Fresh currants are only available for a short season in late spring and early summer. If you're lucky enough to grow these jewel-like, translucent and tart fruits - or luck into them at the farmers' market - this is a great way to stock up on them until you have enough for a recipe.
Currants are high in pectin and can be used in combination with low pectin fruits to create a good gel in jam and jelly recipes. They are naturally sour even when ripe, so it is rarely necessary to add lemon juice as is done in most jelly recipes.
- Fresh, ripe black or red currants
Even if you plan to use them right away, freezing currants before trying to de-stem them is recommended because it makes the job much easier. It's tricky to get the small, juicy, freshly picked fruits off of the stems without squishing them, but once they are frozen, you can roll them off of the stems quite easily.
- Snip the whole clusters of currants off of the shrubs. Rinse them under cool water to remove any insects or debris. Spread them on a dishtowel to dry off for a few minutes.
- If you won't get around to de-stemming the fruits for more than a few hours, simply put the whole clusters of currants into freezer bags or containers. Pack them in loosely so as not to crush any of the fruit. Seal tightly and freeze. If you will de-stem the currants the same day, spread the clusters out on a cookie sheet and freeze, uncovered for 1 to 2 hours.
- Either way, the next step is to de-stem the frozen currants. Once they are frozen solid, they are quite easy to remove from the stems by hand. Compost or discard the stems.
- Transfer the de-stemmed, frozen currants to freezer bags or containers, seal, and return them to the freezer. I prefer to use BPA-free freezer containers rather than plastic ones.
If you are working with a very large haul of currants, you may find that they start to thaw out quicker than you can de-stem them. To avoid this, simply work in smaller batches, only taking a few of the still-on-the-stem clusters of currants out of the freezer at a time.
Also helpful when you work with currants in quantity is returning the just-stemmed, still-frozen elderberries to the freezer quickly. If they have already thawed when you refreeze them, the result will be a big solid brick of fruit. If they are still frozen, the individual currants will stay loose in their containers or bags. That makes it easier to take out just what you need when you are ready to use them in a recipe