The blackcurrants keep coming, and it’s got to the stage where I’m not sure what to do with them. We’ve had them stewed, we’ve had them in pies, we’ve had them raw in yoghurt, and I’ve made over a dozen jars of jam. I’ve even made a couple of tubs of ice-cream (see next post).
If you’ve got ripe blackcurrants coming out of your ears, but time is not in equal abundance, then it’s a good idea to act quick and lightly cook or freeze them, ready for processing further at a later date. If you leave them hanging around, especially if you’ve already picked and rinsed them or they’re wet from rain, they will quickly start to decompose or go mouldy. And that would be a terrible, terrible waste!
I’m not keen on freezing them. Although they do freeze well, I find that frozen fruit tends to get forgotten… or somehow it’s just not got the same appeal as when fresh… and so ends up still there, past it’s best and clogged in ice crystals, a year later. Better, I think, to make it into something now, straight from the bush.
I’ve found two quick ways to deal with a bucket load of ripe currants…by making blackcurrant vinegar and Creme de Cassis. This is the first time I’ve made either, and they are dead easy.
Black Currant Vinegar
This is a lovely sweet, fruity, slightly sticky vinegar, that is a great alternative to balsamic vinegar.
Crush your blackcurrants gently in a large bowl, so that they all pop their skins (I used a potato masher). Cover with white wine vinegar. I used a 500ml bottle for 1kg of currants. Cover, and keep in a cool, dark place for four or five days.
When you have a moment, strain the liquid through a muslin bag, to hold back all the pith and seeds. Leave the crushed fruit hanging in the muslin bag overnight (I used a deep saucepan, with a long-handled spoon rested across the top, and tied the muslin to that) so that as much of the remaining juice as possible runs out by itself. Try to resist squeezing the bag to keep the liquid nice and clear and avoid a scum forming at the next stage.
On the left is the left-over pulp, and on the right is the strained vinegar/blackcurrant liquid.
Measure the juice.
Now, the recipe I was following was for raspberries (from Pam Corbin’s Preserves book), and that suggested that from 1kg of fruit and 600ml of vinegar you’d get 1.5 litres of fruity vinegar. I have to say that my vinegar (I started with 500ml) was only slightly over 600ml, so hardly any juice came out of the currants… but it was infused with a lot of flavour. Maybe I should have crushed them more, or maybe it’s because raspberries are just a lot more watery and have much less bulky pulp.
Pour into a saucepan and add 450g of granulated sugar for every 600ml of liquid. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and let it gently boil for 10 minutes. Take off the heat, remove any scum, stir and leave it to cool completely before funnelling into clean bottles (or 1 bottle and half a jam jar, in my case!). You can start using it straight away, and it will keep for a year in the cupboard.
I tried it out on a salad, whisked 50/50 with olive oil, and it was delicious! It’s sweetness is especially nice with cut-and-come-again lettuce, which can sometimes have a slight bitterness as the plant nears its end.
And its pink tinge looks so pretty!
Creme de Cassis – part one
The second way to use up a large quantity of blackcurrants is to turn them into Creme de Cassis. This is an intense alchoholic liqueur that can be used in small quantities to flavour and colour champagne (Kir Royale) and other cocktails, and to drizzle over deserts.
The first stage is really easy. You just pack your prepared currants into a large, clean jar, and cover with vodka (or eau de vie, if you can find it). If wet, make sure the currants are as dry as possible by spreading them on a tray lined with kitchen roll and gently patting them with more kitchen roll. Don’t bruise or crush the fruit but try to get as many in the jar as possible by giving the bottle a shake and tap as you go. Add enough vodka so that it completely covers the fruit, seal the lid, and leave in a cool dark space for at least 4 months…
Keep an eye out for part 2 of this recipe in December!
That seems a long way off, doesn’t it? But at least you can relax knowing your blackcurrants have been rescued, phew! and take time to enjoy your other summer harvests!