Around the world in 80 dishes No. 49: France - Crème de cassis

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Ingredients to make about 2.5 litres

1.5kg blackcurrants

2 litres red wine

1.5kg sugar, possibly more to taste

70cl vodka (unflavoured)





Method

For such a highly regarded, stylish drink, crème de cassis is surprisingly easy to make, provided you use decent red wine. Many beautiful cassis concoctions have been ruined by the addition of a rough bottle of red, or old, oxidised wine, so make sure you open fresh bottles for this job. Ripe, fruity reds are best – California merlot or (red) zinfandel, or southern French grenache.

Crème de Cassis also creates two traditional party classics – kir and kir royale. For a classic kir, splash a small amount of crème de cassis in the bottom of a wine glass and top up with a cold, dry, unoaked white wine.

For kir royale, splash 15ml crème de cassis into the bottom of a tall champagne flute, then top up with chilled dry fizz.

Make a luxurious sauce for roast duck or goose with poultry stock, blackcurrants and a knob of butter, adding a spoonful or two of crème de cassis and heating through.

Follow the French lead and pour crème de cassis on to ripe melons, or spoon over poached pears served with vanilla ice cream

Wash the blackcurrants well, then work through them using a pair of small, sharp scissors, cutting off any "tufty" tops and stems. Place them in a large preserving pan and crush with a potato masher until all the berries burst and there's plenty of juice.

Pour the red wine over the top and stir well. Cover and leave to steep for 48 hours, stirring from time to time and covering again.

Strain through a muslin bag into a sterilised container. This can take some time, so consider hanging up the bag overnight, perhaps on the back of a chair, with the container underneath. Squeeze the bag at the end to get the last of the liquid out (wearing plastic gloves!).

Rinse the original pan and pour the juice back in, now adding the sugar. Stir well. Heat up gently, still stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is very hot but not quite boiling. Leave at just under simmering point to reduce until the liquid thickens and turns slightly more syrupy. This may take an hour or more. Stir from time to time. Taste your liqueur, adding more sugar if you think it needs it for flavour and texture and stirring the sugar to dissolve if so. Leave to cool.

Add in the spirit, stir well and pour into sterilised bottles.



Taken from 'How to Make Your Own Drinks' by Susy Atkins (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99)

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