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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Currants:

About:

Zante currants, Corinth raisins, or Corinthian raisins, also called simply currants are dried berries of the small, sweet, seedless grape variety called "Black Corinth"(Vitis vinifera).  All forms of currants are deciduous shrubs , fast growing under optimum conditions.  
In the U.S. there is confusion as to what is a currant, what is a Zante currant, and are raisins the same as currants.   So called Zante currants, Zante raisins, or just "currants" without the Zante prefix are in fact dried grapes and have nothing to do with  real currants.  Grapes grow on vines and are sweet.  Currnats grow on bushes and are quite tart. 

Two Different Fruits callewd Currants:

1. The first resembling a small dark raisin is a seedless dried Zante grape (also called Champayne grapes) from the island of Zante off the coast of Greece.  In cooking this type of currant (like raisins) is used mainly in baked goods.

2.  The 2nd type of currant is a tiny berry related to the gooseberry.  These are black, red, or white currants.  The black ones are generally used for preserves, sysrups, and liqueurs (such as cossis), while the white and red are good for eataing out of hand, and such preparations as the famous French preserve bar-le-duc and using the red currants, cumberland sauce.


History:

The currant is one of the oldest known raisins.  The first written record was is A.D. 75 by "Pliny the Elder" who described a tiny, juicy, thick skinned grape in small bunches.  The first attempt to introduce the Black Corinth variety in the U.S.  was 1854.  The first successful vineyards of White and Red Corinth were in California in 1861.  Around 1901 David Fairchild of USDA imported high quality Black Currant cuttings from the Greek village Panariti.  Due to the popularity of Thompson Seedless grapes American production of the Black Curranat remained modest until the 1920's and 1930's  when their popularity  increased due to athe higher price they could bring and improved cultivation practices.Greece is the primary producer of currants at 80% of total world production. California, South Africa, and Australia share most of the remainder. 

Description:

Clusters of Black Corinth are small, round, and a reddish black color. The skin is very thin and the flesh is juicy and soft.  It is mostly seedless except for an occaisional large berry.  The fresh fruit of the Zante Currant s are very small and sweet with quick intense flavor.  Black Corinth, White Corinth, and Red Corinth are often marketed in the U.S. under the name "Champayne grapes" but despite the name they are not used to make champayne.  When dried they are used in cooking, especially baking and are a major ingredient in currant slice (or currant square) and currant cake in the U.K.  They are usually called simply "Currants" and are often used in scones, currant buns, Christmas cake,  Christmas pudding and mincemeat.

Nutrition:

Black currants are an excellant source of vitamin C.  They have small but significant amounts of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as beta carotene, zea-zanthin, and crypto-xanthin levels.  Black curranats are rich in many essential vitanins such as vitamins B5, B6, and B1.  They contain good amounts of mineral iron and are a good source of important minerals such as copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and potassium which are essential for body metabolism.

Health Bemefits:

Black currants carry significantly high amounts of phenolic flavonoid phytochemicals called anthocyanins.  Scientific studies suggest consumption of Black curranats can have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.

Season:

Fresh currants are in season June through August. 

Selecting and Storing:

Choose currants that are plump and without hulls.  Place currants in a tightly covered container and store up to 4 days./  Wash with cold water just before using. 

Using:

  • Sweet, and delicious red, pink and white varieties of currants can be consumed fresh or dried as snacks.
  • Tart, astringent quality black currants are favored in many culinary dishes, especially boiled and pureed, across Europe.
  • They give refreshing taste when added to fruit cocktails.
  • Black currants are being used in the preparation of muffins, pie fillings, and ice creams.
  • The berries can be used in food industry in preparation of sauce, jam, jelly.
  • The berries are also used in flavored drink preparation.


So...... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Couscous with Pistachio, Scallions, and Currants:

1/2 c. currants                               2 pinches cinnomon
1 1/2 c. chicken broth                   6 TBS olive oil
2 TBS butter                                 1/2 c. sliced scallions
1 c. couscous                                1/2 c. pistachios
3 TBS lemon juice                        2 TBS parsley



In a small bowl cover currants with hot water.  Let sit and plump for 15 minutes.  In a saucepan heat the chicken brothand butter to a boil.  Stir in couscous.  Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 - 10 minutes.  Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, cinnamon, and olive oil.  When couscous is done, transfer to a bowl and break up lumps with a fork.  Drain currants and add.  Stir in scallions, pistachios, and parsley.  Toss with dressing and serve. 

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