This article is very much for gardeners as you will find it difficult to buy redcurrants and nigh impossible to buy the white variant. Blackcurrants used to be easier to find but, as we recently discovered when taking some of our surplus to our local greengrocer to sell, they seem to be as rare as their red and white cousins now. If you do find currants for sale, their price is likely to make many of these recipes prohibitive, but the good news is that they are easy to grow, don’t take up too much space and lend themselves to a surprising number of recipes as I discovered when faced with a surplus.
Leave the currants on the bush for as long as possible to eat raw, or semi-raw, for the most intense flavour. Earlier in the season they can be made into a jelly – they are very high in pectin. Redcurrants marry very well with raspberries as in the classic dish Summer Pudding, but also consider using a handful or more of red or white currant when making raspberry jam for a better set. That said, soft-set raspberry jam is also good. You can even use the young leaves of a blackcurrant bush for a deliciously scented sorbet, pick just the tips whilst they are still fresh green in colour – this will be before the fruit has ripened.
Whitecurrants are slightly sharper but otherwise very similar to the redcurrant that has more or less replaced them but, as you will see from the photograph above, they are actually pink rather than white when fully ripe. An advantage over redcurrants is that when used to make jelly the lighter colour allows any added ingredients to be seen more clearly – they are my preferred choice for Mint Jelly.
Varieties – Modern blackcurrant varieties mostly originate from Scotland and will be called Ben something or other. An old Somerset variety, which is reputedly very good although I have never tasted it, is called Mendip Cross. White Versailles is the most commonly grown variety of Whitecurrant and is over 150 years old.
Blackcurrants: Raw blackcurrant ice cream or Raw Blackcurrant mousse, Blackcurrants with Crème Brûlée, Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet
Redcurrants: Redcurrant Jelly
Whitecurrants: Mint jelly
Mix: Currant and Raspberry Compôte, Currant Shrub, Summer Pudding