Nature is full of surprises. Just when you think that all is lost, and there are signs and stories everywhere of devastation and doom, you spot something red as you’re driving up Main Road. Your heart skips a beat. It’s sour cherry time . . . could it be? Trying to be pragmatic and not set yourself up for disappointment, you hypothesize, as you make a U-turn, that it’s raspberries. No; not cherries but not raspberries either. Something better and wholly unexpected: currants. Red ones, white ones—and black ones too. And only $1.50 a pint (that paradox of the generous and stingy, the fruit lady).
Sitting outside thinking about the vagaries of survival, how tough old things like potatoes can be so vulnerable, snuffed out even while in hiding underground, and delicate little transparent jewels like currants can power forth into glory, I saw another little miracle of survival. Out in the field, four wild turkeys, foraging for food. I am not a hunting sort of girl, but I couldn’t help but wonder how they would be to eat. You know, with a little currant sauce. And then I saw some other movement in the grass alongside them, poking out from time to time: little turkeys-to-be. There were two litters (broods? hatchlings?). One, associated with the three turkey hens (don’t ask me why three, but they traveled together), of six little turkettes, the size of baby ducks. I saw them ( I think they are really called poults) first. Then much later, I saw with the turkey that stood apart—and that was lighter in color, probably a turkey version of an ugly duckling—several tiny, tiny chicks, like the ones that they used to sell, rather irresponsibly I now realize, in the 5&10 at Easter when I was a little girl. They could not have been more than a few days old. Born in a downpour, no doubt, yet waddling around quite nicely.
It is reassuring to see life among the ruins, and to see very old-fashioned, near-disappeared fruits like currants outperforming their more modern counterparts. Is it something about these untouched things? My fruit lady’s currant bushes are old—most likely minimally bred for commercially appealing features and mass production. Could that be their secret? Could it be that what is closest to nature is what is best suited to respond to nature’s vicissitudes? I wonder, and the currants make me hopeful. I’ll be watching for the cherries.
You can use this as is or stir it into another sauce base. It’s also good with cheese. Makes about 3 ½ 8-oz jars.
4 cups currants (I used red and white mixed)
½ cup vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tea mixed spices to taste: cinnamon, clove, cardamom (of course)
2” piece stick cinnamon (optional)
Stem and rinse the currants. Combine the sugar, vinegar, and spice in a stainless steel or enameled pan; cook at a good boil for a few minutes (3-5) until it reaches a very light gel stage. Take off the heat, add the currants, and toss. Put back on a medium fire. The mixture will thin with the currant juices, and foam up a little like a jam; do not skim. Cook another 3-5 minutes, until it is clear and syrupy. Put into jars and seal.