15 June 2010

"The brightness calls and you follow because you want to taste"

About three years ago, I planted a couple of blackcurrant bushes. Blackcurrants illustrate the best reason for growing your own fruit: it is not that you can grow better fruit at home that you can buy at the farmers' market, or even the supermarket, but there are just some things that you cannot buy. Like blackcurrants.

One of the bushes died the first winter but the other has done well and this year it actually set fruit. I harvested about a cup, all told, which does not sound like much but I am inordinately proud of my first little crop.

Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum)

Blackcurrants are tart. There are supposed to be some varieties that can be eaten out of hand, but the one I have ('Crusader') is probably too sour for most people. They do make excellent jam, especially if you include a few of the fragrant leaves when you cook the fruit.

One cup of blackcurrants isn't enough to make a batch of jam, so instead I weighed the fruit (2.7 ounces), added a couple of the leaves, an equal weight of sugar and just enough water to cover. Then I cooked it down into a simple compote and served it over vanilla ice cream.

Blackcurrants and Ice Cream

Someone really enthusiastic could probably fold the compote into their own favourite homemade ice cream base and make blackcurrant ice cream, but I don't have an ice cream freezer, and wouldn't have had the patience to wait that long for my first taste of my own blackcurrants.

One other detail: in addition to being sour, blackcurrants have a lot of seeds. If seeds are not your thing, you may want to sieve the compote before adding it to your ice cream.

(Look at that, I got gardening and 'what I cooked this weekend' into one coherent post. Who'd have thought it?)

Camille Dungy, What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison

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