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Currant Jelly Recipe – Easy to Make Red Currant Jelly with No Added Pectin

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This red currant jelly recipe starts with a pint of current juice (or more) and sugar. No commercial pectin is needed. I sometimes add a small amount of almond extract to switch up the flavor, but it's not required. If you'd like a currant spread recipe that uses less sugar, see “Apple Currant Spread – Low Sugar with a Touch of Cinnamon“.

red currant jelly in jar with currants

Grandma's 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 since she didn't have much of a harvest last 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 to let me know she has a bumper crop of currants, and would I like to come over and pick some? Never one to turn away something free or waste food, of course I said “Yes”. So Tuesday morning was spent picking currants, and over the course of the day we cleaned them (picked out debris), washed them and made them into currant jelly.

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 grandma sent the grandkids out to pick the currants, and the kids came back in the house with bowls full of berries. Grandma was steamed! You see, the secret to her jelly was using the stems to provide the pectin. No stems = no jelly. Betty had lost her grandmother's recipe, but remembered the jelly fondly. Enter preserving inclined neighbor.

red currants for currant jelly

Over the years, I've been building my recipe library, and I have a book called Jams and Jellies by May Byron. It's really nifty. It contains 543 recipes for just about every type of jam, jelly, fruit cheese, fruit paste and preserve that you can imagine, some of which 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). The recipe I started with is below:

Red Currant Jelly, No. 3

The currants must be picked free of leaves, etc., but need not be stalked. Wash and drain them, and place in a jar in a pan of hot water. Heat the fruit thoroughly, and mash it with a heavy wooden spoon or pestle. Place it in a jelly-bag, and let drip all night. The following day, measure the juice; allow one pound of sugar to every pint. Heat the sugar in the oven, and put on the juice to boil. When it has boiled fast for twenty minutes, add the sugar; stir well, until it is dissolved; boil up for a minute, and pour into heated glasses.

I mashed my red currants with a potato masher and 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. I don't bother heating the sugar and five to 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 “jell”.

After making this recipe originally, I got to thinking that almond would be a nice accent, so after the jelly is finished cooking and before it goes into the jars, I pour in some pure almond extract. I know, I should measure, but I'd say it's around a teaspoon per pint of currant juice. It just adds that “little something extra”.

Currant Jelly Recipe

So, for the play-by play. Up top, I have the mounds of clean berries – a lot of berries. These currants are about the size of peas, so as you can see by this close up, we probably had over a thousand of the little buggers.

two containers of freshly harvested currants

Currants smushed and cooked down in two heavy-bottom pots. They are significantly less pretty.

currants in pots on stove top for currant jelly

I have a jelly bag and stand, but this batch called for something a little larger. I knew there was a reason I kept that old cotton pillowcase that had the center ripped out by my husband's razor stubble! About one third of it was undamaged, so there was more than enough room for the excess currant mush. I tethered it 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.

Finally, we get to the shimmering, clear juice. In this photo, it's just starting to boil.

The kitchen started to look like a crime scene as the night progressed.

Our final product – 10 jars of currant  jelly and currant almond jelly.

jars of red currant jelly sitting on towel on counter

I allow them to cool overnight. In the morning, the rings come off (they get washed and reused), the jars get a quick wipe for any spills, and I use a Sharpie marker to write the name and date on the lid. I have used the fancy stick-on labels in the past (they came with some of the jars), but a Sharpie is the quickest, easiest thing I've found to date.

The jars move on down to the basement pantry, where they are kept cool, dark and dry to be used at home and shared with family and friends.

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Currant Jelly

Easy two ingredient currant jelly is perfect for beginning home canners.

  • Author: Laurie Neverman
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 3 cups
  • Category: Jelly
  • Method: Canning
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • For each pint of currant juice, use 1 pound of cane sugar
  • Almond extract (optional)

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Place cooked currants in cheese cloth or strainer to drain for several hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Measure juice. For each pint of juice, measure out 1 pound of cane sugar. Set sugar aside.
  4. Prepare canning jars, lids and water bath canner.
  5. In large, heavy bottom stockpot, boil juice for 10 – 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken and gel.
  6. Add sugar all at once. Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved. Continue stirring until mixture reaches a rolling boil. Boil one minute.
  7. Remove from heat. Add almond extract, if desired. (One teaspoon per pint of juice, or to taste.)
  8. Fill jars to 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and place two piece lids. Process jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove jars from canner and place on a cloth out away from drafts. Allow to cool completely. (Overnight is good.)
  10. Remove rings and double check seals. Wipe up any spills. Label jars and store in a cool, dry location out of direct light.

Notes

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.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon

Keywords: currant, jelly

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jar of currant jelly and currants with text overlay "how to make currant jelly"

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.

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Note: Originally published in 2009, but was updated in 2015 and 2018. Betty's currants were with some sort of blight in the intervening years, drastically reducing her crop, but have since recovered. 

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51 Comments

  1. Does that wonderful book have a recipe for rhubarb, banana, almond jam (or jelly)? I have a friend whose grandmother made it years ago, and I’m very curious about it. Thank you!

    Jenn

    1. There are several banana and rhubarb recipes, but no almond recipes. Banana isn’t recommended for canning anymore on its own because it is low acid, but I think a freezer jam would be okay.

  2. i am curious, you never said how much sugar to add per pound of currants, or how much of the currant juice you had after the currants were drained in the jelly bag, please do tell. Thanks so much!!!

    1. The recipe specified one pound of sugar for every pint of juice. I’m not sure how many pounds of currants are needed for a pint of juice, I just measured the juice and then measured the sugar accordingly. I haven’t made this in the while since the neighbors sold the property with the main currant bushes, so I can’t remember specifically how many pints of juice I had for this batch.

  3. Dear Laurie

    Many thanks the v helpful website. Now I am a granny may I add 3 things?

    1 Mashing the fruit isnt such a good idea as it can make the glorious juice cloudy, tho I see Laurie’s is beautifully clear. Provided the currants are cooked till the skins are softened, straining through the muslin overnight gets all juice out.

    2 Heating the sugar is a good idea as it cuts down the cooking time, which of course means less loss of flavour

    3 My constant guide is Constance Spry, a thorough, totally reliable woman. She explains why you do things and has cures for what goes wrong. She ran a first class finishing school in Ascot for many years. You’re lucky if you can find her large pink, cookery book second hand

    1. As long as you don’t squeeze the bag when straining, there shouldn’t be a problem with cloudy jelly, even when the berries are mashed (as you can see from the photos).

      How do you heat your sugar? In a pan on the stove? In the oven? My kitchen tends to get pretty warm when canning, and of course the juice is piping hot when the sugar is added, so I’ve never had an issue with the flavor on this jelly, unlike some boil down jellies I’ve tried that tend to taste a little more “cooked” than I prefer.

      I haven’t heard of Constance Spry, but I’ll have to keep an eye out at the book sales and thrift stores. I love good food preservation and recipe books.

  4. one of my favourite jellies is a spiced red currant jelly that uses pectin, I will need to see if I can combine the spices of that one with this idea. Love the idea of not needing to remove every little stem.

  5. Love this recipe. I used blackcurrants I got through a local CSA. So easy to make and the taste took my right back to my childhood and my grandmother’s kitchen.

  6. A spadle is a Scotish wooden spatula. It existed long before Tupperware came into existence. Since learning about it, I have wanted one. They look easy enough to make.

    One question: what does a Current Bush/tree/plant look like? Think my neighbour has one…

    Cheers. Good job.

    1. Here’s a shot of some of branches of one we were picking. The place we’ve been visiting has a clump about 5 feet tall and eight feet across. My grandmother’s bush was much smaller.

      Currant Bush

  7. When you put the jars with the juice in the water bath does it need to boil for 10 minutes or just sit
    in the water

  8. Using a steamer juicer means you can get the juice (crystal clear) AND make the jelly in a single morning.

  9. Laurie you are amazing! We recently moved to Idaho, and we discovered 3 strange bushes in the back yard. Coming from Phoenix we’d never seen anything like it. So took a sample to a nursery, where 3 people finally concurred we had 2 black and one red current bushes! WOW, so now what does one do with them? No one had an answer, until I started getting you e-mails and today was the awakening I’d been waiting for!
    Eating them alone is very bitter, so we left them for the birds.
    Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome. You can also pair them up with other juices (like pear or apple) to make a milder jelly.

      I like tart foods, so I don’t mind eating them straight off the bush, even with the level of pucker power. It’s probably because of the bush my grandmother had when I was a little girl. Good memories.

  10. I bought a red current bush, about 5 years ago, thinking my kids would love the berries…my youngest (6) does–when they’re green! He does get into that bush and snacks on as many as will fit into his mouth, again and again!
    This year, I had such a bumper crop, my mother-in-law suggested current jelly. I’ve picked my bush clean today and tomorrow I start the process. I’m so excited–I love canning. I’m glad I came across your recipe before I de-stemmed them!! Thank you!

      1. Laurie, I misread the directions and added the sugar right away without boiling the juice first….is this still salvageable? Can I continue boiling and adding the almond extract and then canning it???
        Thanks,
        Kristina

          1. Yes, it will work. Just continue boiling until the syrup reaches the ‘jelling’ point, then add the almond extract.

  11. Just a little tip for those still using jelly bags – new knee high nylon stockings make awesome jelly bags and they’re cheap! Just place in your juice collection pot and stretch the knee band to grip around the top and treat just as your usual jelly bag. The beauty of using these is, once your juice has all dripped out, you can simply toss everything, knee high included, in the trash, or invert the knee high to compost the contents, rinse the knee high well and reuse.

    1. Are those safe to be in contact with hot food? Many types of synthetics give off chemicals at high temperatures. I know when we had the family catering business, all plastics in contact with food had to be food grade, i.e., specifically rated for safety in contact with food.

  12. I am going to try this this year, but my question is does the jelly ever taste bitter or Barky to anyone. I’ve been told the stems can give it that flavor. It’s still not going to stop me from trying I was just wondering what everyone’s opinion was. 🙂

  13. My mother made currant-apple jelly 50+ years ago so I have experimented with your recipe adding some chopped up apples (seed removed) during the first “cooking phase” with great results. The jelly isn’t quite as clear but tastes great. Apples have natural pectin and I had already stemmed my currants.

    Also, the currants make wonderful tarts and pie. My own children and grandchildren love currants as a result.

    1. I love currants and apples together. It’s a nice mix of sweet and tart. Your children and grandchildren are lucky to have you to help them appreciate this underused fruit.

  14. Regarding earlier questions/comments of yields. I started with 16 lbs of fresh currants from my garden. I have three mature bushes which I picked nearly completely including some less than fully ripe currants. Under ripe fruit adds to the tartness and has a higher natural pectin content.

    Gave me 14 cups of juice, 7 pints, 112 oz of clear juice filtered through a clean pillow case.

    Boiled the juice with 7lb of cane sugar for 15 minutes, was more than enough to gel perfectly without added pectin. Sugar and juice were mixed and boiled together.

    This yielded 18-8 oz and 4-12 oz jars of beautiful clear currant jelly which has a hyper intense flavor.

    Additionally I salvaged a little less than 4 cups of thick pulpy semi solids by processing the leftovers that didn’t pass through the pillowcase filter in a Foley Food Mill . These I will use to make delicious Currant Vinaigrette salad dressing.

    Great recipe !

  15. This is exciting. I have three black currant bushes and one red one. They are all newly planted but the red one has fruit. I doubt that there will be much more than a half pound of berries this year but watch out for next year and the following ones. I remember this recipe for a sauce for roast or grilled chicken that requires red currant jelly, an ingredient that is damned hard to find in the store. Thanx, so much!

  16. Why do so many people spell this fruit incorrectly? It is CURRANT not CURRENT. Thank you for letting me vent!

  17. I have a question : Will the juice gel if I put less sugar in it ? Made it years ago and can’t remember how much sugar I used.
    I like jelly on the tart side.

    1. It may not gel without added pectin if you cut the sugar, although I haven’t tried it. If it doesn’t work, there’s always syrup, or you could recook with added pectin.

  18. I have made currant jelly for years and I always squeeze the pulp as hard as I can. The yield is greatly increased, seems more flavorful, and the tiny particles come to the surface as foam as it cooks with the sugar. I simply skim it off and my jelly is always crystal clear.

    1. I didn’t notice a significant change in yield from simply letting the towel drip overnight or several hours. For me it’s easier not to squeeze and then skip skimming.

  19. I don’t use the pectin recipes as they don’t allow enough room time for all the particles to bring themselves to the surface to be skimmed off. I use just juice and sugar.

  20. Can this be made on a much smaller scale? And can it be made with organic stevia instead of sugar? If so how would you adjust the recipe? Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. You can adjust the amount of juice as long as you adjust the proportion of sugar in the same way.

      No, this recipe cannot be made with stevia instead. Sugar acts as a preservative, binding up free water and inhibiting bacteria growth. It also helps the juice to gel.

      If you’d like to make a sugar free currant jelly, I’d highly recommend picking up a pack of Pomona’s Pectin (you can order it online here) and following their directions. With Pomona’s Pectin, you can use your sweetener of choice, or no sweetener at all. One box makes several batches of jam or jelly.

    1. You should be able to convert it to a currant pepper jelly by adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup finely diced hot peppers near the end of the boiling period. It would be best to double check pH and add extra acid if needed to keep the pH at 4.6 or below for safe water bath canning. As a precaution, you could add 2 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice along with the peppers.

  21. I make a mixed berry jam and add currants for their wonderful tartness and acidity. I never have to use pectin.

  22. I followed your recipe exactly. My currants did not make juice, more the consistency of catchup and had an unpleasant smell when cooking. The jelly tasted good but had a bitter finish. Any ideas why? I thought maybe the fruit wasn’t quite ripe.

    1. Maybe the fruit was underripe, or maybe your stove top burner runs hot and overcooked the fruit and stems? The stems are somewhat bitter, so a gentle heat is recommended, not boiling, which may bring out the bitterness. This may also have contributed to your jelly being cloudy instead of clear.

      How did you get the juice out of the currants? If you want a clear juice, you need to use something like a flower sack towel, several layers of cheesecloth, or a jelly strainer. It must also be left to drain without squeezing, or you’ll get pulp in the jelly, which will make it cloudy instead of clear. Using a food mill, mesh strainer or chinois to juice the fruit will also leave it thicken and more cloudy.

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