I came across currants in the Nourse Berry Farm catalog from which I have bought strawberry plants in the past. They caught my attention because they grow in Zone 3. In Jackson Hole, where we have two seasons, winter and the 4th of July, we'll eat anything that can survive the winter. I can't say for sure that I had ever eaten a currant. When I cooked in restaurants, I recall seeing dried currants but I can't recall what we did with them or how they tasted. I mostly remember their being mentioned in various works of English literature. I certainly had never seen a fresh one. I thought, if they will actually grow in Jackson Hole, and they're good enough for the Queen, I might as well give them a try. So three years ago I planted eight bushes of different varieties. It took the first two years to get them established. This year we got a significant amount of fruit.
The currants grow like mini grapes. In tight beautiful bundles near the ground. The berries have a tart, earthy taste. Some are quite tart and better for mixing with food. We found the lighter colored pink and white ones to be the tastiest for fresh eating. The varieties are called Blanka and Pink Champagne.
Normally, we only have moose in the yard in the winter but we did have one moose slip in and prune the currant bushes this summer. You can see nibbled branches in the photo above. Fortunately the moose just had an appetizer and didn't do any significant damage.
Though the kids were skeptical of the tart flavor at first, after watching them grow, picking them and playing with them, they were eating them by the handful. It is amazing how many unusual things kids will eat when they see them growing in the garden.
I am still experimenting with different uses for these abundant little gems. Countless references to jellies, jams and desert sauces in English literature come to mind. The other thing that currants seem to be exceptional for is mixing with meats. The sweet, tart, earthy flavor seems to make a strange kind of magic together with meat. Whether added to a braise, used in making a savory sauce or mixed into a chicken salad, as I did in the recipe below, they add a certain special flavor I have never experienced previously.
Two handfuls of leftover roasted chicken chopped (Wyoming Chicken Ranch Range Fed).
1-2 whole green onions or shallots chopped (garden fresh).
Two handfuls of baby to teenage mustard greens chopped (garden fresh). Arugula is lovely here instead.
1 1/2 handfuls of fresh currants. I've used some that I froze as well. They work fine.
1 T mayonnaise
Generous slather of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mix it all together. YAHTZEE!