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What is it?

Related to the gooseberry, currants can be either red (the Ribes rubrum species), white (an albino cultivar of Ribes rubrum), or black (Ribes nigrum). Black currants are sweetest, then white, and then red, which tend to be tart. Red currants are bracingly tart and a bit sweet, like a sugar-kissed cranberry. They’re consumed in their cooked form more often than fresh. The sweeter black currants are made into liqueurs, cordials, candies, jams, jellies and syrups and are most popular. Both red and black also lend themselves well to savory dishes, as their sweet-tart flavor provides a pleasant contrast. They are in season from June through August. Don’t confuse them with dried currants, which are actually not currants at all, but rather dried zante grapes from Greece.

Native to northern Europe, currants grow best in areas with cold winters and warm, humid summers. Colonists brought the berries to New England, but the plant was banned and eradicated in the United States in the early 1900s because it hosted a fungus detrimental to pine trees. Restrictions were gradually lifted starting in the mid-1960s, and many home gardeners began growing currant bushes. But it’s only been in the last decade or so that they’ve become widely available in the United States.

How to choose:

Red, black, and white currants are available at farmers’ and specialty markets as well as some well-stocked grocery stores from June through August. Look for currants on the stem that are firm, translucent, shiny, and bright in color (red, pinkish-white, or purple-black). The berries are likely to break open when removed from their stems, so it’s best to leave them on until you’re ready to eat them.

How to prep:

With their sweet, sour, and slightly woodsy herbal notes, currants taste great on their own or with just a sprinkle of sugar. They also work well in both sweet and savory dishes. Try red currants crushed in a light vinaigrette or in a more robust sauce, such as Cumberland sauce (a British classic with currants, port wine, orange, ginger, and vinegar), for rich, roasted meats like lamb, venison, and duck. Whole currants can be added to muffins or quick breads, or used in pie filling, ice cream, or sorbet, either on their own or with other fruits and berries. Currants on the stem, either frozen or frosted with egg whites and sugar, are a beautiful garnish. And because of their high pectin content, currants make great jams, jellies, and relishes.

How to store:

Currants can be refrigerated for up to three days, or frozen for several months. To freeze them, arrange unstemmed currants in a single layer and freeze for about 3 hours. Once they’re frozen, remove them from the stems and put them in freezer bags. Frozen currants are also available year-round at specialty markets.


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  • bob_bob | 08/14/2017

    I am very disappointed in this article. Dried currants are small raisins and I was hoping for more related to red and black currants.

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