White currants are tasty pearl-like berries native to Europe and Asia. They are absolutely packed with lots of Vitamin C, and their sweet-tart flavor makes them a mainstay in desserts, jams, and jellies.
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What is a White Currant?
A white currant (Ribes rubrum) is small round fruit and an albino cultivar of the red currant. The fruit belongs to the Grossulariaceae family and is closely related to black currants and gooseberries.
White currants grow in berry clusters on woody shrubs of up to 3ft (1m) in length. White currant bushes are hardy and disease resistant. They thrive in partial or full sun conditions in cool-climate regions.
The berries have thin, delicate skin that appears green when immature and unripe. When ripe, white currants are translucent white with creamy shades of pink.
Like red currants, white currants have ornamental and nutritional value. Planting the currant bushes in your backyard or a large container will offer a pleasant view and a supply of yummy treats. White currants love cool climates and do well in well-drained soils that are slightly neutral or acidic.
White currants are sweetly tart and tastier than other currants. Hence, they are excellent at making jellies, jams, and fruit syrups.
The History of White Currants
White currants are believed to have originated in Central and Eastern Europe and some regions in Asia.
The berries have existed in the wild for ages and were used as herbal medicine during the 15th century. However, it wasn’t until the 16th century that white currants were first domesticated in the Scandinavian countries. And they were traded in Western Europe from the 17th century.
Later, white currant cultivation spread to other regions outside Europe, including North America, in the 18th century. The earliest white currant variety (Versailles Blanche’) was bred in France in 1843.
Today, different cultivars of white currants, like the ‘Blanka,’ ‘White Grape,’ and ‘White Pearl,’ are cultivated in many regions worldwide. Depending on their appearance, they are identified as white currants, yellow currants, or pink currants.
Traditionally, white currants were used by herbalists in Europe for medicinal purposes. Today, these berries are mainly utilized for ornamental and nutritional purposes.
What Does a White Currant Taste Like?
White currants taste mildly sweet, sweeter than black and red currants. When raw, the flavor is sweetly tart, like sour cherry, kiwi, or Muscat grape.
When cooked, white currants maintain a slightly tart flavor that you can neutralize by adding sugar or other sweeteners. You’ll find white currants in desserts, jellies, jams, and fruit puddings.
How to Tell When White Currant is Ripe
White currants are harvested when slightly ripe from mid-summer. Here’s how to tell that a white currant is ripe and ready to eat:
|A fully ripened white currant should be translucent white or have creamy shades of pink. So, you’ll know that the fruit is underripe if it still appears green.
|White currants have a sweet-tart, delicate flavor when ripe. On the other hand, unripe white currants are tart.
|You’ll know that a white currant is ripe and ready to eat if you detect a floral aroma. The smell is a perfect combo of raspberry and golden currants glaze with a touch of vanilla bean.
|Ripe white currants have pulpy flesh with a juicy texture.
Are White Currants and Red Currants Related?
Yes. White and red currants are technically the same fruit, although marketed as two different fruits. White currants are just albino variants of red currants.
Here are some similarities and differences between the two:
- Both belong to the family (Grossulariaceae) and species (rubrum).
- Both are attractive and edible, mainly used for ornamental and nutritional purposes.
- Both are good sources of Vitamin C.
- White currants are translucent white, yellow, or pink, while red currants are red.
- White currants are smaller and sweeter than red currants.
- Red currants are more nutritionally-dense than white currants.
Can I Eat Raw White Currant?
White currants have fewer culinary uses since they’re tastier when raw. Unlike other more acidic and tart currants, white currants have low acidity and a sweet-tart flavor.
The best way to eat raw white currants is by snacking on the fresh fruit immediately after harvesting. But you can also add them raw as toppings to your cocktail, fresh fruit juices, yogurt, ice cream, or dessert.
Cooking with White Currant
Although white currants rarely feature in traditional cuisines, they have a few culinary applications today.
Here’s how to prepare white currants before cooking:
- Pick the whole cluster (bunch) instead of individual berries since white currants have delicate strands and skin.
- Wash the berry bunch gently under running water.
- Remove individual berries from the cluster using a fork and place them in a straining bowl. Your berries are now ready for use.
Since white currants have a high pectin content, they’re excellent for making jams, jellies, and syrups. And although they’re mainly translucent white, white currant jams and jellies are pink. Plus, it would help if you sieved out the tiny seeds.
The berries also feature in wines, marinades, sauces, cordials, and meat dishes.
White currants also pair well with other popular toppings like nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, citrus fruits, other berries, mint, basil, and cherries.
Here are some dishes featuring white currants:
Lavender and White Currant Muffins: These tasty, floral muffins are a perfect summer treat. You can use the typical muffin recipe to prepare them. You only have to replace strawberries with white currants and regular sugar with lavender sugar.
White Currant Jam: You don’t have to purchase jam when you have a bunch of white currants. This easy-to-make fruit jam will be an excellent addition to your bread or buns. And you only require a few ingredients like water, white sugar, and a little lemon juice.
Raw Razor Clams, White Currants, and Fennel are a unique version of the Venician starter dish. White currants taste sweet when paired with fennel, mint, and chili. Then, the raw clams are dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
White Currant Lemonade Cocktail: Beat the summer heat with this delightful lemonade. But give it an exciting twist by adding two shots of vodka to make a cocktail.
How to Store White Currants
White currants are highly perishable. So you can’t store them on your counter after harvesting.
The best way to keep white currants fresh for longer is by chilling them immediately after harvest or purchase. Before refrigerating, wrap the currants loosely with a baking sheet and place them in an airtight container. Chilled white currants can last up to six months.
Alternatively, make white currant preserves and keep them in airtight jars. You can then store the containers of preserves in your fridge for up to two years.
Nutritional Benefits of White Currants
White currants have fewer nutrients than red currants and black currants.
However, these berries are still packed with vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. So consuming white currants guarantees some health benefits.
White currants are loaded with lots of Vitamin C. This antioxidant protects your body from infections by fighting harmful free radicals. Vitamin C also helps improve skin and hair health.
Vitamin K is essential for your bone health. It also helps in the production of the proteins responsible for blood clotting.
White currants are an excellent source of proteins and carbohydrates that provide the body with energy. And the fruit is low on calories and fats, making it a yummy, healthy snack.
Where to Purchase White Currants
Fresh white currants are seasonal; hence, they’re rarely available off-season. The berries ripen and are harvested in summer, from June to August.
So you’ll likely find the fruit in specialty stores and farmers’ markets during this peak season. Large grocery stores also carry frozen or dried white currants and their jams.