Currant, also known as Zante currant, is a type of raisin or dried grape that is sweet and seedless, with hints of tarty taste. There are many types of currants that are known by their color, such as Black, White, Pink, and Red. All of them are used for various culinary purposes. Currants are known by different names in different countries – Ribes in Denmark, Italy and Sweden; Johannisbeere in Germany; Groseille in France and Bes in Belgium.
Pliny the Elder made the first documented record of Zante currant in the year 75 AD, but as a raisin and not currant. As per the written record, this raisin was described as a thick skinned grape which is juicy and small. Thereafter, there are records of the Venetian merchants trading this sweet berry, with the Greek producers. Then by the 14th century, these raisins were sold under the brand “Reysyns de Corauntz”, into the English market. Zante currant derives its name from “raisins de Corinthe”, an Anglo-French term and Greek Island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante), the major producer and exporter of the dried berries, in the 15th century. Though, initially it was known as “raisins of Corinth”, over time it changed to currant. By the 19th century, the Black Corinth was introduced into the American market, which soon gained prominence.
Today, Greece is the major producer of this dry fruit, followed by California, South Africa and Australia.
Types of Currants & their Culinary Uses
Currant can be categorized into many types, as listed below –
- Red Currant – This variety originates in America and is basically used for making jellies, juices and also used in purees.
- The sub-varieties include Jonkheer van Tets, Perfection, Red Lake, and Wilder.
- White Currant – This variety is the albino form of red currant. It is less acidic than the red variety and used for various preparations. This variety tastes very good and is ideal for eating as is.
- The sub-varieties include Weisse aus Juterbog, White Imperial, and White Versailles.
- Pink Currant – This variety is a blend of red and white currants, with a little pigmentation on them. Though the skin is colorless, the flesh of this currant is pink in color.
- Gloire des Sablons is the sub-variety of this type of currant.
- Black Currant – Native to northern Europe, this variety has a unique sweet aroma and because of its astringent taste, this variety is ideal for cooking.
- The sub-varieties include Blacksmith, Boskoop Giant, Noir de Bourgogne, Wellington XXX and Willoughby.
General Culinary Uses & Currant recipes
The culinary uses of the highly flavored Zante currant include –
- They are used in various baked foods such as cookies, cake, puddings, scones, buns, currant square, etc.
- They are also included in mincemeat.
- Sauces, ice creams, jellies, jams, too are flavored directly with these currants or their flavoring.
- Cassis, a popular French liqueur is made with black currant.
- They can be eaten raw.
Currant is one of the richest source vitamin C (about 77%). It also contains vitamin A (about 1%). Mineral such as iron (about 6%) and calcium (about 4%) are also found in this dry fruit along with a good amount of dietary fiber (19%) and protein (about 3%). Sugar content too is high (about 70% of fructose and glucose).
Variations of Currant
There are few other varieties of currant that are similar in their uses and appearance. These variations include –
Sultana – This variety is a golden colored seedless variety of dried grape that is found in America, England and in the Ottoman region of Asia. The grape used for this variety of raisin is called Sultanina, also known as kishmish. Like currant, this sweet raisin is also used for various culinary preparations such as cookies, cereals, other baked foods such as cakes and pies, puddings, etc. It is also eaten as a snack and used in snacks such as party mixes.
Raisin – This is a variety of Sultana that is dark brown in color. It is also known as “Thompson Seedless”. This is found in most parts of the world; however, it is mostly found in UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia. It is used in various culinary preparations such as baked foods and alcoholic beverages and also eaten raw.
Buffalo Currant – Also known as Ribes aureum, this variation has a close connection with the American gooseberry. It is ideal for cooking as well as eating raw. Crandall is a sub-variety of this variation of currant.
Jostaberry – This variation of currant is a cross between the black currant and American gooseberry. These are not suitable for cooking.