Monday, September 20, 2010

What Are Fresh Black Currants? Not Dried Currants and Not Raisins.

black currants
Fresh black currants from Pudwill Berry Farms in Nipomo, CA.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "currant"? Raisins? Scones? The Brits? It's a confusing matter. So after purchasing a basket of fresh black currants at the Little Italy Mercato a couple of weeks ago, I did some sleuthing on the internet. Here's what I have learned about the differences between fresh black currants, dried black currants, and raisins.

Fresh black currants are small, round, glossy, black berries that pack a tart punch. They are related to red currants, white currants, and gooseberries; they are NOT grapes.

Dried black currants, also called Zante currants, are dried Corinth grapes, so technically they are raisins. With their black, wrinkly skins and sweet flavor, they look, smell, and taste just like traditional raisins.

Raisins are dried grapes, usually green Thompson grapes whose color darkens when dried. Similar to dried currants, raisins are shriveled, chewy, sweet, and fragrant.

black currants and boysenberries
Fresh black currants and boysenberries from Pudwill Berry Farms in Nipomo, CA.

Where can you buy fresh black currants? In cool, rainy places such as the UK. In the US, the Pacific Northwest and northern California grow fresh currants which can be found at farmers' markets and organic markets. They're also sometimes found in the freezer section of organic and specialty markets.

How do you cook with fresh black currants? Fresh black currants are most often used  to make jams and jellies, ice cream and sorbet, schnapps, and pies. They're also delicious in baked goods such as scones, muffins, and cakes. Fresh black currants have a savory side too: they make a tangy sauce for meats such as chicken, pork, and lamb and can be tossed into salads. If you have a recipe calling for fresh black currants and can't find them, then blackberries and gooseberries make good substitutes.

What are the health benefits of fresh black currants? Fresh black currants are high in vitamin C and potassium. They're also are rich, little nuggets of antioxidants (2X the antioxidants of blueberries!) which help reduce inflammation and may help lower your risk of cancer.

Now it's time to get cooking with fresh black currants, so check out the tempting list of recipes below.

Greek Yogurt, Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits
Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits from Food Blogga

Read more about fresh black currants:
"A Tart Berry Reintroduces Itself" from the NYT
Fresh Black Currants information page from Specialty Produce in San Diego 

Black currant Savory recipes:
Black Currant Chicken recipe from Anne's Food
Lamb Chops with Black Currant BBQ Sauce recipe from Suzi's Blog

Black currant sweet recipes:
Black Currant Sorbet recipe from NYT
Blackcurrant Pie recipe from Bron Marshall
Black Currant Scones recipe from Local Kitchen
Red and Black Currant Parfaits recipe from Country Living
Black Currant Schnapps recipe from Danish Schnapps Recipes
Blackcurrant Swirl Cheesecake recipe from Good Food Channel
Black Currant and Orange Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe from Epicurean
Apricot Almond Tart with Black Currants and Lavender Syrup from Vegalicious Recipes