The blackcurrant bush at the allotment has been very productive this year, more blackcurrants than ever before. The reason (according to a program on the BBC) was because we had a long cold winter. According to them, and I have no reason to doubt their viewpoint, is that blackcurrants need several hundred hours of temperatures below seven degrees (celsius) in order to set fruit. The winter of 2011/2012 certainly provided that. we also netted the bushes to try and stop the birds which meant that we were able to let the fruit ripen more than has been the case in the past. Anyway it all came together to give an excellent crop. As ever, we picked and froze the currants and normally we would use them in mixed fruit jams and puddings, but this year there are enough for us to do something different. over the last couple of years we have made blackberry liqueur (based upon a generic recipe) and this year I decided that I would try Blackcurrant liqueur as well. The recipe is based upon one from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall who in turn got it from Sophie Gregson (enough name dropping). It goes like this:
- 500g Blackcurrants;
- 500ml Red Wine;
- Sugar (about 60g for each 100ml of juice);
- Vodka 35% or 40% alcohol by volume.
Put the blackcurrants and wine into a glass bowl and leave to soak for 24 – 48 hours. You can mash them up a bit at this stage if it makes you feel better. Puree it all in a food processor (we used a hand blender and it seemed to work ok). Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or a jelly bag, squeezing the pulp to get a reasonable amount of juice out of the pulp. (This was the first “difficult” bit as we found that it didn’t strain very well through through the jelly bag, but using the sieve gave quite a cloudy liquid).
When you’ve got enough liquid from the pulp, transfer it to a pan and add 60g of sugar for each 100ml of liquid. We got about 800ml of liquid so added 480g of sugar.
Now comes the next “difficult” bit. Heat the mixture gently until the sugar dissolves. Then keep warming it up for about an hour. Don’t let it boil otherwise the pectins in the blackcurrants will cook and you’ll end up with jam. If you’ve got a thermometer, it wants to be above blood temperature but below a simmer. If you haven’t touch the outside of the pan, it should be hot but not too hot.
At the end of the hour it should be reduced and a little more syrupy. Skim off any scum on the top of the liquid. At this point we had about 750ml
We then divided the liquid into two parts. One to make a liqueur for drinking straight and one to dilute to make kir. With the liqueur we added equal parts of vodka to syrup and for the diluting syrup, we added two parts vodka to three parts blackcurrant syrup. The best way we found to measure the amount of syrup and vodka was to put 35ml or 50ml of water into the wine bottle, and mark this. Then pour the blackcurrant syrup into the bottle up to this level and top up the bottle with vodka.
Leave it for two weeks. After that taste the liqueur and add more sugar to taste if required. You won’t need to heat up the liqueur to dissolve the sugar as it will dissolve in the bottle. The kir syrup won’t need sugar as it will be diluted with lemonade or champagne which will add its own flavour.
It makes an excellent Christmas present!