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, Créme 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….