Crushing on Currants in The Muddy Kitchen
There’s not a single thing in my garden that I am more obsessed with than my black currant bush. Or, to be precise, my three black currant bushes. Black currants epitomize everything I adore about growing my own treasures: They are nearly impossible to find on the open market. When you do find them, they are ridiculously expensive. And nothing else on the planet compares to their uncompromisingly sultry taste.
Even before my currants’ midsummer ripening, I’m out there every day pressing my face into their mass of fluorescent leaves. A waft of black currant leaves crushed between two palms is one of the world’s great fragrances, right up there with a freshly pruned tomato patch, a fistful of holy basil and flowering chamomile underfoot.
Like horseradish and grape, black currant leaves are rich in tannins, which keep pickles crisp. I pluck a mix of young and more mature leaves, mostly because I’m not sure which are more effective. No fermenting crock of anything in my house goes without at least one handful.
Some people say that black currants are inedible straight from the bush. I say they’ve never tried them. Or they’ve tried them too soon. Translucent and gemlike while ripening, the berries turn obsidian- black and glossy when ready. Like all truly momentous flavors, there’s something rank, even gamey, underpinning their brightness. I dream of it all year.
Even with three bushes’ worth, it’s rare that many ripe ones survive past my garden nibbling. When they do, my thoughts turn to making cassis. Any recipe that calls for Everclear and a potato masher is fine by me. Plus, my neighbors get tired of my endless jam and pickle gifts. Liqueur is always welcome. As always, Kevin West gets it right in Saving the Season.