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Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants    Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Blackcurrants

Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Blackcurrants

 

A cool region plant, the Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum) thrives in the British climate.  Much more acidic than white or red currants, it is closer in this regard to its relation the Gooseberry.  Its intense aroma comes from the many spicy terpenes, fruity esters and a sulphur compound that is also to be found in gooseberries, green tea and Sauvignon Blanc wines.  

 

The Blackcurrant’s resinous character needs to be tamed by briefly cooking with sugar and a little water to reveal its qualities.  The Blackcurrant is not only versatile and delicious but exceptionally rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.  Its strength of flavour means a little goes a long way.  Blackcurrants also freeze extremely well.

 

The leaves of the blackcurrant shouldn’t be overlooked.  They are highly aromatic and can be infused in a syrup or a custard to impart a flavour which Kitty Travers of La Grotta Ices interprets as “white acid drops”.  

 

Their season is relatively short but you can normally expect to see blackcurrants from early- to mid-July and into August.  The French value them mainly for the making of their Crème de Cassis cordial – essential for the white wine aperitif, Kir.  Much of the UK Blackcurrant crop is harvested for a well-known sweet, sticky blackcurrant drink but we buy ours from our favourite fruit farm in Kent.  As well as selling them by the punnet, they go into our London Fermentary healthy, tangy Blackcurrant Water Kefir.

 

Blackcurrants pair well with mint, anise, chocolate and coffee flavours.  They respond exceptionally well to cream.  High in natural pectin, they are easy to preserve and make a deeply flavoured syrup, jelly (good stirred into meat juices) or jam; a highly aromatic sorbet and a luscious ice cream; outstanding with a creamy syllabub or a posset; a crumble or pie, on their own or teamed with pears; and they’re a wonderful addition to a Summer Pudding with raspberries - Nigel Slater champions a Blackcurrant and Blackberry version of Summer Pudding, with the proviso that plenty of cream be deployed. 

 

Blackcurrant blossom    Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Blackcurrant blossom

Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

Gooseberries    Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Gooseberries

Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Gooseberries

Currants and Gooseberries are all species of the genus Ribes and are cold climate fruits, growing most happily in Northern Europe and North America.  Gooseberries grow best in cool, damp conditions so the UK is excellent for them.  They are normally the first fruits of Spring and the bushes can remain productive into August.  The first fruits are sharp, hard and green and need plenty of sugar, but it’s then that their unique flavour is most pronounced.  If you want a sweeter gooseberry, wait a few weeks for the green globes to mellow to a pale green/gold or go for a red variety like Pax.  Given a bit of heat and sun, later in the season you can reduce the amount of sugar you need to add to them.  

 

This week we have our first gooseberry harvest from our preferred farm in Kent so you can see for yourself how they develop as the season progresses.

 

Gooseberries pair wonderfully with elderflowers, imparting a muscat flavour, and the Elder usually produces its flowers at just the right time for the first gooseberry harvests.  Just add a flower head to the poaching pan.  The fruits are packed with vitamin C, and are rich in pectin, so they are excellent for jam-making.  Made into a sharp compote or chutney they are excellent for cutting oily fish such as mackerel, or fatty meats like pork or goose.  The possibilities for puddings are many, from crumbles, tarts, jams, jellies, syllabubs and fools to sorbets, parfaits and ice creams.  They make a fine Eton Mess-like pudding and are gorgeous baked into a buttery-pastry pie.  Keep in mind that Gooseberries love cream.

Gooseberries and Elderflowers    Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

Gooseberries and Elderflowers

Photo © Evie Saffron Strands