It is time for the wild currant harvest. The wet spring of 2011 has led to a bumper crop of these delicious berries that are found all over the foothills, Owyhee Mountains and along the Boise River.
- Wild currants on the tree.
The little berries come in a variety of colors but most are orange, red or purple/black. Please look carefully at an edible plant book before picking any berry and make sure that you are picking the right ones: Most of the time, a red berry is a bad berry.
Wild currants have a slightly bitter taste but are a great accent in a dish; one of my favorite ways to use them is in a meatloaf. Wild currants also have a high amount of natural pectin, which makes them perfect for jam. The berries act as a natural thickener and stabilizer.
To use them in a jam, first puree a batch of berries in a blender with a little water and 30 percent sugar by volume. Boil for about five minutes to extract as much flavor as possible, then pour the mixture through a fine strainer to remove the seeds. Bring the whole mess back to a boil and reduce until it is "nape," which means it will coat the back of a spoon. Then cool it down and transfer it to freezer-safe containers. For me, it usually lasts for a month refrigerated and a year in the freezer.
- Bear and currant meatloaf.
Wild currants are very small, so gather a lot of them for any quantity of jam. With the help of two friends and about three hours worth of work, we gathered two gallons of fresh berries. The total amount of jam was only about three cups.