for filling thumbprint or ribbon cookies, or your favorite layer cake.
Sweet tart and simple to make, this old fashioned currant jelly will brighten any pantry.Print
Easy Red Currant Jelly
Easy two ingredient currant jelly is perfect for beginning home canners.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 3 cups
- Category: Jelly
- Method: Canning
- Cuisine: American
- For each pint of red currant juice, use 1 pound of cane sugar
- Almond extract (optional)
- Wash currants, removing leaves and debris but leaving stems intact. Put currants in large stock pot and simmer on low heat, smashing occasionally, until soft.
- Place cooked currants in cheese cloth or strainer to drain for several hours, preferably overnight.
- Measure juice. For each pint of juice, measure out 1 pound of cane sugar. Set sugar aside.
- Prepare canning jars, lids and water bath canner.
- In large, heavy bottom stockpot, boil juice for 10 – 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken and gel.
- Add sugar all at once. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Continue stirring until mixture reaches a rolling boil. Boil one minute.
- Remove from heat. Add almond extract, if desired. (One teaspoon per pint of juice, or to taste.)
- Fill jars to 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and place two piece lids. Process jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
- Remove jars from canner and place on a cloth out away from drafts. Allow to cool completely. (Overnight is good.)
- Remove rings and double check seals. Wipe up any spills. Label jars and store in a cool, dry location out of direct light.
Quality is best if used within two years of processing. Once jar is opened, refrigerate uneaten portions and use within a few weeks. Nutrition information is estimated for a yield of 3 cups of jelly from one pint of juice.
One pound of granulated sugar is roughly 2 1/4 cups.
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
Can you eat raw red currants?
Yes, it's perfectly safe to eat raw red currants, or pink or black currants. I used to nibble them off of my grandmother's currant bush all every year. They are, however, quite tart, so most people add sugar.
Why is red currant jelly hard to find?
Some states ban growing currants, and the berries are labor intensive to pick, and don't travel well. Commercial jelly makers prefer more durable fruit. Modern eaters often choose sweeter fruit, and don't appreciate the old fashioned flavor of tart redcurrant jelly.
You may also enjoy:
- Queen Anne’s Lace Jelly with Currants
- Elderberry Jelly Recipes – Low Sugar and Sure-Jell Options
- Corn Cob Jelly – Traditional and Low Sugar
This article is written by Laurie Neverman. Laurie grew up in the kitchen, learning baking and home cooking from her momma. At age 15, she and her mom and two sisters created Irene’s Custom Cakes & Catering, which was her summer job through most of high school and college.
Now she combines old fashioned recipes, garden fresh produce, and cooking for special diets to make tasty, easy to prepare foods. Along with her passion for growing nutrient dense food, she also enjoys ancient history, adorable ducks, and lifelong learning.
Last updated in 2023.