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.
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.
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!
Extra Fermented Kir Royaleyields about 6 cups of soda/wine, and A LOT of potential kir royale, like 90 flutes full
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.
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
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)
- Rinse your currants.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.