I grow both red currants (Ribes rubrum) and black currants (Ribes nigrum) in my forest garden. The red currant harvest is particularly abundant this year. I have already picked a great many, and still have some more to process.
There are several ways I like to use the currants I grow from my garden. Perhaps this will inspire you to grow some in your garden, or help you decide what do to with those you already grow. Many of the ideas below will also work well for other, perhaps native, currant varieties that you might grow where you live.
Fruit Salads and Other Salads
Some people consider red currants to be too sour to eat raw. However, in our household, we enjoy the flavor of these tart berries. They taste great in moderation along with sweeter summer berries in a fruit salad, or even to give a hint of fruity tartness to leafy summer salads. Yesterday, for example, I made a redcurrant salad with lettuce, spinach, mangetout peas, green onions, radish pods, and celery.
I also often use redcurrants in salsas and dressings for our salads, which helps bring some variety to salads made with the traditional crops from my polytunnel and more unusual edibles from my forest garden. Combining redcurrant syrup with red wine vinegar can work well.
Currant Syrup and Currant Cordial
Another simple way to use currants from your garden is to make a simple syrup with red currants or black currants and sugar, honey, or another sweetener. This red currant syrup can not only be mixed with vinegar and used for dressing salads: It can also be drizzled over ice cream or a range of other desserts or even frozen briefly (with a stir) to make a simple sorbet.
More unusually perhaps, I also sometimes use a fruit syrup as a glaze for grilled halloumi or a nut roast.
To make a simple syrup, boil 500g redcurrants on medium heat with around half their weight of sugar and around 250ml water. Then strain through a muslin cloth before bottling or canning.
A red currant syrup can also be diluted with water to make a refreshing cordial. Or added to cocktails or mocktails to make more adult drinks.
A classic way to make use of the red currants from your garden is to make red currant jelly. This is like making the syrup but you will cook for a little longer and on a higher heat so that it will set. I also tend to use more sugar for a jelly—around a 1:1 ratio for redcurrants and sugar is often recommended, but I tend to use a ratio of 4:3. Boil the redcurrants for around 10 minutes, then strain the fruit, add the sugar and boil rapidly for another few minutes.
If you’ve had enough of typical jams and jellies, consider making a red currant, ginger, and chili jam, which has a bit of a spicy kick.
Redcurrant and Red Onion Relish
This is another of my favorite things to do with red currants from my forest garden. I use 400g red currants, 4 medium red onions, 2 small red peppers, 1 hot red chili, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 13.5 ounces of apple cider vinegar. This relish is great with cheeses, bread, and salads, or with a nut roast or other vegetarian bake and will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.
I also sometimes make other relishes that are suitable for water bath canning and so can be placed in my pantry and used over a much longer period of time.
Baking With Currants
Of course, there are also plenty of ways to include currants in cakes, muffins, puddings, and other baking. I have made many different cakes and other sweet treats with red currants and black currants before.
But one of my favorite ways to use currants is in enriched bread—alongside a range of herbs, spices, or seeds. For example, the other day, I added red currants to a homemade loaf of wholegrain sourdough along with some herbs from the garden, and some mixed seeds. We enjoy the tart berries in a savory loaf, as well as in sweeter recipes.
These are just a few of the ways I use currants from my forest garden. I hope these ideas have inspired you to make the most of your own harvest of these summer berries.