When I offer samples of fruit pastes at fairs and other public events, people always ask me how to serve them. I tell them about the Spanish custom of eating quince paste with cheese. I say that Middle Easterners often serve fruit pastes with nuts, and sometimes incorporate nuts in the paste. I suggest taking fruit pastes on camping and car trips, and serving squares of paste along with other sweets on holiday platters.
But black currant paste, I figure, needs special attention, because it’s extraordinarily tart and aromatic. When I opened some recently and asked Robert how we should have it, he immediately thought of smoke and paprika.
And so we made hors d’oeuvres—or pinchos, I guess I should say, because we used Spanish-style dry-cured chorizo, from Chop, a new charcuterie in Portland, along with smoky, juicy sausage from Overseas Taste, a Russian market also in Portland. And we didn’t eat our tidbits as an appetizer; along with sweet potato fries, they looked like dinner to me. Robert threw in a green salad, with sliced Asian pears, still crisp and juicy, though I picked them two months ago, and his roasted hazelnut oil.
The currant paste complemented the paprika-rich chorizo and the smoky fried sausage equally well. What a satisfying meal!
In case you have no currant paste on hand, here’s a recipe to try next summer, or a year or two after that, if you haven’t planted your currant bushes yet. (Do plant at least one black currant bush, if your climate allows. You won’t regret it.)
Black Currant Paste
1½ pounds black currants
½ cup water
2 cups sugar
Combine the currants and water in a saucepan. Simmer the currents, covered, for 15 minutes. Press them through the fine screen of a food mill; this will remove many but probably not all of the seeds.
In a preserving pan, combine the currant purée and the sugar. Heat the mixture slowly until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat, and boil the mixture for about 15 minutes, stirring, until it pulls away from the side of the pan and the trail made by the spoon at the bottom of the pan remains clear for a few seconds.
Spread the hot mixture about ¾ inch thick in small, straight-sided glass or ceramic molds (I use two 5-by-7-inch Pyrex dishes). When the paste is cool, turn it out onto a rack, and let it dry thoroughly in a dehydrator or another warm, dry place.
Store the paste wrapped first in parchment paper and then in plastic.