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currants-msg - 9/20/08

 

Medieval currants. Red or black currants, not "raisins of Corinth"

 

NOTE: See also the files: grapes-msg, fruits-msg, Period-Fruit-art, berries-msg, grape-leaves-msg, drying-foods-msg, fruit-pies-msg, plums-msg, cherries-msg.

 

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This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

 

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

 

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    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org

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Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 18:13:37 -0700

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re:  SC - Dried currents

 

At 9:09 AM +1000 5/1/98, Robyn Probert wrote:

>>So... if currants in period recipes are the little grape raisins, were *real*

>>currants (red or black) used in period?  and if so how were they referred to?

>>-brid

>

>In many period recipies (esp 14th and 15th century) they are referred to as

>"raysons of coraunce" (spelling varies) - ie "raisins of currants" as

>distinct from raisins of grapes.

 

I think you have it backwards. "Raysons of coraunce" means "raisins of

Corinth" means "dried zante grapes." My guess is that our "currants" got

called that because they were vaguely similar to raisins of Corinth, i.e.

little grapes.

 

David/Cariadoc

http://www.best.com/~ddfr/

 

 

Date: Sun, 3 May 1998 10:55:21 -0700

From: david friedman <ddfr at best.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Dried currents

 

>but which came first?

 

Raisons of Corinth.

 

According to the OED, the term was transferred to the Ribes fruits, which

were introduced into England sometime before 1578, when they are mentioned

by Lyte as the "Beyond sea gooseberry." They were vulgarly believed to be

the source of the dried "raisons of Corinth. Lyte calls them "Bastard

currant" and both Gerard and Parkinson protest against the error of calling

them "currants."

 

Useful book, the OED.

 

David/Cariadoc

http://www.best.com/~ddfr/

 

 

Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 19:02:16 EDT

From: LrdRas <LrdRas at aol.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Dried currents

 

meliora at macquarie.matra.com.au writes:

<< raysons of coraunce' makes more sense to me as dried currants.

What's the logic behind your statement Ras?

 

Drake. >>

 

<Sigh> The word currants is a relatively recent addition to the language.

Coraunce is generally known to be Corinth. The dried Zante grape was imported

and used very early in medieval recipes and came from the general

Mediterranean area where Corinth is located. It also grows well and

prolifically in that climate.

 

Although modern "currants" are native to Scandinavia, cultivation of the fruit

we now know as currants beginning in the 16th century (e.g., see "Food by

Waverly Root), I find it very difficult to believe that the widespread use of

dried modernly named currants would have been either practical or commercially

feasible if the source of the fruit was the wild plant.

 

Actual examples of the use of modern "currants" do not appear, SFAIK, anywhere

in the existing body of medieval recipes. And given that commercial production

of modern currants began outside the generally excepted dates of medieval

culture, I find it difficult to imagine it's general use in the middle ages.

Alternatively, in a dried form modern "currants" are very similar in

appearance to the traditional Zante currant (e.g., raison of Coraunce).  It

would have taken little imagination to apply the original name of the

more expensive Zante import to a locally grown commercial crop especially when

that crop looked like and could be used in place of the original item.

 

Hope I hgave been clear here but it is sometimes difficuolt to summerize

several dozen pages of examples and information into a couple of paragraphs.

 

Ras

 

 

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 13:33:30 -0500

From: Phlip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: [none]

 

> With all the recipes I have seen that reference currants, and having

> picked my share of ripe currants in late summer, I remain confused as

> to why these berries are refused as a possible food source??

> Especially in places that didn't necessarily have their own grape

> vines to make raisins from??  How far off-track am I?

>

> Tyrca

 

I wouldn't call it off-track. Probably the biggest reason for believing

references are to grape-y currants rather than black/red currants is

that raisins of courance/corinth/etc. is almost invariably specified,

and while Corinth was known in period for growing grapes, it has, and

SFAIK had, no reputation for growing currant berries. Also, most dried

fruit is (or was) sun-dried, and the parts of Northern Europe where

currants (berries) grow aren't especially suited for that kind of

processing.

 

Adamantius

¯stgardr, East

 

 

Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 17:54:20 -0500

From: Philip & Susan Troy <troy at asan.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Dried Currants

 

LrdRas at aol.com wrote:

> snowfire at mail.snet.net writes:

> << So the word "rayson" means "dried" or something?

>

> Elysant >>

>

> rayson equals rison which is indeed the name used for a dried grape.

>

> Ras

 

raisin < M.E. & O.F. reisin < L.L. racimus < L. racemus, meaning a

cluster of grapes

 

Small dried grapes (presumably dried on the bunch) were brought from the

Mediterranean Basin to places like England, where they were known as

"raysouns of Courance", or some variant thereof.

 

Possibly larger dried grapes came from elsewhere, and weren't considered

Corinthian.

 

It's very unlikely that the currants referred to in the medieval English

recipes are referring to anything other than dried grapes, for a variety

of reasons among them being:

 

1. English cookery of the period calls for a lot of dried Mediterranean

fruit, such as plums, figs, dates and raisins, as well as raisins of

Corinth. None of these are local items, and they are there both for the

romance of their imported status and also for their sweetness, something

the English seemed to prize more than the French, the Italians, and the

Germans.

 

2. While red and black currants do seem to have existed in the British

Isles, Britain is really not a terrific place for drying fruit, given

its climate. I believe there are a few references to drying apples, but

not many, and I've seen no references to berries having been dried. I

suspect they're more likely to have been either eaten fresh or made into

country wines.

 

I have no idea why red and black currants are called currants; my

dictionary suggests they are so named due to their resemblance to the

small, dried "Corinthian" grapes. If this sounds implausible, I'll pose

a modern example of this type of equivocation: ever see the Python

routine about the self-defense against fresh fruit course? John Cleese,

as the instructor, uses the term "red currant" and "raspberry"

interchangably, having his students charge at him with deadly

raspberries, using a Bengal tiger, as I recall, to defend himself. He

says the great advantage of the tiger in unarmed combat is that 'e eats

not only the fruit-laden foe, but also the red currants.

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Mon, 27 Feb 2006 13:43:17 -0500

From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius"

      <adamantius.magister at verizon.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Roysonys of courance

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

On Feb 27, 2006, at 1:08 PM, Sharon Gordon wrote:

> A post on another list reminded me to ask about Roysonys of courance.

>

> I've been told these are

> 1) Currants, probably black ones

> 2) Dried black and/or maybe red currants

> 3) The tiny black currant grapes that look rather like currants

> 4) Dried versions of the tiny black currant grapes that look rather like

> currants

>

> How do you know what to use when?

 

A raisin is a type of grape. Raisins of Corinth, dried currants, and

Zante currants, and variations on those names, probably refer to #4

above. Most medieval recipes will refer to raisins of courance when

the little dried grapes are wanted, and raisins of the sun, or great

raisins (as opposed to small) when ordinary dried raisins are what is

intended.

 

Red and black currants are, I believe, technically berries, and they

don't seem to turn up that often, if at all, in medieval recipes. I

suspect that medieval England (which I mention because English

recipes seem to call for raisins and currants more often than French

and German ones, AFAICT) wasn't a big center for the dried fruit

industry, nor _really_ suitable climactically for sun-drying fruit on

farms.

 

While this is probably an over-simplification, recipes, more often

than not, when they refer to currants in English, anyway, are going

to be calling for a dried, imported product, or fresh or conserved,

red or black currants (must check some late-period sources), which

latter are more likely to be a local product, in season if not

preserved.

 

Are we confused yet? ;-)

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2006 00:35:43 -0500

From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius"

      <adamantius.magister at verizon.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Roysonys of courance

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

On Mar 2, 2006, at 9:59 PM, Daniel Phelps wrote:

> Seriously, though, we can be pretty certain that a period English

> recipe calling for raisins of Courance is referring to dried grapes

> of the little variety found on some Mediterranean islands like

> Corinth and Zante.

>

> Okay lests we not see what it obvious, i.e. the forest for the trees

>

> roysonys of courance

> raisins of Corinth

>

> Hmmm... raysonys are raisins  could courance be Corinth?

>

> Did this get noted in a previous post that I missed?

 

I didn't specifically mention it, but I may have been remiss in not

stating something I thought was, if not obvious, at least highly

likely. What I did was to use them fairly interchangeably, though.

 

FWIW, I found this in Apple's Webster's Dictionary application that

comes bundled with recent versions of OS X (I have an edition of the

OED on disk, but it would require rebooting to get at it):

 

currant

noun

1 a small dried fruit made from a seedless variety of grape

originally grown in the eastern Mediterranean region, now widely

produced in California, and much used in cooking : [as adj. ] a

currant bun.

2 a Eurasian shrub that produces small edible black, red, or white

berries. ¥ Genus Ribes, family Grossulariaceae: numerous species,

including black currant and red currant.

¥ a berry from such a shrub.

ORIGIN Middle English raisons of Corauntz, translating Anglo-Norman

French raisins de Corauntz Ôgrapes of Corinth Õ (the original

source).

 

This doesn't state with much clarity that the etymology of the term

"currant" as it applies to the red and black berries derives from the

little dried Mediterranean grape, but it seems evident that that is

the case. I then have to wonder what the berries were called in

England before the little dried grape was a common import item.

 

Ah, well, Anne Hagen just became bedtime reading, I guess...

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Fri, 3 Mar 2006 08:05:36 -0600

From: "Terry Decker" <t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Roysonys of courance

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

One of the things left out of most of the dictionary entries is the primary

range for currants is in the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  The

OED states that using currant for the fruit of the Ribes was a transferance

that occurred after the importation of the plants into England some time

prior to 1578.  In 1578, Lyte refers to them as "Bastard Currants" and

"Beyond sea Gooseberries."

 

A pre-17th Century English recipe calling for currants or raisins of  

Corinth is most likely calling for Zante raisins.

 

The etymology in Old Norse might be interesting to track.  German, for

example, uses Korinth and Johannisbeere as terms for currants.  From my

limited knowledge, I believe Korinth would be the Zante raisin while the

Johannisbeere is "midsummer berry" as Johanni(s) translates as  

"Midsummer Day," the Summer Solistice.

 

Bear

 

 

Date: Fri, 03 Mar 2006 09:50:28 -0500

From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius"

      <adamantius.magister at verizon.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Roysonys of courance

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

 

On Mar 3, 2006, at 9:05 AM, Terry Decker wrote:

> One of the things left out of most of the dictionary entries is the

> primary range for currants is in the cooler regions of the Northern

> Hemisphere.  The OED states that using currant for the fruit of the

> Ribes was a transferance that occurred after the importation of the

> plants into England some time prior to 1578.  In 1578, Lyte refers

> to them as "Bastard Currants" and "Beyond sea Gooseberries."

 

That was more or less what I expected someone would turn up. Why name

a plant indigenous to a more-or-less Northern European country after

a Hellenic island? And if they _are_ indigenous, what did the Anglo-

Saxons or the Welsh call them? Rather, my assumption was that they

showed up at some point after the Middle Ages (or at the tail end),

and somebody in England decided they looked like currants.

 

> A pre-17th Century English recipe calling for currants or raisins

> of Corinth is most likely calling for Zante raisins.

>

> The etymology in Old Norse might be interesting to track.  German,

> for example, uses Korinth and Johannisbeere as terms for currants.

> From my limited knowledge, I believe Korinth would be the Zante

> raisin while the Johannisbeere is "midsummer berry" as Johanni(s)

> translates as "Midsummer Day," the Summer Solistice.

 

Yep. Technically, Johannisbeere would translate as St. John's

Berries, and the Feast of Saint John is June 24th, I believe. But

close enough for government work, as they say. It's also, BTW, the

day Le Menagier says to start your compost, and the traditional

kickoff of the Danish herring season.

 

Now, the great advantage of the tiger in unarmed combat is that he

eats not only the fruit-laden foe, but also the red currant...

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2008 10:20:48 -0400

From: "Kerri Martinsen" <kerri.martinsen at gmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] elderflowers & Currants

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

 

I would like to disagree about the currants.

 

The red currant was first *cultivated* in Scandanavia, appearing in London

markets at the end of the 16th century.(1)

 

Rumpolt refers to "36. Turten von Johannesbeer." as opposed to "schwartze

Weinbeer" refered to in recipe #5 (both in the Turten section (

http://www.uni-giessen.de/gloning/tx/rumpturt.htm)

Weinbeer is a grape (schwartze=black) so a black grape would mostlikely be a

zante currant. (also seen in Sabina)

 

Modernly, *Johannisbeere* referes to "*fruit of shrubs of the genus Ribes

[rubrum or nigrum]".  *When used without a color identifier it refers to red

currants by default.

An alterate modern word would be Ribisel (austria dialect).

 

The genus is native to Western Europe (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands,

Northern Italy, France)(2) and includes Gooseberries (referred to in #13.

Nim*b* *Grosselbeer*/ mach sie mit Zucker vnnd schwartzen Weinbeern).

Obviously a different fruit than the Weinbeern.

 

(side note:  *"Grosselbeer." Stachelbeere (Ribes grossularia). Auf der

R?ckseite: "Wegdornbeer." Purgier-Kreuzdorn (Rhamnus cathartica). 2

Darstellungen auf 1 Blatt.

*Altkolorierte Holzschnitte auf ganzer Textseite von David Kandel aus

Hieronymus Bock "Kre?ter Buch" 1595. 32x20 cm. Blattgr?sse.

Its sounds like an intersting book within our period - source:

http://www.antiqbook.de/boox/wen/IQ-G26523.shtml)

 

Sabina refers to white currants in #72, at least in the title (weis?e

eipersberlen) as translated by David Friedman (3).

 

Sources:

(1) http://www.luvnpeas.org/edibility/edible4.html source:

Willis, F. Roy. *From Ancient Times Through the Seventeenth Century* 2nd ed.

Vol. 1 of Western Civilization: An Urban Perspective. Lexington: DC Heath &

Co., 1977. An enjoyable history text, of no particular horticultural value.

 

(2) http://www.uga.edu/fruit/ribes.html (brief history - not sourced)

(3) http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Cookbooks/Sabrina_Welserin.html

 

*note to self, more research......

This abstract might be worth buying ($25):

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?sid=C1BS64FL8L5H8MC26DTGN02WRRG80049&;ID=31755

 

Vitha

 

On 6/3/08, Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius <adamantius1 at verizon.net>

wrote:

 

<<< Also, I've found references to currants but not the colors in recipes,

anyone know if the black ones are periodish or should I just save the red

ones for my SCA recipes? >>>

 

The extreme likelihood is that most of the currant references in medieval

recipes are to Raisins of Corinth, a.k.a. Zante currants, which are really a

small, dried grape. I won't try to rule out the use of red or black

berry-type currants, but it does seem like they're vastly outnumbered by

Raisins of Corinth.

 

Adamantius

 

 

Date: Wed, 4 Jun 2008 09:47:19 -0700

From: Lilinah <lilinah at earthlink.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] elderflowers & Currants

To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org

 

While actual currants/Ribes show up in some recipes, i think

Adamantius is right in saying

<<< The extreme likelihood is that most of the currant references in medieval

recipes are to Raisins of Corinth, a.k.a. Zante currants, which are really a

small, dried grape. >>>

 

While Ribes/currants do show up in some SCA-period recipes. But

that's in a much smaller number of recipes than currants = raisins

made of grapes of Corinth, which are exceedingly common.

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of real currants.

 

In 1967 when I moved to Manhattan to go to Barnard College, i

discovered Haagen-Dazs ice cream, back when they only made about 5 or

6 flavors (vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and rum-raisin ice creams, and

boysenberry sherbet) and were strictly local (i bought it at

Gristides, when their shops were fairly small). I also discovered

currant juice, imported from Germany. And i used to make a beverage

involving a scoop of Haagen-Dazs boysenberry sherbet, currant juice,

and fizzy water - that's when all I could cook was tuna salad and

spaghetti.

 

Now, for the SCA I make syrups of currant juice, usually black

currant, but sometimes red, to take to events, along with other

syrups made of lemon, pomegranate, and cherry juices (individual

flavors), and sometimes peach.

 

But in most recipes in the English, French, Spanish, Italian, and

Middle Eastern corpus (corpi?), the currants being called for are

those little dried raisins of Corinth. So I concur with Adamantius

when he said:

<<< I won't try to rule out the use of red or black berry-type currants, but

it does seem like they're vastly outnumbered by Raisins of Corinth. >>>

 

Since "real" currants are only useful in season, and to the best of

my knowledge cannot be dried for later use, the recipes using them

would be limited to when they would be fresh. I'm not questioning the

German sources that Vitha posted, and I'm glad to know about them,

since the Berkeley Bowl sells fresh currants/Ribes when in season

(but I haven't really memorized when that is - and when it is in

California may not quite be when it is in North Western Europe).

--

Urtatim (that's err-tah-TEEM)

the persona formerly known as Anahita

 

 

Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 23:08:05 -0400

From: ranvaig at columbus.rr.com

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Sabina translation. Re:  elderflowers & Currants

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

 

> Sabina refers to white currants in #72, at least in the title (weis?e

> eipersberlen) as translated by David Friedman (3).

 

This is posted on Cariadoc's (David Friedman's) website, but was translated by Valoise Armstrong.  Let credit go where it is due.

 

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Medieval.html

Valoise Armstrong's translation of Das Kuchbuch der Sabina Welserin

 

Ranvaig

 

 

Date: Fri, 19 Sep 2008 09:20:43 -0400

From: euriol <euriol at ptd.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Chawettys

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

 

Perhaps this will help.

 

The Zante currant (Vitis vinifera) or currant is a variety of small, sweet,

seedless grape named after Corinth (currant) and the Ionian island of

Zakynthos (Zante) and not to be confused with the Ribes berries "currants"

(eg blackcurrant, redcurrant, white currant) which are in a different

family altogether. Red currant is Ribes rubrum, Blackcurrant is Ribes

nigrum. The white currant is also a cultivar of Ribes rubrum (Red currant),

being merely a less sour and colourless variant of the red currant, and not

a separate species, though sometimes being named Ribes sativum or Ribes

silvestre, and sold as a different fruit.

 

The caution I was giving is that some suppliers today call the Zante

currant a black currant. If you want to know why... I'll show you the 7

pounds of Zante currants that I now have in my possession thinking I was

getting "black currants".

 

Euriol

 

On Thu, 18 Sep 2008 23:31:45 -0500,  wrote:

<<< This may confuse the matter when one says black currants as there  

are black current that are not Zantes but when it says Raisens of  

Corinth, it is zante raisens

 

-----Original Message-----

 

2) Raisins of Corinth, also called Black Currants or Zante Currants.

 

Euriol >>>

 

<the end>



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