[Ribes hirtellum (North American) | Ribes uva-crispa
(European / Asian) and other species]
Native to North America (R. hirtellum) Europe, southwestern Asia
(R. uva-crispa), these straggling spiny bushes produce berries that
are rather tart. They are usually used to make jams and deserts where the
tartness is tempered by sugar, but in Portugal and some other regions they
are used in beverages. Gooseberry production is almost entirely within
Europe, with Russia the largest producer.
The photo specimens, identifiable as R. hirtellum as there
are no bristles on the fruit and from the mix of green and red, were up to
0.66 inches diameter and weighed 15 to the ounce on average. These were
obtained at the absurd price of nearly US $1 per ounce from Whole Foods
Market. At that pricing you certainly aren't going to make much jam, and
that makes them nothing more than a curiosity for yuppies.
[Cassis, gadellier noir (French); Schwarze Johannisbeere (German);
This small shrub (3 to 5 feet high) is native to central and northern
Europe and northern Asia. The fruit is a berry about 1/2 inch in diameter
and a mature bush can produce up to 10 pounds during a summer.
Blackcurrent syrup was the main source of vitamin C in the UK during
World War II and has remained a popular flavoring for beverages,
particularly "Cider & Black" and to enhance the flavor of Guinness.
Outside the UK it is much used for jams and to flavor many confections
and ice cream as well as liqueurs. In Russia the leaves are also used
as a flavoring in teas, preserves and vodka. Black current is also used
as a flavoring for many sauces used with meat, often by including jam or
Commercial production is almost entirely within Europe, with Russia
the top producer. Production was banned in the United States for almost
the entirety of the 20th century, due to fear of white pine blister rust,
but production is now legal in a number of states and increasing in New
York, Connecticut, Vermont and Oregon.
Photo by Saxo contributed to the public domain.
[Red Currant; Johannisbeeren (Germany); Ribes rubrum]
Native to parts of Western and Central Europe and as far south as northern
Spain and Italy, this shrub grows to 3 to 5 feet high and can produce up
to 8 pounds of berries in the mid to late summer. Fruit size ranges from
0.31 to 0.47 inches diameter. Commercial production is almost entirely
within Europe, with Russia the top producer. I presume that in the United
States it was subjected to the same ban as for black current. The photo
specimens, the largest about 0.4 inches diameter, were California grown
and purchased at a certified farmer's market in Pasadena, CA - at the
outrageous cost of US $1.25 per ounce.
Fresh ripe redcurrants are tart-sweet weighted well to the tart side.
They may be served raw in salads or as garnishes but most of the production
goes to making jams and jellies. In the UK these are served as a condiment
with lamb, and may also be included in sauces. In Scandinavia these
berries are used in fruit soups.
This is an albino cultivar of the Red Currant rather than a separate
species, but is somewhat smaller and sweeter. It is used, sometimes
along with red currents, to make products that are supposed to have a
"refined" image. Whitecurrant berries are also often
used raw to provide a sweet-tart flavor.
Photo by Jastrow distributed under license Creative
Attribution 3.0 Unported
Zante Currant -
[raisins de Corinthe sec (French); Vitis vinifera]
These are not actually currants but tiny sweet black seedless grapes
dried into raisins. When a recipe, usually a baking recipe, calls for
"currants" with no further description, this is what is meant. Dried
blackcurrants do exist in Europe but even there are uncommon.
California distributors like Sun-Maid call these raisins
"zante currants", but in the UK they're called just "currants". Here
in California the fresh grapes, both black and white, are sold as
"Champaign grapes" (after the bubbles - they aren't used to make
[Ribes x nidigrolaria]
Pronounced "Yostberry" this is the result of a complex cross breeding of
several Ribes species performed in Germany. It is midway between gooseberry
and blackcurrant in size. When not quite ripe it is much like gooseberry and
becomes more currant like when fully ripe. It is propagated by
cuttings and is currently available as a garden fruit plant, most commonly
in the UK. It is not currently used for commercial products.
Photo by Zualio distributed under license Creative
Attribution 3.0 Unported
Currant Jams & Jellies -
Currant jams and jellies are often called for in European recipes as an
ingredient in sauces or as topping or filling for baked goods. Here in
North America they aren't always easy to find when you need them.
Fortunately, sealed in their jars, they have very good shelf life. If a
jar should get a little mold on top, just spoon it off, discard and use
the rest. To the left in the photo is blackcurrant preserve and to the
right redcurrant jelly. Subst: sour cherry
jam or jelly is a reasonable, though not exact, substitute.