Blackcurrant is nature’s own super berry, even better than blueberries. Make your own vitamin booster: blackcurrant cordial.
Every time I am home in the North of Norway the berries on my mother’s two blackcurrant shrubs are unripe. So I have to look for the benevolence of mankind. My friend Hege is one of them. Hege has a big garden with old apple trees, raspberry shrubs, rhubarb and bushes yielding redcurrants and blackcurrants. Her garden lies in one of Oslo’s greenest neighbourhoods, Ekeberg. Apart from luscious and spacious gardens, Ekeberg has two world-renowned attractions. This is where Edvard Munch got the inspiration to paint his most famous painting, The Scream (1893). And this is where the world’s biggest football tournament takes place, Norway Cup.
One afternoon after work I hopped on my bicycle and headed towards Ekeberg. I had received the Green Card! I could enter her garden and pick all the berries I wanted. So I climbed the steep and windy roads to Ekeberg, past the villas with the great views, and found myself in Hege’s garden. My goal were the redcurrants and the purple star, the blackcurrants. The minute I started picking, the sky opened up to fill the air with rain, it had to be purple rain.
Blackcurrants are the number-one superfruit
More than other natural sources blackcurrants are rich in Vitamin C, even three times more than oranges. They also contain high concentrations of Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vitamins A and B and are full of antioxidants called anthocyanins. This is what gives blackcurrants their dark purple colour. At a time when nutrient levels in natural produce have decreased, blackcurrants stand in stark contrast: Present day blackcurrants contain more vitamins and antioxidants than before.
Lifesaver during WW2
Blackcurrants were banned in the United States in the early 1900s because they were seen as a threat to the logging industry. Though the ban has been lifted in some states, blackcurrants are still quite unknown in the U.S. In UK however blackcurrants are highly cherished and rose to the occasion during WW2 when war made oranges unattainable. Blackcurrants, which is a hardy plant that thrives in the northern climate and is rich in Vitamin C, provided the solution. Hence the British government encouraged people to grow blackcurrants and distributed blackcurrant syrup to children under age two.
Blackcurrant cordial (solbærsaft) is popular in both UK and Norway. The shopbought variant is a faded imitation of the real thing. Try to make your own blackcurrant cordial. All you need is a pan, a muslin, bottles and some patience. And sometimes good friends or neighbours.
In this recipe I make a cordial using both blackcurrants and redcurrants. The redcurrants give an extra tart and reddish cordial. Though using about 2/3 redcurrants it is the blackcurrants that dominate the flavour.
Blackcurrant cordial (makes about 750 ml):
350 g / 12 oz blackcurrants
650 g / 23 oz redcurrants
400 ml / 13 oz water
about 300 g / 10 oz sugar
1. First, rinse the currants in water and drain well.
2. Sterilize your jars by first washing them with soap, then leaving them in the oven at 100C/212F for 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven right before you are ready to fill the jars.
3. Put the currants in a large pan with the water. Place the pan over a low heat, then gently bring to a simmer. This may take some time, even an hour. Do not stir. When it boils, turn off the heat and leave to infuse with the lid on. They are finished when the currants have changed colour.
4. Strain the currants through a muslin without pushing the berries. This will take about 10 minutes.
5. Measure the amount of liquid to find out how much sugar you need. You should add at least 1/3 part sugar to 1 liter berry liquid.
6. Return the liquid to the pan, this time with the sugar. Boil briefly, until the sugar is dissolved, about a minute.
7. Skim off the foam (optional) and pour the cordial on sterilized jars.
Music: Purple rain by Prince
For the next post I pose a riddle: What do you get when I am able to pick blackcurrants right after coming home from a trip to London? The result is a Nordic mojito