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07 July 2008

red currants

red currants

This morning, I woke up early. Not too early — I'm lucky. This late in the pregnancy, I'm still sleeping through the night, without a hiccup. (Thank you, Little Bean.) Instead, this was somewhere after seven. The Chef slept, and I didn't want to disturb him. So I tip-toed from the bedroom toward the kitchen, intending to make coffee.

Instead, the light in the backyard stopped me. Without a discernible spring this year, Seattle seemed to creep toward fullness and everything green. Here it was, early in the morning, and the entire backyard gleamed with light. It was the kind of light that made me want to forget the coffee and start doing laundry instead, just so I could hang it on the clothesline.

And then, through the gauzy golden sunlight, I spied something ruby jewel in color. Dozens of little globes, gliding out from the green. The red currants had finally blossomed into fruit, the fruit had finally burgeoned, and the burgeoning fruits were now vibrant red. The red currants were ready.

The birds were dive bombing the bushes. I knew there wouldn't be many left soon.

Spontaneously, I grabbed a metal bowl and walked slowly outside. (I may be sleeping, but there isn't much moving fast these days.) With the warm air on my belly (none of my t-shirts cover the entire prodigious belly anymore), I moved toward the bushes. I parted the leaves and spotted dozens of little clusters, waiting to be picked.

I had to restrain myself from plucking them all from the vine. Some of them needed further ripening.

In the morning sun, the currants tasted warm and sweet, with a little tang of sourness at the back of the tongue. (Could it be true? That I actually tasted a tiny flash of horseradish?) They were wonderfully unusual, entirely present, there.

When the Chef woke up, I led him first to the kitchen, to show him the bowl full of red currants from our backyard.

Here's my dilemma. I've never done anything with red currants before. Certainly, we can simply eat them. But it feels like we need a recipe, some mixing and melding in celebration of this morning.

So, what is your favorite way to work with red currants?


At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, those are beautiful! One of my favorite jam recipes is blueberry and red currant; the currants add both tartness and pectin, which the blueberries lack.

I've used red currant jelly with mustard and ginger as a glaze or sauce for roasted pork; I imagine that fresh berries and honey would be even better.

At 12:18 AM, Blogger Helen said...

your evocative picture compels me to come out of lurk-dom to share. my Norwegian mother grew currants in our yard, and when they were ripe, she always served the first bowl with a homemade egg custard. warm, sweet and runny (and a perfect counterpoint to the tart berries).

later she cooked some down to a syrup to mix with water in winter time... reminding us that summer would return.

At 2:47 AM, Blogger Helen said...

When I lived in Holland I really enjoyed the way my Dutch friends ate them... into a bowl pour some vanilla vla (fresh custard, chilled) and add some plain yoghurt (or better still some kwark - similar to fromage frais)
and stir in a handful or two of red currants. Simple and absolutely delicious.

At 3:32 AM, Blogger Is it Me? said...

I live in Germany and we have large red currant bushes in our backyard, I have just picked them and made red current jam, this is a treat for me as I never eat commercial jams in case there is gluten in them!
so now I have lots of home made jam all lined up in my pantry, delicious on home made gluten free bread.

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would probably make a fool or a pavlova.

At 4:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Red Current Jelly is always nice... so pretty! And I recently saw a recipe somewhere for a savory sauce made with red currents, tomatoes, onion and garlic that sounded awfully appealing. I think it was served over chicken.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger moi said...

oooh - I'm envious. If I had red currants I'd make rote grutze - gently cook a mix of red fruits and sugar but the fruit stays intact - then add a little of some thickener and chill - some add wine or rum. It's in between a fruit soup and jello in texture. Ice cold with heavy cream - it may call you out of bed in the middle of the night you lucky sleeping girl.

At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right under your post in my feed reader was this one from The Amateur Gourmet - it starts with sour cherry jam, but then there's red currant after that. Synchronicity!

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Alexa said...

To have such a bounty right in your backyard... A beautiful way to start the day.
I would make a chutney to accompany a nice roasted chicken-- or if I am in the mood for something sweet I would make a Kanten (Fruit Gel with Agar Agar) with white grape juice and red currants. It would look so pretty and taste like any Summer evening should. I might have to hunt down some red currants and make one today...

At 6:43 AM, Blogger Gluten free Kay said...

I second (third, fourth?) the jelly idea. I usually mix mine with other fruits that ripen at the same time - black currants, black raspberries, red raspberries. The jelly colors are vivid and inviting.

I've also baked fresh red currants into quick breads, in place of raisins or other dried fruits.

The custard with currants sound very inviting!

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Color Me Green said...

The Amateur Gourmet just posted a technique for making red currant jam, based on a David Lebovitz recipe.

At 8:19 AM, Blogger Argy said...

hey there :)

Red currants are so scarce in Greece :(

But when I get my hands on them, there ONE way to eat them that never gets old!

I let them simmer a bit with brown sugar, just so that the sauce gets a bit thick.

Then pour this over a nice and big piece of Brie...and straight in the oven for 10 mins...or how long you want, depending how melted you like your Brie.

Cheers Shauna!

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Jane said...

I've never used redcurrants before sorry i haven't any suggestions. But i came to visit because my daughter has been tested for Coeliac/Celiac and we are waiting for the results. You were recommended by Elizabeth at Kitty Cafe and Alison at Hey Good Booking. I know at this stage we have a huge amount to learn how to help Em with her diet, Hope all goes well with little bean and you. I well remember losing my appetite towards the end as there was no room for food. Jane

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Jam? Tarts? (I picture a simple butter & nut crust)...

We have mulberries ripening in our front yard! Too few ready at a time for anything but eating as they are picked. Delicious.

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for clafouti or tart. Our raspberries are fully ripe and look about as big as your tummy! I made my first GF almond shortbread crust on Saturday night... (made with Trader Joe's almond meal and Teff) and I made a simple creme custard thickened with sweet rice flour. Then I placed the raspberries in concentric circles on top. You could do the same with the currents. We have some leftover still in the fridge. When can you be here?

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just in France, on my first overseas trip gluten-free, and had the most delicious sweet cream with a layer of currants at the bottom. It was like a cool sweet creme fraiche with the tangy currants popping in my mouth.

This is my first post and I have loved reading your book and can't wait to hear your about new journey as a Mom!

At 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, they're so pretty.

(I love your new bio pic to the side too. Pregnancy suits you.)

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Girl Upstairs said...

I have been eating red currents this week in northern Germany. Two delicious ways, which were mentioned in an earlier comment but not elaborate on - sprinkle them with a little sugar, just to take the bite off and let them sit while you make a sweet Quark. Quark is a lovely milk product somewhere between yogurt and sour cream. It is available at Whole Foods, at least it was in Toronto. And German cheese makers often have it. It is slightly dry on your tongue and availble in very low fat versions. Mix this with some honey, and use milk to bring it to the consistency you want as it can be very thick! Then add the berries. The combination of sour berries, honey or sugar for sweetness and the slightly dry/not really sour milk undertones is great.
number two: we made a really light vanilla mousse and mixed the berries in. Again, the combination was fantastic and really easy.

I also like putting them in dark chocolate muffins!

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know we could grow red currants in Seattle! I was just wishing they were easier to come by last night when I read about Red Berry Pudding With Cream in Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad. It's a thickened berry puree with raspberries and red currants, dry white wine, sugar, 1/2 vanilla bean served with almonds and cream. It calls for cornstarch or potato starch to thicken. I thought potato starch was gluten free...Anyway, all these ideas sound wonderful and make me want to look into planting some in my yard! Take care.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh those look good. I never had Currants before but If I could get my hands on some I may try them. Just on Sunday I went with my family to a Orchard to pick cherry's. We picked 45 pounds of cherry's $55 dollars worth. We froze most of them but I saved the juice from the pitted cherries and I am making cherry syrup. I must say that Shauna you my find your self with a basket of Pennsylvania Gluten Free Goodies including some of this Cherry Syrup. I hope you will enjoy all the goodies after I'm sure will be a exhausting delivery of little bean.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

I grew up with a red currant bush in my back yard, and I used to love eating them plain. That is, until my uncle incorrectly identified them as boysenberries and teased me mercilessly, saying that if I ate them I would get a boyfriend. He was kind of a jerk.

If I had currants in a large enough quantity, I would make a jam or tart. Have fun with them!

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Vittoria said...

I would have to make a red current syrup, slightly cooked down with just a hint of agave. Then have that with pancakes and cottage cheese

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dry them, like raisins, and put them in a salad!

You have got me so nervous. Everyday, I click into this site expecting to see three special words, either "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!"

I can't wait until we find out your baby's name and the special reason you have for the name! It is all so special that I want to cry!

I can imagine your child, all grown up as an adult, reading all the wonderful things that you have written about him or her. Your child will be so lucky to have all those special memories to share with his/her grandchildren forever and ever.

I have a feeling that you have not yet begun to write! All this is just practice for what is yet to come.

Take care,


At 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorbet! beautifully red, intense fruit flavour, refreshingly cool, not too filling and so simple. good luck with your impending arrival and congratulations!

At 4:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to saute onion, & garlic,with a little ground coriander and a smidge of grouund cumin. Add the currents at the last minute and just warm. Then mix this in with quinoa or brown or wild rice and top with pistachios or pecans.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would recommend either the Qwark or the Rote Grutze suggestions. Any red fruit lightly, lightly cooked, add a slurry of corn or potato starch, and the bare minimum of sweetener and cook until thicker. Chill, serve with whipped cream. My German mom freezes all manner of fruit all summer and when she makes berry pudding she thaws the berries, cooks the juice with starch, but folds the thawed berries in still raw. Lovely.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

Delicious, they are, in a salad with those little slate-coloured Le Puy lentils.

Little jewels of red. Love 'em.

Love is also the light in your back garden.


At 8:40 AM, Blogger M said...

I like to make a sweet dough (more like cake than bread, with eggs in it and sugar and some kind of flour) and then dip the red currants (still on the vine) in it and then bake them either as pancakes in a pan or in the oven. It will be a bit tricky to eat the cakes, since the vines are still there, but the result is always so beatiful, and besides who has decided that it shall be easy to eat?

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, those currants are beautiful. Thank you so much for this post, although it is making me miss my recently passed Danish grandmother. We would have a dessert that I will describe as a berry compote spooned onto a lightly sweetened whipped cream. Sort of like a cloudberry/lingonberry dessert (?)...I'm sure google will know. I am inspired to call my mom and find some of my grandmother's dessert recipes! Thank you!
Best wishes - Brooke

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this story! And I love walking slowly... it's something that I experiment with these days to help myself be more present and enjoy the experience of being in my body and in the world around me more fully... so I am hoping it feels like a great side benefit of being pregnant for you :)

At 11:30 AM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

My grandma used to make a lovely summer pudding. She'd get slices of bread and mould them to a pudding basin, then fill with summer fruit and steam. Lovely served with a bit of whipped cream.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Lightly pickled, with roasted chicken...or topping some kind of a custard - panna cotta perhaps? Oh how I miss red currants! And black currants! And gooseberries! I'm glad you're healthy, happy and doing wonderfully.

At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the first thing that lept to my mind is the justly famous Jordan Marsh muffin recipe which I make with cranberries instead of blueberries most of the time... but then I remembered this place is gluten free. And that got me thinking, has anyone perfected a basic "pefect" gluten-free muffin base?

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just bookmarked this:

It's quinoa and chestnut crepes filled with ricotta and currants...mmm...

At 10:27 PM, Blogger Jenny said...

I am screaming with jealousy that you are pregnant AND sleeping through the night! Such a blessing, as I peed every 2 hours from the second I conceived until I birthed, around the clock. :) Very excited for your baby cookbook...

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wrote about red currants over the weekend... :) I sugar mine and eat them with heavy cream, but if you've got a glut, then I say jelly all the way...Enjoy! They're so special.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Kharina said...

Red currant jelly! In Sweden you made red currant jelly for pork dishes. O M G, you haven't lived until you've had that!

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Olerica said...

Oh, a lightly cooked whole-fruit syrup over sage and salt rubbed grilled salmon. ~sigh~ Especially if you only have a few berries available.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Bramble said...

Oh beautiful red juicy currants! A clafouti or mixed berry tart would be nice. I like the egg custard idea and the sauce for pork. I have made two kinds of jam: one sweetened and one with onion, orange and a smidge of garlic to use on meats. I also have done the baked Brie idea but do currants, cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and walnuts to top the cheese.
I pop in every so often and LOVE your blog! Many blessings to you and The Chef on your new addition.
Happiness is a grand thing! Bramble

At 12:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apart from simply looking at them - for sheer appearance I think redcurrants are my favourite fruit - they have a magical translucence - one of my favourite simple things to do with redcurrants is to use them as colouring for icing. (Translation: coloring for frosting).

I have a 4 year old daughter who, despite my antipathy to the culture, has fully embraced all things PINK. Not least, a cup cake is not a cup cake unless it has pink icing on it. It comes as some sort of salve to my conscience to feel that the colour comes from fruit rather than food colouring - and it tastes much better too. Just microwave a few and use the liquid instead of water with icing sugar (hmm - powdered sugar - is that the American term?) until you have the right consistency. It's a bit hit and miss, but it gives a lovely deep pinky/red.

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The suggestions to make rote grutze sparked a memory for me. On a trip to Denmark many years ago to visit a friend, we were in his parent's garden in the evening twilight of Scandinavia at around 11 pm. His mother was serving rote grutze mit fluve - I'm not sure of the spelling and I think it means with cream. It was a source of amusement for them to hear me try over and over again to pronouce it correctly...there's a real technique to those u's. And it was delicious!

At 2:29 PM, Blogger T said...

About a day after reading you post I went to Wild Oats. And there in the front of the store were tons and tons of the little clear boxes or beautiful red currents. In my basket they went. When I came home the first thing I did was what I used to do with seedless grapes as a kid, I froze them.

I love them frozen, so cold and sweet. I mix them into sorbets, use them in oatmeal to cool it down and add a special pop of texture. Plus when it's 95 with a heat index of 100 like where I am... anything frozen is a god-sent.

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'mouse -

I'm a lurker and have never posted before, but I have been working on perfecting my GF muffin recipes and would love to share. My husband (not GF) loves them too.

GF Apple Walnut Muffins

1/4 cup teff flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups diced apples
1/3 cup vegetable oil
6 oz plain yogurt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts

- Combine the apples, sugar, and eggs and let sit
- Combine all the dry ingredients (I love the pile of different colors of flour as I measure them out)
- Add oil and yogurt to the apple mixture
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the walnuts.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes

GF Carrot Muffins

1/4 cup teff flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups packed shredded carrots
1/4 cup orange juice
4 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

- Combine the eggs, brown sugar, and carrots and let sit for at least 10 minutes
- Combine all the dry ingredients
- Add the orange juice and oil to the carrot mixture
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the nuts and raisins
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes

Just yesterday I ran out of teff flour and substituted tapioca, which led to a different texture which was equally good. I've done variations with bananas and walnuts and chocolate chips, as well as blueberries. I think the basic recipe seems to hold with almost any variation of wet ingredients and goodies.


At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took this right off the internet -- it's supposed to be served with semolina pudding. I make this sauce to eat with other things, it comes out really great and keeps for a long time in the refrigerator.

12 1/4 ounces fresh red currants
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced

Boil currants with the water, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook until the sugar is dissolved and the currants are very soft, about 10 minutes. Puree mixture in a blender and then push through a strainer to get a smooth sauce.


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