Black currant gin after two months
...and the story of how it was born.
I developed this chutney recipe after straining a large batch of black currants from their gin bath two years ago. I could not bear to waste the gin-soaked fruit. While pies, cakes and jam are good alternatives, chutney is a more savory and complex way to preserve flavor, and also to eke out an ingredient whose season is fleeting.
Currant season in July
That was a crazy early September: my book was launching, I had menus to prepare and cook for the parties, and we had to move from Brooklyn. I have almost total amnesia regarding the details of the move, as a result.
Ingredients for a book party, ferried by Sarah Owens
I served this chutney with pork belly rillettes at the Book Court launch party, along with lambs quarter and amaranth-stuffed phyllo pastry and Sarah Owens' BK17 bread (her sourdough book is available for pre-order, now).
Rhus Hour cocktail
The place was packed, the food was wolfed, the foraged cocktails - sumac vodka and prosecco - were sucked dry. That is a very happy memory, and quite intact.
Party, waiting for packing
I leave this mixture to infuse for up to two months.
For the Chutney:
10 cups gin-soaked black currants
1 cup sugar
1 cup raisins or dried 'black currants'(actually very small raisins)
5 slices peeled ginger (slice lengthwise, about 3")
3 slices peeled fresh galangal (omit if you can't find it)
8 allspice berries
1 Tablespoon juniper berries (I use Juniperus virginiana)
1 Tablespoon dried chile flakes
2 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup water
Variations: 5 bay or 10 bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) leaves, 6 spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries
(There is no reason you can't make a black currant chutney by skipping the gin-infusion. Use fresh fruit, and add 8 juniper berries to the spice mix.)
Combine all the ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. Heat the mixture gradually over medium heat, stirring often to prevent any sticking and scorching. When foam rises, skim it. Cook at a gentle simmer until the currants and raisins are tender and the mixture resembles jam - about 20-25 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Meanwhile, sterilize glass jars in a 200'F oven (10 minutes) or in a boiling water bath.
Allow the chutney to cool a little before pouring into the glass jars.
When it has cooled, store it in the fridge.
It is excellent served with pork, especially ham and rich cuts like pork belly, as well as with game, curried lamb, pâtés and cheeses.