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Growing Red Currants
Currants hanging freely in bunches are almost irresistible to harvest, pulling easily from the racemes at maturity. These gooseberry relatives are native to parts of Europe, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland and France. The hearty, deciduous shrub’s five-lobed leaves spirally grace the stems, endure a variety of soil types and grow best with plenty of sun and space. Well-drained, slightly neutral to acid soil about pH 6.7 is ideal. Allow 5ft (1.5m) between bushes and 5ft (1.5m) between rows.
Netting will keep the birds away from the bulk of berries until they’re ready to harvest, as the robins and other birds do like to steal them away. As hard as you may try, it’s impossible to collect them all. After harvest, I share the rest with them. If you don’t have space or time to grow and harvest, they can also be found in baskets at local farmers’ markets.
Culinary Delights and Garnish
The tart, rich flavour of currants has been cherished for centuries in both jellies and sauces. In France, sweet white currants have been prized as a culinary luxury since the 1300’s as Bar-le-duc. This elixir has been notably enjoyed through the centuries by Mary, Queen of Scots, Ernest Hemingway and Alfred Hitchcock. When in season, bright red currant bunches with a few leaves add flare as garnish to salads and refreshments.
Red Currant Jelly
The clear, ruby jelly made from red currants sparkles like a true jewel when the light shines through. With its own natural pectin and acidity, few ingredients are required to make it, simply sugar and berries. For a small batch combine 2 pounds (0.90kg) of berries with 1/2 cup (120ml ) of water in a pot. Bring to a boil while crushing the berries to release the juice and reduce the heat to keep on low boil for fifteen minutes. Have some cheesecloth on hand to strain the juice once it cools. Strain for several hours or overnight, then add the 2 1/2 cups of juice to 2 1/2 cups (0.56kg) of sugar in a pot. Boil until jell point, about fifteen minutes and jar.
Rich in Vitamin C and Minerals
The nutritional value of currants is a true treasure. High in vitamin C and K, they are also a good source of dietary fibre and minerals like potassium and manganese. As they are highly acidic, avoid if you have gastritis or gastric reflux.
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