Red currants, Gooseberries
Red currants grow everywhere in the cold regions of Europe and the Americas.
They were cultivated in Europe during the Middle Ages, and were used especially for their medicinal properties.
Red currants arrived in France in the 13th century and were planted in the Lorraine region, among others. The renowned Bar-le-Duc seedless red and white currant preserve is still made there; according to a tradition that dates back to the 14th century, it is the result of the Dukes of Bars' command that the pips be removed from each currant with a goose quill. Known as "Lorraine caviar", it was a favorite of Mary, Queen of Scots, and later of Alfred Hitchcock, who always carried a jar of it with him and who would have no other for his breakfast.
Further north, the red currants were grown in the Netherlands, Denmark, and along the shores of the Baltic. They were introduced to North America in the 17th century, but they were never very successful. The plant is called a gadelier by Francophones in Canada, and the currants were known as gadelles.
Gooseberries also come from the north. They were widely grown in the Middle Ages, until the Renaissance. The fruit was used as a garnish for mackerel, in a bittersweet sauce, which is the origin of its French name groseille à maquereau.
Red and white currants and gooseberries should be fleshy and shiny, with clusters still attached to their stalks, which should be green and not dry. Neither variety should have any moisture.
Red and white currants and gooseberries are sold in containers.
They can also be found frozen, in coulis, pureed, and as gelatin desserts and jam.
Before use, red and white currants should be rinsed, then stripped from the stalks carefully with a fork.
They can accompany game or roasts, or calves' liver, quickly pan-fried at the last minute and deglazed with a little honey to make a bittersweet sauce. They can be used to liven up a salad.
In baking and desserts, they should be used with plenty of sugar to tone down their tartness. They can be added to fruit salads, mixed with other red fruit, and made into ice cream or sorbet.
Gooseberries can be used as a garnish for fish other than mackerel, or duck. They are suitable for chutney.
Red and white currants and gooseberries can be kept in a cool place for one or two days in their container or the clusters spread out over a tray.
Red and white currants
There are different varieties of red and white currants:
. Jonkher Von Tets: red, tart pulp, juicy, and fragrant.
. Gloire des Sablons: pale pink.
. Hollande rose: very pale pink.
. Versaillaise blanche and Cerise blanche: white, less tart than the others.
. Groseille raisin: deep pink, its seeds are also larger.
Grown in France (Rhône-Alpes, Île-de-France, Picardie, Alsace et Lorraine regions), their season is June through September. They grow all year round in the Netherlands and Belgium.
In the Francophone areas of Canada they are collectively known as gadelles. There are more than 10 varieties, with fruit ranging in color from red to black.
There are two varieties of gooseberry, one producing fuzzy, purple, and oval fruit, while the other has smooth, round fruit that can be green, yellow, or white.
These are rather uncommon: they are available in France in July and produced in the Val-de-Loire and Lorraine regions.
Their flavor is sweetish, somewhat bitter, and slightly acid.
A number of European varieties of gooseberry are grown in North America.
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