People say when life gives you lemons make grape juice and watch the world wonder how you did it. But instead, you should just dry the grapes and make some delicious mouth-watering dishes to keep both your life and mouth sweet.
Raisins, sultanas, and currants are popular types of dried grapes with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. From savory to sweets they are used in different cuisines around the globe. Though they are tremendously popular when it comes to cooking there’s a ton of confusions as well.
There are hardly any baking recipes where dried grapes are not involved. Even in British and Irish cakes and puddings raisins, sultanas, and currants are extensively used. They are a must when it comes to Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, and Mince pies. They are even used in curries and chutneys to add a burst. Undoubtedly these are the most versatile ingredients that you’ll find in your kitchen.
What Are the Dried Fruits?
Before start picking your favorite dried grapes you’ve to know what dried fruits are. Dried fruits are the fruits where almost all the water contained by it is removed through different drying methods. As a result, the fruits shrinks turning it into a smaller version with dense energy.
Raisins or dried grapes are the most popular type of dried fruits. However, the dried version of dates, figs, and apricots can also be found. They are sometimes sugar-coated and turned into a candy. The best part about them is that they can be preserved for a longer time than the fresh fruits. They are also handy during long trips and can be used as snacks too.
Some common FAQs regarding these dried grapes
- Can they be interchanged as they are the same thing with different skin color?
The answer to this is no. This might look very similar to you as they all are different forms of dried grapes but they are different in taste and qualities. Usually, the bakers can differentiate the taste as they are widely used in bakery products.
- Do they have any other names?
Yes, they are known with various names across the states and around the world. So it becomes even more confusing.
Even if it sounds confusing, don’t worry. This article will help you to distinguish between raisins, sultanas, and currants easily.
Dried Grapes Around the Globe
Raisins, sultanas, and currants are just different types of dried grapes. However, they have other names too. This is one of the reasons why people find them confusing.
In the States, ‘raisin’ is used to identify both raisins and sultanas. However, sultanas are often termed as golden raisins to avoid confusions. On the other hand, in the UK, raisins, and sultanas are identified by the type of grape and the processing method. And currants are thought to be a part of the gooseberry family, like red currants and black currants.
What are Raisins?
Grapes when dried for around three-week results in raisins. Grapes are seen to be dark if they as dried, giving raisins a dark brown color. Though raisins are dark in color, they have are soft with a sweet bursting flavor. They are also larger than sultanas and currants.
White Moscatel grapes are mainly used in preparing raisins. They are used mainly in Turkey, Greece, and Australia. But in the States, Thompson seedless variety of grapes is used to prepare raisins. Whereas in Australia, the larger varieties of grapes such as Muscat, Lexia and, Waltham are often used. This is why raisins are usually larger than sultanas.
Since a range of different grape varieties can be used, the features of raisins such as the size, taste, and color are highly depended on the grape type for this reason.
The special feature of raisin is that they can soak up other flavors. This is why raisins are often soaked in flavored alcohols, namely brandy and almond-flavored Amaretto. Raisins have the special power to hold the flavor making the dish even tastier.
What are Sultanas?
Green seedless grapes namely Thompson Seedless variety of grapes are used in making sultanas. Sultanas are emerged in an oil-based solution to speed up the drying process. This is why they are usually lighter in color than raisins and currants. They are smaller, plumper and sweeter than raisins. They are also juicer and lighter in color than raisins and currants.
In some parts of the world, such as in Australia sultanas are not kept in the oil-based solution. So it takes longer time to dry up. Usually up to three weeks or so. They are known by many as sultana fruits and are also dark brown. But in the US, people know sultanas by either golden raisins or sultana raisins. However, turkey is the main producer of this dried grape variety.
To retain the original color of the grape, sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative. It helps to keep the lighter color of these dried grapes. They do absorb flavors but not as raisins.
What are Currants?
The tiny versions of the dried grapes are usually the currants. They are also referred to as Zante currants by many. They are made by drying Black Corinth and Carina, which are small, seedless grapes. Black Corinth and Carina if dried up to three weeks result in dried currants.
Though they are smaller in size they have a sweet yet tangy intense flavor to add into any kind of sweet and savory dish. They also increase the texture and sweetness by their flavor.
People often tend to confuse currants to blackcurrants but here currants are just dried grapes. Currants are dark red whereas black currants are used in making cakes.
These grapes are produced in the south of Greece, on an island called Zante. This is why they are also called Zante currants. But the name “currant” is derived from the name of an ancient city, Corinth. So currants are referred to as Corinth raisins and Corinthian raisins by many. However, in the UK and Ireland, it is popularly known as dried currants.
All three types of dried grapes are highly nutritious. This is because of the drying process, as water is reduced from 80% to 15%. Because of the drying, the grapes shrink in size increasing the nutrient value. They contain more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than fresh grapes.
Among the three dried grapes, sultanas contain the most amounts of sugar and calories. However, the amount of carbohydrate, protein, fiber, potassium, and vitamins are almost the same. So they are a great source of antioxidants and plant compounds. They all contain 0% fat and are enriched with both vitamin C and vitamin K. But the amount of Vitamin C and K are lower in dried grapes than the fresh ones.
Health Benefits of Dried Grapes
Raisins, sultanas, and currants are all beneficial and will keep you healthy.
- They are a great source of antioxidants. They also include polyphenols. Antioxidant protects your cells from harmful damage which are caused by the free radicals and oxidative stress. The antioxidant also helps to prevent inflammation and many harmful diseases such as cancer.
- They are rich in fiber. Fibers help to control blood pressure and reduce the risk of having high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases. So dried grapes lower your blood pressure, improve your blood sugar and increase your feelings of fullness.
- Dried grapes also improve your digestive health.
However, though dried grapes have many nutrient values and are beneficial to health they have some drawbacks too. It is healthy to eat raisins, sultana fruits, and dried currants but you should also remember that they contain a high amount of sugar and calories. So it is wise to eat them in small amounts with other nutritious foods like nuts and seeds.
Dried Grapes and Their Uses
It is already clear that dried grapes are super versatile and can be used in different types of dishes. They can be eaten raw or as a snack. Some people also add them in rice, salads, oatmeal and bakery items. Though there are differences in size, taste, and color they can be used to incorporate your feast or your diet.
- Cheese platters: Raisins are a gourmet addition to a cheese platter. It perfectly pairs with nuts and crackers too.
- Snacks: Raisins can be eaten both in the morning and in the afternoon as snacks. You can eat them plain and raw or mix with yogurt and nut if you’re looking for a more balanced snack. You can also be creative and make your trail mix of your choice.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is healthy but very boring at times. You can add raisins, sultana raisins, and dried currants to add some natural sweet and tangy flavor to your regular boring porridge.
- Bakery items: Bakery items are popular mainly because of the dried grapes used in them. Adding raisins, sultanas, and dried currants into muffins and cookies will not only increase the sweetness but it will also give a new flavor and texture to your everyday bakery goods. Raisins and sultana raisins can soak up flavors and are particularly better for bakery products.
- Salads: If you want to balance your diet but have some sweetness texture then you can add currants to your salad. Currants are specifically excellent for salads as they add sweetness and textures. You can also pair currants with bitter green and crunchy nuts to your regular boring salad and take it to a whole new level.
- Savory dishes: You can add raisins, sultana fruits and dried currants to any of the savory dishes, namely curries, chutneys, meatballs and what not. However, currents work best because of their smaller size.
Storage and Preservations
It is wise to store raisins, sultanas, and currants in a cool and dry place. Make sure you store them in a glass jar or a sealed bag. Try to keep it in a dark place in the kitchen such as the pantry.
It is to be noted that sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative to retain the color of the dried grapes. So before you buy or choose them, be careful as many people are sensitive to this preservative. This sensitivity may cause skin rashes, stomach cramps, and even asthma attacks after eating. However, it is only used in sultanas or golden raisins.
Though raisins, sultanas, and currants are highly nutritious they have slight differences in them regarding their name, size, color, texture, and taste. But the good news is they can also be used as substitutes for one another. They are also enriched in fibers, minerals, vitamins, potassium, and most importantly antioxidants. If you’re planning for a feast or a fast, you can use dried grapes without any second thought. From savory to sweet, salad to curries, cakes to snacks dried grapes will enhance the taste.
- Raisins vs Sultanas vs Currants: What’s the Difference? – Healthline
- The Nutrition Value in White Raisins Vs. Black Raisins – Live Strong