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Cassis, the blackcurrant, grows abundantly in Burgundy, thriving in the same soil and climatic conditions as the vine. Used widely in apéritifs, desserts and infusions, this little black pearl not only tastes good, it does you good too.
Cassis coulis, mousse and sorbet appear on many Burgundian menus. This versatile fruit goes well with savoury dishes too, marrying with duck in particular. In vinegar it uplifts a simple salad and the jam with goat's cheese is a winning combination. Medicinally, the fruit is high in vitamin C. It has anti-inflammatory properties, and in the old days an infusion of the leaves was good for relieving sore throats.
In early July you can see armies of workers collecting blackcurrants in the fields around the Côte-de-Nuits and the Hautes Côtes, famous areas such as Chambertin, Aloxe-Corton and Volnay. The harvest will go off to be processed, particularly to the liqueur factories in the area.
Glasses of Kir
Back in 1836, Auguste Denis Lagoute founded a liqueur factory in Dijon, noting that the blackcurrant flavoured variety was particularly popular. Crème de Cassis was the result. The blackcurrant berries are steeped in clear alcohol and then the juice is sweetened with crystallised sugar. Other red fruits such as raspberries are treated in the same way.
Crème de Cassis was then mixed with dry white wine to make Vin blanc Cassis, a fashionable drink of the time. In the mid 1900s the Mayor of Dijon, Canon Felix Kir, served this apéritif at official functions and it became so popular that the drink was named after him, Kir.
To make a Kir
In a glass, pour a fifth of Crème de Cassis. Mix well with a dry white wine such as white Burgundy Aligoté. For Kir Royal, take a sparkling dry white wine, a Burgundy Crémant, and mix in the same way. Traditionally raspberry liqueur is used here instead of blackcurrant, and wild peach liqueur is another variation. Serve with gougères, hot little cheese pastry puffs.
See: Our Chef's Recipes