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Jul 7, 2010 05:18 PM

red vs. black currants - which do i use for what?

so after watching last week's top chef episode, i've become obsessed with making kenny's winning "bananas foster pie with currants & chinese five spice" recipe. apparently it has a great balance of flavors.

however, how do i decide which type of currant to use? the currants are used in both the filling and a toffee sauce. red is more tart, and supposedly black is more "savory" - feel like the recipe could go either way but would have very different outcomes depending on which is used. don't think i've ever eaten a black currant, so i'm ignorant here.

recipe link:

please help! thanks!

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  1. Jen223, I don't know where you live, but if you're in the US, the question is really moot. Black currants--real currants, that is (cassis-flavor)--aren't available, as far as I know. Some sort of FDA ban having to do with disease carried by black currants. Anyone who knows better I'd love to hear from. What passes for black currants in the U.S. are really just tiny raisins that I can't see as "savory".

    5 Replies
    1. re: Masonville

      both black and red currants are available at PYO in new hampshire. I find the red very bright and tangy and the black are very rich and deep. I make jelly out of both. Each different but both great.

      1. re: chowmel

        I make/made Norwegian style "saft" or juice concentrate from both. Wine (like a Lambusca) and jelly from the red.

        1. re: Passadumkeg

          What do you do with your juice concentrate? Mix for drinks?

          1. re: karykat

            Saft is a good form of vitamin C. We mix it w/ water and have it hot, sometimes mixed w/ rum, in the winter or mixed w/ water and over ice in the summer. IKEA sells red current saft.

            1. re: Passadumkeg

              Sounds wonderful. I will check that out.

    2. I think this recipe is envisioning the dried currants (like small raisins) that are dried from certain grapes (zante grapes?) It seems like a winter recipe to me with the bananas and nuts, and I'm having trouble picturing carmelizing fresh currants along with the other stuff. Whereas I can picture the dried currants in something like a pecan pie type thing, which is kind of what this sounds like a little bit. But if you saw the bravo tv episode, maybe you could tell that fresh currants were being used?

      I think there was a time when you could not cultivate black currants because of some disease but that ban has been lifted so it's ok now. That's what I had heard. (Now I'm curious, so I think I will check.

      If a recipe called for fresh currants not dried, and did not specify the black currants, I would probably use red or white. Because the black ones have a taste unto themselves a bit. I think of it as musky. Not sure that's the right word.

      1. Me again.

        Your question piqued my curiousity.

        Here's part of what wikipedia says about black currants:

        Blackcurrants were once popular in the United States as well, but became rare in the 20th century after currant farming was banned in the early 1900s when blackcurrants, as a vector of white pine blister rust, were considered a threat to the U.S. logging industry.[4] The federal ban on growing currants was shifted to jurisdiction of individual states in 1966, and was lifted in New York State in 2003 through the efforts of horticulturist Greg Quinn. As a result, currant growing is making a comeback in New York, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon.[5][6] However, several statewide bans still exist including Maine[7] and New Hampshire.[8]

        Since the American federal ban ceased currant production nationally for nearly a century, the fruit remains largely unknown in the United States and has yet to regain its previous popularity to levels enjoyed in Europe or New Zealand. Owing to its unique flavor and richness in polyphenols, dietary fiber and essential nutrients, awareness and popularity of blackcurrant is once again growing, with a number of consumer products entering the market.

        It sounds like there are some states that still ban black currants. but others don't, I know they're being grown in Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are some ripening in a berry patch near me this week that have my name on them!

        Jen223 --- If you are not set on your bravotv recipe and have access to some fresh currants, there are lots of things to do with them. Refreshing drinks and syrups, sorbets (yes!), curds, jams and jellies, savory sauces . . . .

        There are a few recent threads with some ideas. If you want specfic recipes, let us know.

        5 Replies
        1. re: karykat

          Incidentally it's the USDA (Dep't of Agriculture) that controls things like this - anything growing -, the FDA (Food and Drug Admin) is in charge of already harvested/prepared foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. They're both part of US Customs and Border protection under Homeland Security now.
          And I'm glad the ban has been lifted because black currants are one of my favorite fruits.

          1. re: karykat

            thanks for the info, karykat. i've also never eaten dried currants (and i thought i've tried just about everything!) - maybe i will just buy red, black, and dried currants and do a taste test to see what should go in my recipe.

            i am quite set on the recipe as i'm intrigued by the combo of bananas foster and chinese 5-spice (sort of in the same way that momofuku's green curry banana bread sounds strange but is amazing), so i'll post what i end up doing and how it turns out.

            thanks for the help!

            1. re: jen223

              If you try it, let us know what you ended up doing and how it was.

            2. re: karykat

              Curious about the ban in NH. Farms do cultivate black and red currants in NH. Wonder if they needed special permits.

              1. re: chowmel

                I was curious so I poked around a little. And found out that currant bushes are thought to be a host for the white pine blister rust that harms white pines. I think only a few states still ban currant bushes and New Hampshire is one of them. Unless the bushes are one of a number of disease resistant varieties.

                So that may explain why you are seeing some farms with the currant bushes.

                If I have this straight.