Last week we were able to pick black currants from our 3 small bushes.  They are about 18” high and 24” across and yielded about 2 cups per plant. Since this was their first bearing year we were really looking forward to seeing the flavor and what we could do with them.  Black currants fall into the group of “super fruits” having 5 times the vitamin C of oranges by weight, twice the potassium of bananas and twice the antioxidants of blueberries.  This combination has an anti-inflammatory impact, reducing the effects of arthritis.  It’s antioxidant action has been shown to prevent cancer. The anthocyanins, flavenoids and potassium are what gives these currants a strong flavor according to literature.  So far, so good.

The first noticeable thing is the smell.  After collection it was noted that they had a very strong odor to say the least. It took a while to pin it down but we finally all agreed the closest description would be “fermented cat urine”!  Needless to say we had to draw straws to see who got to taste test the fresh berries.  These had a very strong musky flavor, not quite sour, maybe a little astringent. A hint of grape skins came through.  Definitely these were not a pick and eat variety.  Since they are a connoisseur’s delight in Europe and widely prized there, we decided to try to make jelly and see if the Europeans were idiots or if they were on to something.

We used a simple jelly recipe and boiled the berries first to soften them.  When boiling, the smell changed from” feline “ to “fruity”.  Good thing or we would never be allowed in the kitchen again! We then strained and extracted the juice through some cheesecloth. The taste was now better but extremely strong.  A little water was added to dilute the concentrate and we started adding sugar to check what was right.  We weren’t scientific, just guessing at volumes and weights.  In the end we estimated it took about 25% more sugar than the recipe called for and we thought we added enough pectin to make up for the extra water.

After we were finished it did not “Jell”.  It was more like a thick syrup. Putting in the fridge to set up did not really change the consistency.  But onto the flavor: I can best describe it as a very strong grape jelly flavor with subtle spices added.  It is absolutely tremendous and a welcome change from the norm. So I will spread a thin amount on toast or scones, lift up my little pinky and ooh and aah like the elite do as I indulge in this rare taste treat!

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