Creme de Cassis
Creme de Cassis, from Dijon, France, is made with black currant juice. Its dark red color makes it an ideal visual ingredient in all types of mixed drinks, like the world-famous Kir or Kir Royal (champagne and Creme de Cassis). You can ask for a different flavored Kir such as peach or raspberry kir, but if you ask for a kir without specifications, you will then get a kir with blackcurrant liqueur.
Blackcurrants are sour and aromatic berries that can be used in the preparation of sorbet, jams, syrups and liqueur. In various forms, it was recommended as an antidote for a lot of ailments. It is rich in vitamin C ( seven times that found in oranges), citric acid (which gives it sourness), potassium, and calcium. In France, they are especially grown in Burgundy. Had it not been for Canon Fix Kir, it would probably have disappeared.
Creme de Cassis dates back to the 16th century, first produced by monks in France as a cure for snakebites, jaundice, and wretchedness. The modern version of the beverage first appeared in 1841, when it displaced “ratafia de cassis,” which had been produced in prior centuries.
It is made from blackcurrants that are crushed and soaked in ethanol, with sugar subsequently added. While crème de cassis is a specialty of Burgundy, it is also made in Anjou, Luxembourg and Quebec.
The quality of crème de cassis depends upon the variety of fruit used, the content of the berries, and the production process. If it is labelled “Crème de Cassis de Dijon,” one is guaranteed berries from the commune of Dijon. Since 1997, a syndicate has tried to obtain an “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” for “Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne,” which would guarantee the origin and variety of berries and the quantity of berries used in its production.
Nearly 16 million litres of crème de cassis are produced annually. It is consumed mostly in France but is also exported.
France has a long tradition of socializing in a “cafe” while having a drink. A popular drink was what is called a “blanc-cassis” (literally a white-blackurrant), which was a mixture of white wine (do we need to remind you that Burgundy is a major wine producing region) and “creme78 de cassi” (black currant liqueur). During the Second World War and the German occupation, the “Cafe” were deserted much to the despair of the “creme de cassis” producers. The priest Fix Kir was elected mayor of Dijon. he decided that the “blanc-cassis” would be the only drink to be served during official receptions. He did so well that it was decided to give his name to the “blanc-cassis” and call it “kir”.
Blackcurrants must be processed within 24 hours of harvesting. Due to its high concentration of vitamin C, the fruits oxidize very quickly. In order to keep their properties, the berries are submitted to what is called “flash- freezing”. They are taken to a low temperature of -22oF (-30oC). They are then taken to a temperature of 23oF (-5oC) and sprayed with alcohol. The berries are then macerated in water and alcohol mixture for five weeks. Sugar is added to balance the natural acidity of the fruit.
Once opened, a bottle should be used within three months and kept in the fridge.