An Extra Fermented Kir Royale: Let Them Drink Champagne and Blackcurrants

An Extra Fermented Kir Royale: Let Them Drink Champagne and Blackcurrants

I seriously suck at pouring things.

I seriously suck at pouring things.

When I was a young lass, fresh-faced from four fun-filled, mind-expanding years as an undergrad I landed a pretty crazy gig.  Just a month after finishing college, I packed up my meager belongings and flew off to the Alps, just a sosche past my beloved France, to start a gig as a “Seed” in a Swiss company. That’s the literal translation of my job title, “Pépin,” which was more accurately translated as “Management Trainee” on the English version of my business card.

Cheers! A finished kir royale with a bit of fermented blackcurrant.

Cheers! A finished kir royale with a bit of fermented blackcurrant.

One of my favorite things about office life in Switzerland was a longstanding tradition of the celebratory, at-work apéritif to fête just about anything. Someone got a promotion? Apéro for all! It’s your birthday? Departmental apéro! Anniversary of the day you started working here? Time for some drinks! These took place in the office and although an aperitif is just supposed to be a pre-dinner drink, these affairs often became little, low-key cocktail parties. Each office had its own traditions. In one office, you knew it was a really special apero when Elizabeth made her famous cake (la tarte au vin cuit) that took hours and hours because its primary ingredient was a syrupy, slow reduction of many bottles of wine.

Foam means that those native yeasts are doing their jobs!

Foam means that those native yeasts are doing their jobs!

So where does this stroll down memory lane lead? To a happy and fermented place, of course! One of the best parts about these gatherings was that they introduced me to kir, kir royale and the flavors of blackcurrant. I’ve loved kir ever since , and when currants of all shades started popping up at the farmers markets, I knew I had to ferment them. Creme de cassis is a liqueur made from infusing blackcurrants in alcohol and adding sugar.  To make kir, you mix that into white wine.  Kir royale, a huge improvement, is the same blackcurrant liqueur mixed into champagne or sparkling white. Our version will be a bit less sweet, a lot less syrupy and a ton more fermenty!

I'm not ashamed to say I slurped this.

I’m not ashamed to say I slurped this.

Extra Fermented Kir Royale

yields about 6 cups of soda/wine, and A LOT of potential kir royale, like 90 flutes full
Stir very vigorously, at least every 12  hours, more if you can.  At last week's workshop, Sandor Katz said to create a vortex!

Stir very vigorously, at least every 12 hours, more if you can. At last week’s workshop, Sandor Katz said to create a vortex!

How I love those tiny champagne bubbles, especially when the color is made beautiful by blackcurrants

How I love those tiny champagne bubbles, especially when the color is made beautiful by blackcurrants

So how does this ferment work? Just as bacteria are present on the skins of everything that grows in the earth, yeast are present on the skins of fruits. They are also abundantly present in the air, so there is definitely no need to add yeast to this to get a good ferment! I also like mine to be somewhere between wine and soda. If you like yours more soda-like (aka less alcohol), cut the fermentation short by a day. The trade-off here is alcohol vs. sugar. The longer it ferments, the less sucrose will be present, the shorter it ferments the less alcohol will be present. If you let it go too long without putting it under an airlock, you’ll likely end up with vinegar rather than wine.

Use a wooden spoon for stirring if you're fermenting in a glass vessel.

Use a wooden spoon for stirring if you’re fermenting in a glass vessel.

Ingredients

For the fermented crème de cassis:

  • 1 pint/2 cups/310 g blackcurrants
  • Scant 3/4 cup/ 153 g cane sugar
  • 5 cups filtered water
When the fruit has risen to the top, you're ready to go. You should see foam underneath when you start stirring.

When the fruit has risen to the top, you’re ready to go. You should see foam underneath when you start stirring.

For the finished kir royale:

  • 1/2 cup champagne or sparkling. I like to use a lower-cost, methode champenoise sparkling wine, such as Korbel Brut
  • 2 tablespoons/29 ml of the finished “crème” (above)
Fermenters love bubbles, non?

Fermenters love bubbles, non?

How-To

  1. Rinse your currants.
  2. Into a container no smaller than a 1/2 gallon, place water and sugar and stir until sugar is at least mostly dissolved. You need space at the topping of this container because you’re going to be stirring like a fiend.
  3. Add the clean blackcurrants and stir very vigorously with a clean wooden spoon.  When we made blueberry soda at Sandor Katz’ workshop last week, he recommended creating a “vortex” to really incorporate a lot of air and stimulate yeast production. We also broke the jar by stirring vigorously with a metal spoon, which I why I recommend using wood. Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band.
  4. Repeat stirring at least twice a day. My preferred amount of fermentedness for this particular recipe is 3 days at 75 degrees. If your house is cooler, you may want to let it go a bit longer. If you want lower alcohol or more sweetness, you can strain and use it as soon as you see a nice, thick foam at the top which could be as soon as 12 hours from your initial stirring. At that point it will contain very little alcohol.
  5. Once the flavor and sweetness are to your liking (again, 3 days is my preference), strain off the fruit and use the liquid for drinking, or better yet, for making kir royale.
  6. To make kir royale, fill each champagne flute about 3/4 full of bubbly and then top it off with a splash of your homemade creme de cassis. 1/2 cup of sparkling to 2 T of cassis is a fantastic ratio and it’s what works in my champagne flutes. As always, adjust to taste.
The fruit usually doesn't taste great after it's strained, but I was digging these spent blackcurrants. I  stuck them in the ice cube tray and filled it with water for a pretty future sip.

The fruit usually doesn’t taste great after it’s strained, but I was digging these spent blackcurrants. I stuck them in the ice cube tray and filled it with water for a pretty future sip.

Turns out that blackcurrant wine stains! Clean up quickly if you spill.

Turns out that blackcurrant wine stains! Clean up quickly if you spill.

Drinks Easy fermenting Gluten-Free Sandor Katz Vegan Vegetable Vegetarian

6 comments

  1. Tanya says:

    Thanks! I saw currants a few weeks ago at Headhouse and was wondering what to do with them… After making a couple kir royales on Day 3, how do I can keep the soda/wine for future use without it turning to vinegar?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Tanya,

      Great question! There will be a more elaborate post on this topic next week (I HAVE TOO MANY POSTS IN DRAFT RIGHT NOW!!!!), but to give you the quick answer, you can bottle the remaining beverage right away and stick it in the fridge. You will still want to drink it quickly, since it will continue to ferment at a slower rate at that colder temperature. It will get more alcoholic quite slowly and more fizzy at a normal rate, so truly, drink it quick to avoid explosion. To let the alcohol continue to develop, put it in a jug or jar with an airlock that will let CO2 escape, but will keep air (and the bacteria that make vinegar) out. Alternatively, embrace the concept of getting some delicious blackcurrant vinegar and keep stirring vigorously for a couple more days after straining off the fruit. You could pour a little live vinegar (Bragg’s works) in there to help it along. Cover with a secured cloth and wait three weeks.

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