The sweet pearlescent cousin of the familiar redcurrant
Among the abundance of soft, fragrant stone fruits and colourful Mediterranean peppers and courgettes piled high at Borough’s greengrocers this week, something else winks up at us, their pearlescent skins unmissable: whitecurrants.
They are exactly as they sound: a white variant of the familiar redcurrant, and they have a season of mere weeks—so if you want to give these tart, translucent berries a try, head to Chegworth Valley immediately.
“We have a very limited supply of whitecurrants,” says Vikki at the farm. “We grow them organically under tunnels, which does extend the season slightly, but it’s still totally weather-dependent. If the sunshine comes back they should stay a little while longer; if this rain continues, possibly not!”
Grown on small bushes, the currants are planted at short intervals, pruned over winter to take away old growth and encourage new fruit. “They grow on ‘strings’, with many currants on a single stalk.” While still distinctly sour like their red cousins, “they are slightly sweeter than a redcurrant” and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Vikki suggests using them raw in salads, for an explosion of tart juiciness, while Borough Market demonstration chef Katherine Frelon likes to use them in fruit tarts, with whitecurrant jelly and rose water.
“I mix a big bowl of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, redcurrant and whitecurrants with a tablespoon of icing sugar and two tablespoons of white currant jelly (warmed so that it coats the fruits), then pour it over a sweet pasty tart filled with mascarpone and vanilla creme—yum!”
Sweet runny syrup
While whitecurrant jelly is outstripped in popularity by the redcurrant variety on these shores, the province of Lorraine in France is famed for its production of confiture de Bar-le-Duc, also known as Lorraine jelly—a preserve consisting of regional whitecurrants suspended in a sweet runny syrup. Considered a delicacy, the jelly is often served with game—a pairing that’s worth giving a try, game season being just around the corner.
If you’ve the patience, you can try making something similar at home by extracting the seeds (which is as fiddly as it sounds—in Lorraine they do it using a goose quill, traditionally) and boiling into a simple syrup of water and sugar.
If that all sounds too complex, Katherine suggests using these beautiful berries to top chocolate cupcakes dusted with icing sugar, or as a pretty decoration for cheesecakes, topped with a swirl of raspberry coulis.
Regular Borough Market blogger Laura Washburn-Hutton, meanwhile, goes a step further. “One thing I like to do is dip a bunch in lightly beaten egg white, then straight into caster sugar, then place them on to a rack to let the coating harden. Set them atop cakes or a lemon tart to give it a gorgeous, crispy-sweet layer—frivolous, but very pretty.”