Greenmarket Grub: Red Currants
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.
I think you can juice them, dilute, and add sugar. But mostly I’ve had blackcurrant type juice, not red currant.
Perhaps you could also make some sort of sweetened spiced chutney?
You know, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten chutney, honestly. I hear “Indian food” and immediately think nope, no way because of my food allergies, but if I made one myself I could avoid that.
I did make a fruit syrup not that long ago, but I didn’t really have quite enough currants to make to worth a go this time.