Friday, August 5, 2016

In Praise of Blackcurrants

It has been an excellent year for blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum). In fact we had a bumper crop.

Some years there will be a late frost when the blackcurrant bushes are in bloom, which reduces yield. But not this year.

This means that we have been very busy picking berries and turning them into desserts, jam and, most popular of all in this household, crème de cassis, the delicious blackcurrant liqueur.


Blackcurrant jam is my favorite, but you have to grow your own currant bushes and make your own jam if you want any, because it is just about impossible to find in the store, at least in our area and in most of North America.

Besides, if you find any, they usually have skimped on fruit, and the result does not compare with the home-made stuff.

Blackcurrant jam

It is a jam very easy to make as blackcurrants naturally have a lot of pectin which means you can get  a  nice consistency without adding any extra pectin.

You simply bring the fruit to a boil over high heat, stir in about the same quantity of sugar as you have of fruit, bring to a full rolling boil, cook for another minute et voilà!

It is delicious spread on a fresh baked roll as in the picture below, perhaps even better poured over ice cream.

As for the crème de cassis, many recipes are available on the Net.  Here is our own. Take 8 cups of fruit for one and a half litres of red wine. (There is bottle of brandy in the picture as in our recipec brandy is added at a later stage).

Your main ingredients to make crème de cassis

The currants can be mashed to get the juice out of the berries. However this step can be skipped as the berries usually break open with cooking.

You mix the berries and cook them until they have broken up. You then add the red wine and bring the mixture of wine and fruit to a boil for several minutes.

Be careful not to add the sugar till the very end (when the cooking is done), otherwise, given the amount of pectin in blackcurrants, you might end up with a jelly.

Blackcurrants and red wine boiled together
You then let the mix rest for a while - some recipes say for one day, others for 10 days (it might depend on how much in a hurry you are to drink it!)

It is a good idea to mix the fruit and wine with a spoon a few times a day.

Blackcurrants and red wine macerating

You then strain the mix through a cheese cloth. You have to squeeze the cheese cloth in order to get as much juice as possible. It is a rather messy job.

Then you make a syrup with two cups of sugar and half a litre of water. Two cups of sugar for every one and a half litres of red wine produces just the right sweetness. You can add more syrup if you want it sweeter.

Once the syrup has been added to the pressed juice, you also add about 250 ml of brandy and mix it all up before you pour the result into bottles.

You should wait for a month before starting to drink your crème de cassis. Here is what a double recipe produced (18 cups of fruit, half a litre of brandy, 2 cups of sugar, half a litre of water and three litres of red wine).

Best sipped in front of the fire on winter evenings

The result can be drunk straight as a liqueur or mixed with a "bubbly" to make an aperitif called "Kir". If you use actual champagne instead of an ordinary fizzy wine, it is then called "Kir royal".

It should be added that not only are blackcurrant bushes very easy to grow or to propagate from cuttings, but none of the garden raiders (rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, woodchucks, skunks, you name it) like the taste of blackcurrants, and they leave your berries well alone.


  1. et voilà, a bit of heaven. We did not replace the current bushes we had to take out because they were planted too close to the wood siding of the barn. I'd forgotten how I liked them, and an afternoon stripping them, in company with a grandchild.

  2. You certainly have a better crop of blackcurrants than I do.

  3. We found black currents at the Keady Market, and Maria made jam for me for the first time this year!

  4. Blackcurrant jam is readily available here.
    Our early blackcurrants didn't do very well maybe through a lack of pollinators but our later ones are producing some lovely large juicy berries.

  5. That looks and sounds fabulous. I don't have R. nigrum, but have lots of R. americanum. The berries are edible, but I leave them for the birds.

  6. Don't agree about no pests. The birds stripped our crop overnight this year as I reported on my latest post! Fortunately I did have a very fruitful bush in a secret place! It's the first year they have discovered blackcurrants
    Brenda does not make wine but does make delicious jam and blackcurrant pie. I don't remember ever squashing them but what do I know?

    1. Here the birds never touch them. However I think it might be a case of not having discovered them yet. My neighbour, Dieter, has had the same experience. His black currants are never attacked Here the birds are very keen on red currants and they will also eat gooseberries but only when they are ripe. It goes to show how different the situation is from one place to an other.

  7. Oh my goodness, I'm terribly jealous! You have a lot of fruit! I've never tasted the jam or the liqueur, but both look yummy. Enjoy!

  8. I don't think I've ever seen these plants here. Maybe it's too warm. But how wonderful to be able to harvest your own fruit and make something tasty. :)

    1. It might be worth a try. They are very cold-hardy but I don't know if they can take heat.

  9. The first jam I ever made was blackcurrant - it was a good one to start with because of the pectin content. I finally got around to planting a blackcurrant last winter. It's called Big Ben, so I am hoping for great things from it. I have never thought of making my own cassis, which is strange, given my fondness for Kir Royale!

    1. When you make your own cassis it produces something more concentrated and tastier than what you buy. However, as I mentioned in the post, it is a rather messy job.
      Good luck with Big Ben. I do not know what variety mine are except that it is an old one (50+ years).

  10. Hello Alain, I think I'm going to print out this post and keep it in a recipe book given that we acquired nine currant bushes (mix of red and black) from runners from the parents' garden. I was only expecting a few to "take" but they all did, didn't they?

    1. They are amazing plants as you stick a piece in the ground and they start growing.


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