Monday, 4 July 2011

Red Currants

Aren't they beautiful? I love the way red currants look, tiny bright jewels framed by green leaves.  I also love the way they taste, tart and crunchy. They are essential in a summer pudding and just a few make an excellent addition to any mixture of berries, their acidity heightening the berries' flavour.
Usually my currants are glowing red by St John's day, June 21st, my husband calls them St John's berries,  their name in Latvian. However, as May was cold and wet this year, the currants are slow to ripen. While waiting for the berries to ripen I was rummaging around in the freezer and discovered a kilo of frozen berries so I decided to make red currant jelly.

I followed the recipe in Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, equal weights of fruit and sugar and a splash of water. Once the sugar dissolves, boil the mixture hard, make it in a big deep pot because it boils up, and after 8 minutes it will be ready. You can channel your inner scientist and check the temperature with a thermometer, it should be 105C/220F. No jelly bags in my household so I poured it through a very fine sieve, and then into small jars. I ended up with 4. That should be enough for toast and game stews in the autumn.

Well I hope it is. I've started eating bread slathered with fresh sheep's milk ricotta  and topped with red currant jelly, it is habit forming so I may have make more. While I am waiting for my raspberries to ripen for summer pudding, my first harvest of currants went back into the freezer but this time as an ice.

As you can see I have made red currant ice before. I'd forgotten until I checked my blog looking for a summer pudding link. This time I tried a slightly different method. I put 450g of currants, still on stem with a few leaves for good measure, in a wide frying pan, added 130g of sugar and cooked it very gently until the currants were soft. It all went through the finest grill of my food mill, then I chilled the mixture overnight.

I churned it in my ice cream machine and it was all I hoped, full of flavour and tart, but there was a back taste of tannin. Was it the skins? Well I've just made a second batch with a little whipping cream in the mix. My reasoning is that the dairy will soften the tannin.

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