Is it a Grape? A Berry? Cooking with Currants (Fresh and Dried)

They often get lumped in with the raisin/grape family, but currants are actually more closely related to gooseberries. Native to Europe, currants enjoy quite a bit of diversity in recipes throughout the region, but here in America, many of us are unfamiliar with the currants—fresh or dried. There are good reasons for getting to know this little fruit, however; and whether you prefer them just plucked or after being dried, there are plenty of ways to enjoy currants this season.

Currants come in two varieties: red currant (Ribes rubrum) and black currants (Ribes sativum). White currants are actually a red varietal. Tart and sweet, currants are a good source of vitamin C, high in fiber, and a good source of potassium, too.

Cooking with currants is easy and fun. When buying fresh currants, look for deep rep color and just a hint of softness. Better too hard than too soft. Fresh currants make a fabulous jelly, much in the same way cranberries do, needing no extra pectin. Cook them in a saucepan with water until they burst. Strain and mix with equal amounts of sugar, boiling for 15 minutes before canning. Currant is a popular pie choice, too. Prepare as you would a blueberry or other berry fruit pie.

Other uses for currants:

  • Substitute for blueberries in homemade pancakes.
  • Add to baked goods such as muffins, scones or quick breads (fresh or dried).
  • Toss fresh currants into your salad.
  • Add dried currants to homemade granola and trail mixes.
  • Top cereals, yogurts and even ice cream with fresh or dried currants.
  • Make a glaze for homemade tofu, seitan or vegetables. It’s wonderful on butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, too.
  • Make fresh currant juice, sorbet or ice cream!
  • Wine made from currants is also quite popular for you DIY fermentation lovers! Check out this tutorial.

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Image: Maggie Hoffman