It’s time again for preserving summer produce from our gardens. Slovak summer started very early this year, in fact, it replaced spring with temperatures going up to 26 – 30ºC in April and May, something we haven’t seen in 80 years. It meant we could harvest summer fruit and vegetables much earlier than usual, and recorded excellent crops.
After two years, my friend parents’s garden high up in the mountains has finally provided enough currants and berries to feed all the hungry blackbirds in the area, as well as for the family to eat and preserve for winter months.
I was there in my friend’s kitchen when she was making their favourite redcurrant syrup. Here’s the family’s tried-and-tested recipe, which only uses hand-picked currants, sugar and water. No, there are no additives or preservatives involved. One thing that you need for Home-made Redcurrant Syrup though, is a good juicer. For more colour, flavour and aroma, my friend adds a few blackcurrants to the red ones. As you will see in the photos below, Slovaks store home-made syrups in used bottles from alcoholic and soft drinks. However, they must be thoroughly washed and sterilized in a dishwasher before use.
Home-made Redcurrant Syrup
Makes: about 3½ l
- 1½ l freshly squeezed juice (from about 2½ kg currants)
- 1½ l water
- 2 kg granulated sugar
- Bring the water to the boil in a large cooking pot. Let cool down. Meanwhile, destalk the currants and rinse them under running water. Put in a colander.
- Squeeze the juice from the currants into a pitcher.
- Add the juice to the cooled water in the pot and slowly bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, add the sugar and stir gently until it dissolves. Remove from the heat and skim off the froth that has formed on the surface.
- Put a funnel onto a bottle and ladle the hot syrup through it until it reaches the brim of the bottle. Tilt the funnel slightly and let the syrupy liquid trickle down the bottle walls slowly to prevent froth formation. Screw on the cap and lay the bottle sideways on the worktop to ensure a good seal. Repeat until you have used all the syrup.
- Leave the bottles on the worktop for about 30 minutes, then stand them upright and let cool down at room temperature. Store in a cool, dark place. When opened, keep in the fridge and use within a month.
To serve, mix some of the syrup with cold tap water in a desired ratio and you’ll get a refreshing summer drink. In the winter, my friend’s family use their home-made syrups to sweeten their teas, especially herbal ones.