Currant pie

Tangy currant berries are in season in July.

Kitchen Report
Tangy and fresh, pink and red currants brighten a summer pie.
Kitchen Report
Pink and red currants.

I vote to change the spelling of July. Let’s spell it “Jewel-eye.”

“Jeweled” describes the color of the sky that was Saturday morning – deep, deep blue with tiny clouds that posed no threat to the early light. These kinds of days last just a few weeks in New England and I always walk around pinching myself a bit when I realize that, for once, the weather has been tamed into something lovely.

After a swim across Walden Pond that morning, I stopped by Allendale Farm searching for a breakfast scone. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in the heart of one of Boston’s neighborhoods and still have access to a farm stand just a few minutes from my house with its own locally grown produce.

That’s when these beauties caught my eye: pink and red currants.

The pinks glowed like pearls and the reds were so bright they looked dangerous. Most people know currants as tiny dried fruit that resemble raisins used in baked goods or salads. Tangy and tart, fresh currants are usually part of a garnish, topping a sorbet-filled melon, for instance, or in a sauce to complement a roasted meat. But I wanted my currants to star in the center ring.

Finding a recipe turned out to be a much more elusive task than I imagined. None of my cookbooks offered a currant-themed dessert. Even Deborah Madison in her cookbook “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” introduces them but offers no recipes.

“Currants glow as if lit from within and being so pretty, it’s not surprising that they end up garnishing other desserts, ” writes Madison. “They are still comparatively rare and expensive to use in summer puddings, but maybe someday we’ll have them in such quantities that we’ll actually start cooking with them.”

I honestly don’t remember what they cost. I just spirited them away to the checkout counter captivated by their glitter.

After poking around online to see how other people have used fresh currants I settled on making a currant pie. I had a barbeque in a few hours and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to “test” my recipe. I used a mixture of pink and red, just because they looked so pretty together, like an unstrung necklace.

It took much longer than I expected for my pie to settle in the oven and form an upper “crust.” Since all ovens are different, just pull the pie out when it starts to have a golden blush on top. I used a premade whole-wheat pie pastry I had in the freezer. This was a good choice. The currants, even when cooked with a good bit of sugar, are still quite pucker-inducing. The whole-wheat base muted their zing.

The backyard barbeque lasted until well after the stars lit the sky. A few feral Christmas lights twinkled on the highest branches of the tree above us. We stirred the embers of a campfire in an antique cast iron sink and sang out of tune as the host strummed his guitar. The neighbors shut their windows, but we didn’t care. It is summer and there are songs to sing. I served the pie under the moon’s dim light, which may have worked to my advantage. The overall consensus: delicious.

At least that’s what my friends said.

Jewels, all of them.

Currant Pie
Serves 8

1 premade 9-inch pie shell

Step 1:
1 cup fresh currants
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water

Step 2:
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup currants

For Step 1:
In a small sauce pan, combine currants, sugar, and water. Heat over low heat, stirring often, for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare premade pie shell, according to directions.

For Step 2:
Whisk together eggs, cornstarch, and sugar. Slowly added the heated mixture, stir until combined. Stir in remaining currants.

Pour into a pie shell and bake for about 20 minutes or until a crust forms and turns golden.

Remove from oven and let cool completely, until the pie sets.


Related post: Cookbook review: “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” by Deborah Madison

Kendra Nordin blogs at Kitchen Report.

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