Famed for the Ribena TV ad in which his lovely golden retrievers stole the show, Des Jeffares is the third Mr Jeffares to produce blackcurrants on the family’s Wexford farm and, from the mid-50s to 2013, the crop all went to Ribena.
Since then there’s been a lot of thinking going on and, as result, they’ve come up with a far more interesting – and healthier – product: Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial.
There’s huge potential for quality non-alcoholic Irish drinks at the moment, as the explosion in Irish craft beer, cider and spirits has served to highlight the lack of choice for those who choose not to drink alcohol. The small selection offered in most bars and restaurants is almost invariably imported, and this gap in the market is especially surprising considering the seriousness with which most people now take the drink driving laws and the trend towards reducing alcohol for health reasons. All of which makes the arrival of a deliciously healthy product like Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial especially welcome.
And it has a whole rake of USPs, beginning of course with the fact that is a totally natural product, made only from fruit that is grown in the sunny South-East (giving it maximum natural sweetness) and then cold pressed at The Apple Farm near Cahir, by Con Traas, who is renowned for the quality of his own fruits and fruit products. Like other dark coloured fruits, blackcurrants are very high in the anti-oxidants that offer a natural defence against many diseases, and they are exceptionally high in Vitamin C. But the biggest USP has to be that the cordial contains no added sugar and is instead sweetened with Stevia, which is made from the sweet leaves of Stevia rebaudian, a plant in the sunflower family. Stevia, which has something like 150 times the sweetness of sugar, has been used for centuries in some cultures and was approved in the EU as a food additive in 2011.
And then there is the flavour, which is very fresh and naturally fruity. It makes a very pleasant and refreshing drink at any time and, unlike comparable products, it is surprisingly light and non-cloying which makes it an agreeable substitute for wine with food, when well diluted with still or sparkling water.
I first spotted Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial at Nude Food in Dungarvan, and then found it on the (excellent) drinks list at Gregans Castle in Co Clare. Plenty of shops in Wexford sell it, also a sprinkling of quality stores around the country; there’s a list of stockists on the website and it is growing fast (http://www.mrjeffaresblackcurrants.ie/stockists.html). You can buy it online too, from Good Food Ireland, which is run by Des’s wife Margaret; frozen berries are also offered in catering boxes and 500g punnets.
In late July and August, fresh berries can be bought at the farm (Ballykelly Farm, Drinagh, Co Wexford).
RECIPE: Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Smoothies
This is one of a range of ideas given on the Mr Jeffares site for for using blackcurrants.
Blackcurrant smoothies are simply made by blending milk with natural yogurt and a generous splash of Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial. Add in a banana and you have an energy packed start to the morning.