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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Currant Chutney: Bringing Up the Underdog

John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
Hobby Farms Contributors

Currants, which are a fruit native to the U.S., come in many colors, including black, white and red. Photo courtesy Rob McClure (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Rob McClure
Currants, which are a fruit native to the U.S., come in many colors, including black, white and red.

“Currants are more than just a fruit, they are a means to food security,” proclaims Erin Schneider, a Wisconsin farmer friend of ours and co-owner of Hilltop Community Farm with her husband, Rob McClure. “By eating more seasonal and locally grown fruits, such as currants, during the summer, we’re reducing fossil-fuel consumption while increasing our ability to feed ourselves within our community, which all add up to increased food security.”

Sneider is on a mission to get more perennial, native fruits—the currant, in particular—back in vogue and onto our plates. Culturally, the currant has received an unwarranted bad rap: “Currants were banned from cultivation for years because of white pine blight. Many people remember their grandparents growing currants but have lost touch with this fruit even though that growing ban has been lifted,” Sneider says.

For home gardeners interested in growing currants, Schneider advises to plant dormant transplants in the early spring before the buds start to break. As a deciduous shrub, meaning it sheds its leaves in the fall, the currant grows well in shade and in tandem with other plants, perhaps at the edge of a tree canopy. The berries come in different color varietals, from black to red to white.

For Schneider, the real beauty of currants percolates at harvest time: “There are so many ways to use currants, from juices and jams to pies and savory dishes, like rice pilaf.”

The two chutney recipes below use currants in two different ways: fresh and cooked. Savor those currants guilt-free, as they are a powerhouse of healthy nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin C and iron. “Currants blow blueberries off he antioxidant chart,” Schneider adds.

The currant chutney recipes below come from Deli Bean Café in Reedsburg, Wis.

Recipe: Black Currant Chutney
This recipe uses cooked currants.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2½ cup black currants
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green (not ripe) apples, chopped
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
Preparation
Boil water, sugar and vinegar for about two minutes. Add currants, onion, apple and spices. Bring to boil and simmer, being careful not to burn mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring often until mixture starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. It will thicken more when it cools.

Put chutney in jar or bowl, cool, and refrigerate up to one month. 

Recipe: Black and Red Currant Chutney
This recipe uses fresh currants.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup black currants
  • 1 cup red currants
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 2 T. finely chopped mint, for garnish
  • fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste

Preparation
In small bowl, mash currants with fork or potato masher. Stir in vinegar, honey and seasonings. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Dish tastes best if made shortly before using, as mint can overpower flavor if left to sit a day.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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