Cassis is surprisingly easy as you don’t have to spend ages ‘top’ and ‘tailing’ each individual blackcurrant as you have to do for other recipes.
When I mentioned to a friend that I had a glut of blackcurrants she suggested cassis. It sounded great but I had only a vague idea what cassis was. In fact the only thing I knew about it was that it was made from blackcurrants. My friend told me that it was lovely in champagne which is probably why I’d never encountered it. I’m not really a champagne person. I wasn’t keen on the idea at first because it sounded sophisticated, and therefore I assumed, complicated. I was wrong and was amazed how easy it was, and the reception I got for the end product, from friends and relatives was excellent.
The great thing is that you can start it off in any jar or container which has a lid, and at any time, and then forget about it for months. Final processing is done just before Christmas when you have no other fruit or veg. to deal with, and when the desire for nicely flavoured alcohol is gently on the rise. I give it away as Christmas presents.
This recipe fits nicely into my ‘waste nothing, process everything’ philosophy
Lovely ripe blackcurrants, bursting with flavour
Using leftover blackcurrants
Previously, when I had leftover blackcurrants, too many for the recipe I was using, I would simply have to eat them over the next few days, no matter how many there were, just to make sure none were wasted. Now, with this cassis recipe, I can eat a few if I feel like it, or just drop the leftover blackcurrants into a big jar, and cover them with vodka, no matter how many or how few. I just add the leftover blackcurrants from any batch of jam making and they build up in the jar over time.
Hopefully the jar will be filled before the blackcurrants run out, but if not, then it doesn’t matter, you just go with what you have. The blackcurrants, and vodka are left untouched until December and then processed. The hard work (if you can call it that) is left until when there’s little to do in your garden or allotment, leaving you the time during summer to deal with your other abundant produce.
Freshly picked blackcurrants
Stage 1 – summer (July-August)
1 – Clean up the picked blackcurrants (remove leaves) but there’s no need to remove all the little bits of stem or the dried flower like you have to when you make jam or pies. I harvest using a scoop so I always end up with a few leaves, or bits of leaves.
A fruit harvesting scoop makes things easier and quicker.
2 – Put the blackcurrants in a large jar, and only just cover them with vodka.
3 – Leave until just before Christmas, in a cool dark place.
Stage 2 – winter – couple of weeks before Christmas
1 – Pour the vodka and blackcurrants into a large pan and mash them with a potato masher to extract the juice (or use a hand blender).
2 – Filter the resulting mush through a fine sieve to remove the bulk of the solids. I use a potato masher to force out the last of the precious liquid, through the sieve.
3 – Then filter through a coffee filter for perfectly clear cassis. I actually filter through muslin cloth first to take out most of the fine sludge so that the coffee filter doesn’t block so easily. Lastly I put the liquid through a coffee filter.
4 – To each 500ml of the filtered blackcurrant and alcohol mixture add less than 500g of sugar and another 125g of alcohol. You will notice that I said “less than”. That’s because you need to adjust to taste. 500g is about right but I like to add the sugar slowly during processing in stage 2, and test as I go along, as the fruit can vary in sweetness depending on variety, time of year, etc. I also add a little honey in place of sugar, at the beginning of the sweetening phase (stage 2), a big spoonful per 500ml, so I need less sugar. Honey in anything makes a big difference.
5 – Bring to the boil slowly skimming off any foam that gathers on the surface. You are aiming for a syrup like consistency, not jam, so don’t boil for too long. Also, if you boil for too long the alcohol will evaporate off. Remember that the syrup will thicken a little when it cools.
6 – Pour into sterilised bottles or jars whilst sill hot.
Small gift bottles for Christmas
Have a go. It’s easy!
The waste product from this process is the damp mush retrieved from the sieve. Its texture is course and after cooking and sweetening the result is edible, but not very satisfying. However mixing with fine oatmeal and flour gives a credible biscuit with an intense blackcurrant flavour. Experiments are on-going as I am not a biscuit maker, but if you are then your experience should lead you to great things quickly.