These days, red currants are an uncommon berry, but you don’t have to look very far back into recipe books to find mention of red currants. The German and Scandinavian immigrants brought with them tons of recipes for their beloved red fruits: Red currant pies, mixed red berry puddings, compotes for ice cream, and on and on. Loaded with natural pectin, pure red currant juice practically turns itself into jelly with a little cooking. And what a jelly, setting into a deep red glass, glowing eerily from within.
The jelly is great, but it doesn’t mix so well into yogurt, which is my little habit. I messed around with more of the painstakingly cleaned berries (prepping these babies will leave you with sticky fingers and a stubbornly nearsighted range of vision) and figured out a soft compote that leaves the berries virtually untouched. Left whole, they pop in the mouth like caviar.
Ingredients 1 1/4 cups sugar 1 1/4 cups water 3 cups picked, washed red currants 2 tablespoons lemon juice
To clean the currants, strip them from their stems, cover with lots of cold water and skim the bits that float to the surface. Drain.
Combine the sugar and water in a wide sauce pot and bring to a simmer, cooking until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the currants, return to a simmer, and cook 1 minute.
Drain the currants, saving the juice, and return the juice to the pot. Add the lemon juice.
Boil the juice until a droplet feels sticky when pinched between your fingers, or until it reaches about 225 degrees.
Add the berries and return the mixture to a boil.
Ladle the compote into sterilized half-pint jars, top with lids and bands and either refrigerate or freeze. If you’d like to preserve it, process the jars 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.