Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Black currant gin

While I was not complaining about being in Cape Town till early July, I was worried about missing berry season in New York.

The problems of privilege, as my father would say.

I was especially sorry to possibly miss out on currants, a fruit I came to love quite recently. Red and black. Their season is fleeting, and it shifts a little, every year. Red - astringent and clear in flavour, black - dark and suggestive. Both make the most delicious alcoholic infusions, and of course, the best and easiest jam. I was almost certain that red would be long gone.

I was hoping for early tomatoes at the Borough Hall farmers market, when I showed up there on Tuesday morning. Instead, at the Wilklow Orchards tables, I found berries. I may have squealed.

What can I say? I bought all the black currants. And was given a discount per tray. Thank you.

I swore last year to make more of the Cassis-like infusion with black currants, as it was so good. And there there is the dark and tart jam...

This recipe, such as it is, is really an outtake from my book - we ran out of space and it got the chop. So here it is. The pictures below were taken last year. This time, though, I made two big jarsful. Never break a promise to yourself.

You need: a sufficient quantity of currants to fill whatever large glass jar you own. I use a mason jar that accommodates 1.5 litres (6 cups). 

Rinse and dry the fruit. Place in the clean jar. Add 1/2 cup (100 g) of sugar for 2 lbs of fruit.

Top the fruit with good gin (I use Gordon's: affordable but very decent), and screw the lid on. Tilt the jar back and forth and shake gently a few times to distribute and dissolve the sugar. 

And then ignore it for three weeks, minimum. After a month it is ready to decant. But I tend to dip in every now and then. I find it remarkably Crème de Cassis-like, but less sweet.

The fruit itself will of course be highly alcoholic by then, but it's a shame to waste it, perfectly preserved as it is. Very small glasses of the fruit and liqueur make a wonderful end to a dinner party. It may cause people to slide quietly beneath the dining table, to emerge days later.

I have been making these infusions for years now, the original idea coming from Roger Verge's Entertaining in the French Style (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1986 - try and find it) - it morphed into what my family calls It, using many different red fruits covered with cognac, brandy or vodka. I have made It with Juneberries, too.

These days, I find the flavour of one berry to be more restrained and exciting.

One part black currant gin to four parts tonic

The decanted and alcoholic berries can be turned into jam, of course, as well chutney, or fillings for pies and cobblers, sauces for game, or lamb... Or ice cream. The list is endless.

Go and find some black currants. Now.

Today, I pull the red currants from their stems. A job for a small village.


  1. Yum! Farmer's market tomorrow - I'm not betting on any currants, but one never knows . . .

  2. I've never even seen a current - really. We are already to raspberries and blackberries, so is it too late here? Should i look at Whole Foods? Any thoughts?

    1. Might be too late in Virginia, webb. There were raspberries and blackberries, too, though.

      I have never seen them at Wholefoods, not sure why.

  3. could you use blackberries? isn't that what cassis is made with? i do not see many currants in the st louis area farmer's markets.

    1. Yes, you could certainly use blackberries!

      Cassis is from black currants (actually the French word for currants, too).


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