Well, after complaining a bit (or maybe a lot) on the blog a couple of weeks ago about the near impossibility of ever finding currants in the markets here where I live, the Universe has conspired to prove me wrong. Recently returned from our trip to Idaho, we were in serious need of groceries so out I ventured to the store and whilst perusing the produce section I stumbled on the mother lode. An entire refrigerator case full of currants. Red, black and white. I stood there utterly gobsmacked.
After the initial shock wore off, I thoroughly embarrassed myself by loading my cart with pounds and pounds of the stuff. I may or may not have even clapped my hands a little bit in glee. Visions of cakes, tarts, sauces and such were racing through my brain and my ability to think rationally or even critically about my actions was completely, utterly nonexistent. Then it occurred to me that I could actually freeze some currants, (duh) thus enjoying them all fall and winter. Ergo, the embarrassing addition of even more currants to the shopping cart.
How is it that I could so completely be overcome with greedy, irresponsible currant hoarding behavior?? For some women it's shoes (and truthfully, I've been accused of have a wee shoe problem so I get it), clothes or home furnishings. For me it's always been fruit, in season for an ever so short amount of time. I'm not just talking any fruit mind you, I'm talking about the rare, hard to get stuff. Completely ignore the fact that, that last sentenced sounded more than a bit like something a junkie would say.. Ugh.
By hard to get, I mean the ever elusive, infinitely fragile Pacific Northwest strawberry whose season is quite literally 3 weeks or less. Bursting with bright, gorgeous flavor, smaller and softer than their California commercial cousins, their rarity caused often times by our notoriously wet Springs and early Summers.
And not to be forgotten the delicious, even rarer purple huckleberry found primarily in the western Rocky Mountains. On a trip to the grocery in Sandpoint, Idaho last week I found in the produce section a smallish chest freezer propped haphazardly up against the lettuce case. A bold neon green sign taped to the front announced North Idaho Huckleberries, $48 a gallon. I kid you not. I took a photo of it, it's that incredible.
Why $48 a gallon you ask? Well, purple huckleberries have resisted all attempts to be grown commercially. Notoriously picky and finicky they prefer to live only in locations with very specific elevation and soil requirements. A favorite and popular food for Black and Grizzly bears and an ever increasing amount of people makes picking them a bit of a challenge.
Most North Idahoans, have a secret location they pick from every year. If you find a spot of your own it is considered bad form to share the location of said spot. My husband's, lovely, kind and generous aunt will not to this day tell us where her spot is. Nope, nothing doing. That's hardcore. And I totally, completely get it. She is however very sharing of her bounty so it offsets any hard feelings one might have. Sort of. She would hoard currants too, I know it.
These muffins are quite possibly my favorite of all time. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but truly I adore them. A bit like coffee cake in flavor, they're loaded with cinnamon, lemon zest, bright tart berries and a delicious, pecan and lemon zest streusel on top. A perfect vehicle for berry consumption. And of course any berry will do, I typically make them with a mix of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. You could even add chopped up plums or strawberries..
My next plan is to get my hands on some huckleberries. How I'm going to do this I haven't quite figured out yet. When I do, if I do I'll be sure to tell you all about it. It's bound to be an embarrassing story I'm sure.
Red and White Currant Streusel Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
For the Streusel
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/3. C. all purpose flour
zest of one lemon
1/2 C. chopped pecans or walnuts
2 T. butter, room temperature
For the Muffins
1 1/2 C. all purpose flour
3/4 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. milk
1/2 C. butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 1/2 C. Currants or other berries
To make the streusel:
Combine the brown sugar, flour, lemon zest in a bowl then add the nuts and the butter until the butter is even distributed and the mixture is crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffins:
In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to sift the flour and break up any lumps. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the milk, butter and egg. Whip to combine them, then incorporate with the dry ingredients.
Carefully fold in the berries or currants. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cases and fill 2/3 with batter. Add 1 T. of the streusel mixture, crumbling it over the top. Place muffin tin on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to cool further on the counter.