The Problem With Black Currants

Hmm…coming up with things to make with my stash of black currants (Ribes nigrum) from the garden was proving to be something of a creative black hole. Jelly or a fruity syrup concentrate for making tall cool drinks were the only things that immediately came to mind. I am fond of the former, but still have a jar of black currant jelly on the pantry shelf. And, I am not entirely enamoured of the latter – not my first drink of choice. Why that should be so is a mystery to me as both the jelly and the drink are made up of the same ingredients – black currant juice and sugar.


Another thought: the black berries are generally added to that English classic, Summer Pudding consisting of a bread mould soaked with a berry core. However, I have always been of the opinion that the rather strong black currant taste tends to overpower the subtle flavours of the red currants, raspberries, and any other berry added to the pudding. I usually leave them out.


You can see where this left me – blank. So, it was a coincidence – an eureka moment – that I discovered the perfect thing when I opened my newly delivered copy of The Art of Cuisine. You see, it all started when Francesca at Almost Italian posted about The Art of Cuisine – a translation and reprint of the original cookbook of recipes created or collected by by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec and his gallery owner friend, Maurice Joyant. Francesca knew I would have to investigate this book with its late 19th-century French recipes overlaid with lively Belle Epoque sketches by Toulouse-Lautrec. A few days after her post, the package arrived from the secondhand bookseller. There, nestled in the back of the book was a recipe for that classic French liqueur, CrΓ©me de Cassis. Problem solved.


Based on an unmeasured recipe found in The Art of Cuisine. Most other recipes for this liqueur are simple concoctions of black currants, eau de vie and sugar. Although, some include red wine as an additional ingredient. I like the additions in this old recipe of raspberries, currant leaf (which is surprisingly fragrant) and cinnamon stick – flavours emulating a robust red wine.

  • 300g black currants
  • 100g raspberries
  • 1 black currant leaf
  • 1 to 1-1/2 inch segment of cinnamon stick
  • 500ml vodka or eau de vie
  • 120g sugar

Place the cleaned and stemmed black currants in a large jar (1). Top with the raspberries, the cinnamon stick and a cleaned black currant leaf (2). Pour on the vodka (3). Within a few days the fruit will infuse and the liquid will take on a lot of purple berry colour (4). Let the mixture sit for 3 months (although the original recipe says up to 6 months).


Strain the liquid and reserve. Throw away the leaf and cinnamon stick. Crush the berries, strain the juice, and add to the reserved liquid. Throw away the pulp. Filter the liquid again through a cloth or coffee filter. Add the sugar and let it dissolve. Bottle and use.

I will, no doubt update this post when the cassis is ready to drink. I’m already getting visions of sparkling Kir Royal….


    • Kir Royal coming up in about 3 months – just in time for the Christmas season. Don’t you wish that teleportation wasn’t science fiction, but science fact? If that were so, I’d send you a Kir Royal in a flash!


  1. I love cassis, but never adulterate my champagne with it, instead I use it to macerate berries for a simple dessert with cream. Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book has a few alternative recipes using blackcurrants. It might be worth a look. My mouth is watering just looking at that bowl brimming over with fruit.


    • I also use cassis for fruit (like you). But I also add it to an inexpensive Procesco which we have delivered by the case. You are right, Champagne is too expensive and too delicate to muck it up with additives.


    • I had wondered about the sugar at the end, but that’s what the recipe stated. Do you think it changes the flavour? It certainly would be a lot easier – plus crushing the berries at the beginning, too. I’ve also noticed that many home made liqueurs in England tend to use gin as a base, lake damson gin, and I wonder if there is a historical basis for this. You are 100% right – better than jam or jelly!


  2. Sounds delicious… As the creme de cassis is… Even if homemade i bet it’s much better! With my red currants i made a curd i’ll post soon… As i’m a curd lover… So in case you have extra black currant I suggest also a curd! πŸ˜‰


    • I think it may be too hot to grow a lot of berries in Queensland. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could? Making infused liqueurs can be addictive. I’ve started giving them away as gifts and trying to find ways of using them in cooking/baking.


  3. Now you’re talking! When Life serves you black currants, make cassis. I’m anxious to learn how flavorful your homemade cassis will be. I’ve a jar of tart cherries fermenting on my deck right now. The recipes differ a bit but the end result, a tasty liqueur, is the same.


    • Oh! Cherry liqueur sounds fabulous. Many of the other infused liqueurs I make use a different technique – crushing the fruit and adding the sugar at the beginning. I will be interested to see if this recipe’s instructions make a difference.


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