While weeding and mulching the side bed this week, I made a fun discovery: It was time to harvest my first currants!
Last year, I planted two 'Red Lake' red currant bushes in the bed directly across from my side door. Currants were supposed to be able to take some shade, and could be trained to be fairly compact... both key for that area, and I was excited to be able to add some more fruit production in that kind of space. I didn't let them flower or set fruit last year, but this year I did get quite a few strands (my word for them, not necessarily the right word!) of currants from the smaller of the two bushes:
Once they were harvested, it was time to figure out what to do with them. I removed the berries from the stems, rinsed them, and dried them in the open air. Then I went online to search for recipes and figure out how to use them.
This was a harder search than one might think, as what we usually think of as currants is really the dried fruit of the Zante grape. Red currants are an entirely different fruit, and are most often used cooked (because they are so tart when they're fresh--I can vouch for that personally, because I tried one raw) in jams, fruit soups, tarts, etc.
I had really wanted to make jam, but since my harvest was not exactly bountiful--I only had slightly more than 1 cup of fruit to use--I decided to try to make a freeform tart instead. The recipe I cobbled together used pie crust, sugar, cornstarch, a pinch each of cinnamon and salt, and all of my crushed currants. Here is the final result:
Looks really pretty, doesn't it? It's tasty, too, but as you can see at least half of the currants managed to jump ship and escape the tart crust! They bubbled and baked on the outside of the pan, turning into a tart/sweet jam of sorts on their own. I used some of the crust to scoop up extra filling as I sampled it.
Next time, I will leave these freeform tarts to the sturdier fillings (plums, apples--anything that holds its shape better) and instead make a smaller pie out of regular crust or maybe incorporate them into a cobbler or crisp. Ideally... well, ideally I'll just have a larger harvest next year, and plenty of currants to use in multiple recipes. But as always, we'll just have to wait and see what next year's gardening season brings!