A neighbor reached out the other day about a bumper crop of currants. We started corresponding because of my curiosity about a bitter orange tree growing in her garden, and the other day she emailed about something new: groseilles. Groseilles are red currants, native to northern and western Europe. I've seen them at farmers markets, but they're usually expensive, and I've never had enough to experiment.

They're tart! So tart. Sally describes them as "sour and seedy," which is about as appealing as it gets. We read up on how people use them, and the consensus seems to be jelly. But frankly, I hate jelly. All that fruit boiled down into a concoction with almost no substance. It pains me.

Around that time I remembered the margaritas my dad makes with a prickly pear cactus syrup his friend R.P. sends from Texas. The syrup is a gorgeous vibrant purpley-pink, and a perfect balance of tart-sweet. I wondered: could we make an equally beautiful syrup from currants?

We could indeed. We boiled the currants down with a little bit of water, left them overnight to drain through a strainer, and simmered the juice with a bit of sugar. Eventually it formed a thick, beautiful pink syrup. I called my dad for the prickly pear margarita recipe, and we subbed in the currant syrup. The drinks were absolutely delightful: hot pink, perfectly tart, and not too sweet.

I've seen what I think are currants growing wild along the Herring River in Wellfleet—I'm going back this week to inspect—and cultivated currants at some farmers markets. If you want a red currant margarita in your life, well, now's the time. Keep your eyes peeled, and happy mixing.


We first tried these out on my father-in-law's birthday. I like to mix them up in a pitcher, but you can also make them one by one. Be sure to serve them in a clear cup so that you can admire the color!

1 part tequila (we used Espolón)
1 part lime juice
1 part currant syrup
1/2 part Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher. Salt the rim of your glasses if you like, add ice, and pour into individual cups.



We’ve been biking a lot lately. We’re down to one car and so while Alex is at work the girls and I make our way through the world on the bucket bike I picked up used when Sally was small. When Nora came along and got big and then bigger I added an electric motor, and so the bike and its four-seatbelt benches are now my de facto minivan.

The girls are used to it by now, the extra layer they’ll want on a trip home from the beach, the book to bring if our destination is far away. I like the speed we travel at on the bike, not as slow as walking but not so hurried as the car. I like what we notice at 15 miles per hour. The other day we were biking home from a swim when I suddenly saw a plant I’d been trying to find for years. I’d looked at pictures of elderberry plants on the computer and in books and friends have told me they forage them here, but every time I’ve brought home a leaf or a flower they’ve been wrong. Suddenly, though, biking home, I saw them everywhere. I was sure.

Elderberry flowers! I called back to the girls. I SEE them!

I wrote a little about seeing on this week’s Local Food Report, about the ways places we think we've known for years can open up in new ways. Last year I discovered wild cherries at my parents' house, in the yard where I played my whole childhood, and this spring I suddenly found they were also in our yard here. It's been making me think about how long it takes to really get to know a place, and about how so many conversations we're having now about land and history and repair are about that knowing. The older I get the more I understand that a year, a decade, a lifetime—these are just drops in a bucket.

Maybe because of the speed and scale of everything else happening in the world right now, we are holding onto familiarity in the kitchen. We’ve made a few new things—an absolute stunner of a tomato-feta-clam-shrimp dish from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem that I’ve had bookmarked for approximately 5 years, and a highly refreshing batch of this sangria with a handful of languishing fruit. Otherwise we’ve been making summer favorites: my mom’s chilled cucumber salad with a little sprinkle of fresh dill, Alex’s heavily red-onioned and dilled potato salad, Molly Wizenberg’s soul-satisfying fudgesicles, chicken salad, pesto pasta, and Raspberry Zinger sun tea. The mulberries are starting, too, which means we’re due for a batch of Berry Ricotta Cake from Standard Baking Co. and maybe some experimenting at my neighbor Sarah’s recommendation with some mulberry wine. (If you have any experience, please report!)

Probably the most exciting thing to happen around here lately, pending the ripening of the wild high bush blueberries, is that one of our hens has gone broody and tonight night we’re planning to sneak in and swap out her unfertilized eggs for 7 or so fertilized beauties from the coop of a friend with roosters. Whether or not we get any live chicks from this experiment remains to be seen, but we’re hoping.

In the meantime, if you do anything with elderberries—or their blooms!—please share. I’m dreaming up a locally foraged version of this amazing winter-support immune syrup now that I’ve discovered both elderberries and wild black cherries growing close to home.

Last but not least, I have some new writing I’m excited about up on Heated. It’s about migratory beekeepers, and the essential work they do to keep our agricultural system running. It’s both crazy that this is the system we’ve developed, and fascinating to learn about how they do their work. I hope you’ll give it a read.

Stay healthy out there, friends.

Update 7.15.20: we made this elderflower syrup, and it's delicious! 


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.