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What Are Currants?

How to Buy, Store, and Use Currants

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Black Currants

Black Currants

Photo © Eisenhut and Mayer Wien, used with permission from Getty Images

In the U.S. "currant" often means Zante currants, or dried Cornith grapes that are really just small raisins. Fresh red or black currants (pictured right) aren't widely available, but worth seeking out if they're grown near you. Of course, dried black currants are also made and sold—they look a lot like Zante currants, yet even smaller.

Fresh Currants

Real currants are members of the Ribes family of flowering shrubs. These small deep dark purple or brilliant ruby red berries are delicious fresh. Both varieties have a bright acid kick to balance out their sweetness. Use them fresh in fruit salads, particularly berry mixes, or to garnish desserts with their pretty color.

How to Store Currants

Like all berries, fresh currants have a relatively short life-span. They are best stored loosely wrapped or covered and chilled. Rinse currants dry just before using them, and gently pat them thoroughly dry with a clean towel.

For longer storage, currants can be frozen just like other berries: lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet, freeze until frozen, transfer to sealable plastic bags and keep frozen for up to six months. (For more detailed instructions, see How to Freeze Berries.)

Currants can also be dried. The best way to dry them yourself is to use a dehydrator.

How to Use Fresh Currants

Currants are quite common in French cooking. Fresh currants can be used like blueberries, and somewhat like blackberries or raspberries, in tarts and pies and other desserts, including Black Currant Sorbet.

Black currants are also delicious used with game, as in this Black Currant Gastrique.

Red currants are commonly preserved, particularly as Red Currant Jelly or Strawberry Red Currant Preserves.

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