Storing red currants for winter

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June is red currant time. Like all berries, currants don’t ripe all at the same time, so they can be hard to store for winter. The usual way of storing them is to freeze them in bags or processed them in juice, syrup, or jam. I used to store my red currants this way before. But, since I still have plenty of juice and jam left from previous years, I decided to try some other ways of storing these delicious berries.

The red currant bush in my garden has been here for over 20 years. It’s not a big bush, but it still produces nice amounts of berries, depending on the weather conditions of course. Last year was a bad one and all my currants froze in the early stages of fruit forming. This year there was no frost danger and all of the berries grew fine. I’ve been harvesting them every couple of days. Just the amount that I can store. Red currants can stay on the bush for a long time and not rot or spoil.

As I said earlier, I wanted to try new ways of storing berries, so I’ve tried 3 new ways: Oven-drying, sun-drying, and sugar and alcohol berries.

Preparing the berries

Oven drying and sun drying have similar ways of preparation. After washing the berries I blanched them for 30 seconds in boiling water. Removed them from the water, and immediately placed them in icy water to cool off. The red currants have hard skin. Blanching helps soften it, and make the drying of the fruits easier. The great thing about blanching the berries is that the water in which you dip them automatically becomes an excellent currant tea, so don’t throw it. The “tea” is great both hot and cold. I left mine to cool down, and without sugar, it tasted the same as the red currant tea bags available in our stores.

Once the berries cooled down in the icy water I took them out and left them to dry on two baking trays. One baking tray then went to the oven and one way left on the sunny balcony.

Oven-dry and sun-dry berries

I heated the oven-dried berries to 50°C(122°F) and left them in the oven the whole afternoon. Then I turned off the oven, cracked open the door, and left them in the oven overnight. The next morning they were completely dry.

The sun berries took more time. I placed the tray outside on the balcony table, covered it with gauze, and left it to dehydrate. The berries were dry in 3 days.

There is a slight difference in berries that were oven and sun-dried. The sun-dried berries are firmer and look more like berries you’d use in a tea, and the oven-dried currants are more sticky and sweeter, although both were harvested at the same time. I decided to mix both and use them with cereals and oats.

Sugar and alcohol berries

I already used the sugar/alcohol method with my sour cherries before. This is my favorite way of preserving cherries for cakes and desserts. Mixing cherries and sugar makes a cherry liqueur and perfectly preserves cherries. I love the cherry liqueur, and although I seem to be allergic to alcoholic beverages(I get an instant rash on my neck), I don’t mind the drunk cherries or the food that contains this kind of cherry preservation.

This year I decided to try this with all my berries. Right now it’s red currant and raspberry time so I decided to mix them in the jars. The process of making berry jars is the same as the cherry jars, the only difference is the sun. While the cherry jars should be left in the sun for the sugar to melt, the berries should be kept in the dark. The reason is that the berries will lose their color if kept in the sun and they will turn white.

I’ve filled my jars for 3 days, and that is the great thing about this method. You don’t need to have all the berries at once. You can add available berries to the jars, add some sugar and leave them in the dark until you get more berries to put inside the jar. I kept my half-empty jars in the fridge because raspberries are very tender and can easily spoil. If only currants are used there’s no need to refrigerate them.

How to make alcohol and sugar berries

As I wrote earlier the process is very simple. After washing the berries and the jars fill the jars alternately with berries and sugar and then top it off with alcohol. I used the 3x3x3 rule while filling my jars: 3 tablespoons of berries, 3 spoons of sugar, and 3 spoons of alcoholic beverage. I used vodka for my berries since it was the cheapest, but any 35%+ beverage will be fine( Rum, gin, brandy, rakia..).

Once the jars are full close the lids and turn the jars to sit on the lid for a couple of hours and then turn them back, this will help you see if the lid is holding well. I had to change 3 lids on one of the jars until I found one that didn’t drip. Just turning or shaking the bottles won’t help since some of the lids have such a small drip that it will take hours to show the leakage. Once the lids are holding jars can be placed in a dark and cool place, such as a basement.

This way of storing can be used with big jars to mix different fruits. It can even be used over a couple of months, and help us collect all the fruits that we have. Some people start adding berries and finish with late autumn apples and grapes. As long as each layer of fruits is topped with sugar and alcohol, the berries won’t spoil.

Now that my red currants are almost over, the blackberry month will start, so I will be storing and finding new ways of preserving blackberries. But drying and jarred berries will be one of the ways I’ll use them.

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