Currant Colors

Last year I planted a black currant, ribes nigrum, this week black currant is our focus – Color Week 24. My primary objective for planting a black currant was to harvest the berries to make my own Cassis for cocktail making. I like to delve into the history and uses of each plant I grow and in this case Amy Stewart and her book The Drunken Botanist have been most helpful. Her book is fascinating, I recommend if you are curious as to the plants used to make great cocktails. Historically here are a few curious notes about the black currant

  • In 12th century the leaves were mixed with wolf grease ‘to cure one’s ills’
  • The medicinal uses of black currants became well known in Britain during World War II. Oranges were in short supply and black currant juice was distributed free to children because it was high in Vitamin C and antioxidants, it kept many children from malnutrition
  • In the US, Black currants were banned in the 1920s for spreading a pine blister rust, in the 1960s that ban was lifted In most States.
  • Felix Kir of Dijon France poured a drink for visiting dignitaries that consisted of creme de Cassis and white wine which became known worldwide as the Kir.

colors of black currants
sketch of black currants

Permanent Magenta is the key for achieving the mix of colors of the ripening black currant berries. The color magenta has a history equal to the black currant plant. The name derives from the town Magenta Italy where an important military battle was won concurrent to the color discovery.

Developed from anilines, Magenta first came on the scene in 1859, this was a very elite colour reserved for the wealthy and the military, as a symbol of greatness, because aniline was expensive. Quite quickly though, as the public clamoured for access to beautifully coloured fabrics for themselves, anilines became more affordable and a whole range of colours came onto the market. Ironically, this also led to the decline of Magenta. Once it became commonplace, Magenta was less of a fashion statement and demand fell. Also, these new colours of the early twentieth century had disturbing levels of arsenic content, making them unsafe. Today, Permanent Magenta is a modern formulation of the original.

I am starting my Creme de Cassis today by crushing and masurating the crushed berries in straight alcohol for 2 months

Ready to crush!
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