Blackcurrants in Brandy

If you’re a regular reader, you may have seen my summer pudding two years ago. This is a classic British dessert made from ripe summer fruit encased in white bread. You leave everything to sit in the fridge overnight, and in the meantime the fruit juices will spill out into the bread, leaving everything a deep purple-red colour. A fruity slice, covered in cream, is hard to beat.

Well, I claim that this was my summer pudding but in fact the honour really has to go to my mum. The fruit was all grown by her own fair hands in her garden in Scotland, and the recipe was hers too. Whereas she has a garden with Victoria plums, redcurrants, strawberries, blaeberries, brambles…I’m scraping in with some never-quite-ripe figs and one stubbornly green tomato. I guess I’ll just have to work on my green fingers!

I was up in Scotland a few weeks for the Commonwealth Games, and it turned out to be the two-year anniversary of the previous summer pudding triumph. However, my plans to have another go were trounced by the inconvenient reality that my mum’s fruit crop had not done quite so well this year. There were a few raspberries, some lone strawberries and a scrap of redcurrants. Not quite the bounty I was hoping for, but there was one star amount then – my mum’s two blackcurrant bushes were positively groaning with fruit! A combination of lots of warm and sunny weather and the fact they were near a south-facing wall meant that they were dark, juiced and perfectly ripe. My mum was happy for me to take some, so I seized my chance and picked a generous punnet. In fact, I waited until my last day in Scotland, and picked them in the morning with the hope that they would survive six hours in the train back to London. The good news – they did.

So back in London, with the glow of the Commonwealth Games a fading memory, I had to think what to do with these blackcurrants. Jam would have been quick and easy, but I had been on what can only be described as a preserving binge earlier in the summer. Strawberry, peach, kumquat and passion fruit, raspberry and grapefruit all line my shelves, so another jar of jam was about the last think I needed. No, the clear choice was to bottle them and preserve them in brandy. This had been my mum’s suggestion back in Scotland, so a lesson to always listen!

blackcurrantsinbrandy

There are various ways to preserve fruit. The most complex version I’ve seen involves making a sugar syrup, cooking the fruit gently, and finishing off by heating everything in a hot water bath. My approach is far simpler – just pick the berries from the stalks, rinse them, then cover in brandy and add a little sugar. No spices, no cooking, no making a simple sugar syrup. The booze does all the hard work of preserving the fruit, and all you have to do is wait until Christmas to enjoy them. This technique is very similar to making a German Rumtopf but rather than adding different fruits as they come into season, you just throw the berries into a jar and let nature take its course. As you can see from my pictures, after a few weeks, the brandy has taken on an intense black colour from the berries. It’s also worth noting that you can adjust the sugar to taste – if you want, add less than I’ve suggested, and if you need to add more later, you can add a few more spoonfuls to balance the flavour. If you’re planning to eat these berries on their own, more sugar is probably good, whereas you could get away with less if serving with meringue or sweetened cream or ice cream.

One little tip that I did see when I was still in Scotland was to add a few blackcurrant leaves to the jar. They apparently contain more of the fragrant oils that give blackcurrants their flavour, so adding a few to the jar should provide a little boost while everything is steeping. That, and they do look rather pretty in the jar. I think if you were to add a little of the syrup to a glass of fizz, one of the leaves curled around the inside of your champagne flute would look rather pretty.

blackcurrantsinbrandy2

Oh…and did I mention that in addition to boozy fruit, you’ll get a delicious home-made cassis liqueur? Perfect to add to champagne, cocktails or just have as a little post-dinner digestif.

To make blackcurrants in brandy:

• blackcurrants
• blackcurrant leaves (a handful)
• brandy
• white sugar

1. Clean a large jar with hot, soapy water and rinse well (we don’t want soapy berries!).

2. Remove the blackcurrants from the stalks. Rinse and add to the jar along with the blackcurrant leaves.

3. Now add the brandy and sugar until the fruit is covered. For every 100ml of brandy, add 30g of sugar (or less if you prefer).

4. Leave the jar in a cool, dark place for several months. Every couple of weeks, shake the jar to make sure the sugar dissolves.

Worth making? So far, so good. Check back at Christmas!

16 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things

16 responses to “Blackcurrants in Brandy

  1. CC

    Oh my mouth is watering thinking about that blackcurrant flavour! How lucky you were to get fresh ones from your mum! My family does something similar in Italy with sour cherries: they fill a jar with cherries, then add sugar to all the spaces and put it outside until all the sugar melts, then they add the alcohol. One of my very favorite things in life! Wish I could try your blackcurrants at Christmastime!

    • Funny you say that – I read somewhere that blackcurrants are not that common in the US, as they can host a disease that attacks trees in the pine family, hence concord grape is popular in jelly rather than blackcurrants. Had never occurred to me, but now that I think about it, I don’t think I see that much use of blackcurrants in American baking.

      I love the idea of the cherries – they are one of my favourites, but that recipe does sound rather dangerous…a very boozy Christmas!

  2. Graeme Hunter

    Are you sure that you used enough Brandy?

  3. This sounds wonderful and I know it will taste divine – I made cassis a couple of years ago with blackcurrants and vodka and it was sublime! I envy you in a few months time!

  4. Wow -very festive, i imagine it would be delish with greek yoghurt🙂

  5. Fascinating about the leaves!!! I can’t wait to see what you do with these fruits!!!

    • Thanks Mimi – I was a bit dubious when I read about the leaves, but when I crushed one by the bush, sure enough, there was that blackberry smell. Fingers crossed that it works! I think the fruit will be eaten with vanilla ice cream, and the syrup will go into Christmas cocktails😉

  6. The leaves are an interesting twist and certainly photography really well!

  7. This is lovely. What kinds of things do you use them for/on/in?

  8. This sounds great. I live in the countryside in Latvia now and was wondering what to do with the fruit from 30 blackcurrant bushes. i look forward to next Christmas

    • Hello! Glad you like this idea – my mum used to do this at home when we had a large garden, so it’s a delicious way to preserve fruit. Also works with plums in brandy if you’ve got any of those.

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