In 2004, my husband and I were in Amsterdam, rushing down the street (as fast as I could push an umbrella stroller on cobblestone sidewalks without rattling my kid’s brains right out, anyway) to meet up with his family for dinner. On our way there, we approached a greengrocer’s stand selling some tiny, unfamiliar fruit, still clinging to thin branches. Smaller than blueberries and an amazing crimson color, I quickly realized they were red currants.
I had never actually seen them before, other than in jam form. I gawked—for as long as I was able—at their amazing translucent skin that seems to catch the light in way my photo does not do justice to at all. I meant to go back and buy some, but I never quite got around to it and went home without having tried them.
This love-at-first-sight-in-a-faraway-land story must be the reason I keep buying them… because it’s certainly not for the taste. You think of summer fruits and berries and oh, they’re all so juicy and sweet, right? Red currants, as I seem to willfully forget each summer, are shockingly tart. Sweeter than cranberries (although not by much) and without the bitterness of pomegranate seeds, but still quite tart. They’re not really a fruit I can just pop into my mouth and snack on without wincing a little.
Currants are closely related to gooseberries (also quite tart) and, unsurprisingly, are a good, mouth-puckering source of Vitamin C. If you’re planning on getting your RDA from currants, though, better bring a checkbook—a tiny pint can often set you back $4 to $6 around here. Just for the sake of not wasting money, I tried to will myself to love these currants (yum, they’re so… lemony? oh god, who am I kidding?), but they slowly shriveled in my fridge until I conceded defeat and composted them.
Next summer, when I will have almost certainly forgotten everything I’ve just said and fall in love with some beautiful currants again, I’ll be ready. I’m not a fan of cooked summer fruits; I’d much rather enjoy them as they are (and who wants to turn on the oven in an already 80-degree house?) but red currants supposedly mellow considerably when cooked. I think I’ll try my hand at redcurrant buns or maybe a bread pudding with currants. Next year, I won’t be quite so dazzled by their good looks again.