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Currants, Currently

Some background first.  First off, currants are NOT the raisin-looking thingy you can buy locally.  These are likely Zante raisins.  They are good, but they are not currants.

I was introduced to true currants on a trip to Ireland several years ago.  We were offered fresh currants muffins for brunch while traveling the Ring of Kerry.  They were quite good. 

Currants are tart.  They are a sort of cross between and cranberry and and a blueberry but smaller.  They have to be really high in antioxidants I’m thinking.  Eating them plain would make your mouth pucker, they are not particularly sweet.

I didn’t give currants a whole lot of thought after returning from Ireland until I was faced with brewing a beer for the holidays.  This is when I thought, “why not put the berries in the beer?”

Well, this started an interesting investigation.  In my pursuit of currants in the United States, it turns out that they were banned from commercial cultivation for almost 100 years!

This is because currants were a host to a  tree disease which threatened White Pines.  This stood until 2003 when a New York farmer challenged the ban and got it lifted.

I ended up ordering currents from an Internet site in New York state.  As I recall, it cost as much or more to ship them to me in dry ice than the berries themselves!  I got 10 pounds. Sometimes there are things you just have to have no matter what and for me, this was the currant berry.

 I put the currants in two winter brews that year.  The success of one brew was masked somewhat by the fact that I added  way to much clove.  The other beer came out alright.

Now, the reason I’m writing this today is because I still have at least 5 pounds of currants still sitting in the freezer!  One problem is that they were shipped fresh which means a lot of small stems are still on the fruit.  While this wasn’t a problem when they were added to a boiling beer wort, it is a concern if I want to use them, let’s say, in a muffin!

So, one of my holiday goals is to slip on some non-powder surgical gloves and commence with the stem removal!  The gloves are, of course, to prevent my fingers from turning a permanent shade of purplish-red.  Once stripped of their stems, I’m open to suggestion as to what to make with this curious fruit.  Jam comes to mind.  I’ll consult with my rising star culinary expert wife on this as well!

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