Scott Paton, head chef of Àclèaf in Plymouth, shares a few tips on how to source, prep and serve blackcurrants
Blackcurrants are synonymous with a certain sugary drink (90 per cent of blackcurrants grown in the UK are used to make Ribena), but the beautifully tart little berries are also brilliant in cooking and baking. They add great balance to dishes and pair well with myriad flavours – from aniseed through to stone fruits and game.
Where to source blackcurrants
The British blackcurrant season is brief, starting in July and ending in August.
The blackcurrant bush is a non‑native species (it originates from Scandinavia), but you’ll still find them growing wild across the UK. We have a few in the grounds of Boringdon Hall and pick on demand when the berries are ripe and juicy.
If you don’t have a local blackcurrant bush, when in season you’ll find the berries at good farm shops.
How to prep blackcurrants
Rinse the fruit under cold water to wash away any bugs and dirt. If you have a surplus, they freeze well or can be pickled for use throughout the year.
How to serve blackcurrants
At Àclèaf we use blackcurrants all year round, making the most of the berries we pickled the previous season.
We currently have a squab dish on the menu which is finished with a blackcurrant sauce, blackcurrant powder and oil made from the blackcurrant leaves. I’m also working on a dessert that will pair blackcurrant with aniseed in a frozen parfait.
For home cooks, making a batch of blackcurrant jam is a great place to start as the subtle tartness of the berries counterbalances the sweetness of the sugar. Blackcurrants also pair well with cream, so try swapping strawberry jam for your homemade blackcurrant version next time you treat yourself to a cream tea.
The traditional summer pudding may have fallen out of favour in recent years, but the Queen’s platinum jubilee has put retro desserts back in the spotlight. Add a handful of blackcurrants to your berry mix for a punchy edge.
If you’re feeling a little more confident, try serving them with seared duck in a glossy sauce, or pair pickled berries with roast venison.