What to do with Red Currants! Recipes and Growing Tips
A few years ago I was in Germany with my kids, staying with my Aunt and Uncle. My littlest one was 4, and was absolutely enchanted by my Tante Anne’s kitchen garden. She was especially enamored with Red Currants. Every day she went to the kitchen to ask for “her” little clear plastic bowl, and she’s go into the garden to pick HER berries. (Red were her favorites, but she’d pick the black and white too). That bowl would then sit next to her plate at lunchtime, and she would eat the berries for Nachtisch. The ones that would make it in to the house that is… she would stuff as many into her mouth as she put in the bowl (and luckily, my Aunt has great stain fighters).
Even when we left to travel around Germany, we would find “her” berries at markets everywhere. Besides the little baskets, we would find them in cakes and desserts, as a garnish on plates, in jams and jellies, even in drinks. The Germans have a lot of recipes with Red Currants! I think my daughter’s biggest disappointment was coming home to California, and discovering that we just can’t grow them in our yard. (I totally understand, because I want to grow them too). Fortunately, I found ways of keeping my little one happy.
What are Red Currants?
Red Currants are berries native to Europe, and are a close relative of Gooseberries or Stachelbeeren (no wonder I like them so much). In Germany they are called Johannisbeeren or John’s Berries, because they ripen right around June 24th, the feast day of St John.
You will also find Black currants and white currants. Black Currants are more bitter, and are generally cooked into something. White ones are a bit sweeter. All currants grow on ever-green bushes in clusters, sort of like grapes.
What to do with Red Currants
Many Germans LOVE to cook and bake with Red Currents. They are ripe and abundant all summer, so you will have no trouble finding them. They seem to grow easily… and you can buy them in most markets.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy them.
Red Currants with Vanilla Custard
Sometimes the simple recipes are the best. Like this one from Spoonfuls of Germany. Rote Johannisbeeren with Vanillepudding came to the table often as Nachtisch when visiting family in Germany. If you are lucky enough to have an abundance of them, this is the best thing to make with Red Currants.
Basically, this is a pudding made with Red currants. As is pointed out on Quick German Recipes, other fruits and berries can be used as well. It happens to be my cousin’s favorite dessert (she even served it at her wedding).
Träubelskuchen – Swabian Red Currant Cake
Because Currants grow like grapes (Trauben), and the Swabs do love to use the diminutive… Träubelskuchen. Delicious cake base, Red Currants and a meringue topping. YUM!
Johannisbeersirup (Red Currant Syrup)
In Germany (and here is my house) there is always a bottle of fruit syrup ready to flavor bubble water, or pour over a pudding. While it is possible to buy the syrup, Home made is best. This recipe is German, but should be easy to run through a translation program.
Johannisbeergelee (Red Currant Jelly)
Home made Red Currant jelly is amazing on good German bread and Brötchen. My Oma always made dozens of jars full (and I’d pack a few in my suitcase to take home with me.) You can make it yourself with this recipe from Seitan is my Motor. She uses German Gelling Sugar (but also gives alternatives).
How to grow Red Currants
Are you lucky enough to live in a cool climate? My friend Alan sent me his tips on how to grow Red Currants:
Red currants are favorite summer berries in temperate regions with cold winter months. The red
currant is known for its red berries that children pick during summer seasons. While red currants are
traditionally grown in soil, many gardeners have experimented on using some of the best growing
systems in planting berries such as red currant.
If you wish to know how to plant and grow red currants, here are some of the checklist you need to
tick to ensure that it grows and thrive:
Red currants are native to cool climate places. So if you are living down South and in a hotter
environment, perhaps it is best to plant something else. Many varieties of red currant can tolerate –
40F winter temperature and will wither in climates where temperature is on average 90F.
SOIL AND FERTILIZER REQUIREMENTS
This plant grows well in soil enriched with black composition. Make sure that the soil pH is around 6
to 6.5. It is advisable to provide fertilizer in late autumn. You may spread at least 1-inch layer of
composted manure over the root of your crops to keep it healthy. For plants that grow slowly, you
may add fertilizers in early summer.
POSITION IN YOUR GARDEN
This plant thrives if planted in a location where it can receive morning sunshine. However, the pace
should be well shaded by a tree or nettings in the afternoon. On the other hand, make sure that the
plants still get plenty of sunshine nearing the harvest season since the fruits ripen more quickly and
taste sweeter if it is allowed to be touched by sunshine.
PLANTING AND HARVESTING CALENDAR
Red currants should be planted in springtime. This is very important as this is the season when the
plant is emerging from its winter dormancy. Allow the plant to grow throughout spring and early
summer month. It will begin to flower and fruit around midsummer in July up to the height of
autumn in October. This plant is frost resistant and will do well even in very cold winter months.
Many cultivars of red currants are susceptible to powdery mildew. Luckily, cultivars have been bed
resistant to this pest. Look out mildew-resistant varieties of Red Currant such as ‘Rovada’ or ‘Honey
Queen’. To further prevent powdery mildew infestation, make sure to prune out the old branches near the ground in winter.
And don’t forget a net! To protect your precious fruit from greedy birds!
Where to buy Red Currants
Can’t find Red Currant plants in your local Nursery? You can order them online.
Delicious Products with Red Currants that You Can Enjoy!
Jelly and jam, tea and dessert…
Are you all ready for YOUR Bowl of Red Currants?