Currants

Currants are small, black, seedless, tasty and nutritious grapes grown in Greece. Currants have found particular value in biscuits because they can be obtained as very good quality small, clean, seedless fruit and their strong flavour gives them a particular advantage.

After drying, either in the sun or in the shade, the fruit is separated from the stems and stalks by a method of threshing, winnowing and sieving but the currants are damaged as little as possible. The dried fruit is either sold directly or kept in store on solid floors usually in bulk or in sacks or boxes.

Before exportation the fruit is further screened to remove stalks, stones and any other large unwanted pieces and is washed to remove dirt. The fruit is graded with sieves to give Pinheads, Smalls, Mediums and Elephants, in ascending size order. The Pinheads are of little value because it is very difficult to effectively separate all the stones. At the other extreme the Elephants tend to have very large fruit with pips (or seeds) in them which makes them less attractive to eat. Thus, only the Smalls and Mediums are of value to biscuit makers.

As a rough guide there should be about 500 berries per 100g for Mediums and 900 berries per 100g for Smalls. This means that currants are available as much smaller fruit than any raisin types. The packers claim to have a moisture content at packing of around 16% but in practice values nearer to 20% are more common.

The currants are packed into 12.5 kg cardboard boxes for shipment. These boxes may or may not be polyethylene lined. The names on the boxes are extremely various and not a little confusing. In addition to the type and grade of currant another, less descriptive, name often appears. Each packer has his own names and often the trader or agent in the country of resale uses his name. From the point of view of the user the packer is the important person because well cleaned and graded fruit can usually be related to a fastidious well equipped packing factory.

There is a problem of insect infestation in currants, especially those which have laid in store for a season. It has become standard practice to fumigate with methyl bromide gas, under slight vacuum, after packing and immediately before shipment.