Blackcurrant Season!

The taste of blackcurrants is something I've grown into, and now I can't get enough. Even the smell of the shrub is divine! I have a single blackcurrant bush (Ben Conan) that produces amazingly well. My sister dug it up and gave it to me when she moved house, and I propagated some prunings this spring so I can give one back to her, along with a few others. 

Every year I usually do a big batch of jam, not knowing what else to do with this fruit that really needs a cooking and good sweetening to be at its best. Last year I also tried freezing the fruit to make juice mid-winter (being unable to find tested instructions for canning it), and tried my hand at home made crème de cassis. 

The new recipes were welcome, but I made two critical mistakes:

1. I didn't clean the stems and leaves out before making the cassis and freezing the fruit for juice (you don't need to, they add flavour). When I strained the juice/cassis I was left with a mound of sweetened fruit that I realized would have made a great fresh jam, were it not for the stems and leaves in it!

2. I only made a single batch of cassis as I had never made it before. It was amazing, and I was left lamenting that I didn't have more. I also didn't have any to barter with in a year during which there was a provincial shortage of the liqueur!

I plan to rectify both of these this year.

If you’ve never made your own crème de cassis before and have access to fresh blackcurrants, you definitely should. It's super simple and doesn't require much fruit. I combined several recipes I found online and came up with this. It's simple and delicious, with no cooking required. Based on the currant season and the time it requires to steep, this liqueur is ready by Christmas, and is perfect for gift giving - if you can bear to part with it. 

Crème de Cassis

In a mason jar (750ml-1L - it will fit in a reused spaghetti sauce jar) add:

  • 1 cup washed black currants
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1.5c vodka

Shake well, place on a dark cool shelf, and shake a couple times a week for the first couple of weeks, then about once a week or whenever you remember. After 5-6 months strain out and discard the solids (this year I'm going to try cooking them into a jam). Sip it neat, on ice, or add to wine as a kir or champagne for kir royale! 

The other recipe I tried last year was this easy Black Currant Cordial. This recipe is courtesy of BBC Good Food. I wash and weigh the currants into 450g portions, then vacuum seal and freeze. In winter I can just add the other ingredients and I have a quick and easy treat.

Ingredients: 

  • 300g golden caster sugar (look for the lightest brown sugar ie Rogers Golden Yellow - it isn't turbinado, demerara or muscavado)
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 450g washed black currants
  • Put the sugar in a large saucepan with 300ml water. Bring to a simmer then add the lemon zest and juice followed by the blackcurrants (I just add mine frozen). Cook the mixture over a medium heat until the blackcurrants start to soften and burst.

  • Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean, heatproof container (ie a  bowl or pot) then transfer to sterilised bottles. This will keep in the fridge for a month. 

  • To serve, mix in a 1:4 ratio with sparkling water/club soda, or cold or hot water. In Finland the hot juice is a traditional après ski drink. I like to serve it when we've been snowshoeing or tobogganing, especially if anyone has caught a chill or starts feeling under the weather as the currants have plenty of vitamin C.

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