Camping Day 4 – Massacre Rocks State Recreation Area, Idaho
Did I mention that it’s HOT? It is. Even my iPhone complained of the heat when I turned it on. It told me that I couldn’t use it until I cooled it off. But one of our camping campadres mentioned sightings of wild currant bushes along the river bank. I had to check it out. So, today I set out early (before it got more hot) with a team of fellow currant foragers. What an incredible bounty! There were dozens of currant bushes! There were three varieties – black, red and golden. I SO had to make jam. Luckily, in my gear I keep a couple of packages of Sure Jell, just for moments like this. (You never know!)
The best part is that, in the morning hours, picking berries in this location meant that you were standing in the shade and, in some spots, also standing in the river enjoying the sights and sounds of loons and swallows. Ahhhhh! This IS an oasis!
After about an hour or so we had enough currants for a half a batch of jam. It’s generally a cardinal rule of making jam to not split batches or reduce sugar but, in this instance, I didn’t have much of a choice. After all, we’re “roughing it”, right?
Dutch Oven Wild Currant Jam
Without the comforts of my own kitchen, I had to make do with what I had.
First, start the campfire going at full steam. Next prepare the fruit. First roll the currants gently between the palms of your hands to help remove the stems and flower part (this is easier to do when they are dry so do it before you rinse them). Then rinse the fruit.
Next mash the fruit. If I had been at home, I would have run them through the blender or food processor for a quick spin but since we’re in the middle of the desert, I used the bottom of a Tupperware container to mash the currants in a large bowl. The jam was a little more lumpy than I prefer but if you are a preserve lover, the texture is perfect.
As I mentioned, I used a reduced amount from a full batch so that is what I offer here:
2 ½ cups mashed currants
3 ½ cups sugar
½ package of Sure Jell
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
Place Dutch oven over grill grate on the lowest position (if adjustable). In about 5 minutes, when pan is a little heated, stir mashed berries, lemon and Sure Jell together in the pot and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop when stirred). Stir in sugar all at once and continue stirring occasionally. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil and boil for one minute. Remove pot from the fire and let rest for 3 minutes. Using a metal spoon, skim foam from the top of the jam. Place lid on Dutch oven and let jam cool completely. Transfer cooled jam into an airtight container and put in the cooler. Keeps well refrigerated for 3 weeks.
In this instance, I thought my worst nightmares had come true and that the jam wasn’t going to set. As it turned out it just didn’t set because of the heat. After the overnight low, the jam set perfectly!
All that jam sticking to your pan? Be sure to check out my post on cleaning cast iron.
Thanks so much to Julie, Matt and Noah for helping me do the hard work in picking all of these tiny little fruits!