(Marjorie) One of my very favorite things about my time working at La Varenne was the potager. One of my favorite things about the potager was Monsieur Milbert. Monsieur Milbert was somewhat of a cranky old Frenchman who oversaw the potager. I remember the first day I arrived at La Varenne and I felt as though I had fallen through the rabbit hole, right smack into a French fairytale.
Last summer, at our garden at Clos de la Cozanne (aka Kendall and Laurent's house), we ended up with buckets full of currants. I called a chef-friend in Paris, who was a long-time resident at the chateau, to see if he had a copy of Madame Milbert's recipe for homemade cassis. After days of picking and separating little jewel-like berries from their stems, we made confiture and began the process of making our very first homemade cassis. After the currants were stemmed, we put them in French preserving jars and covered them with vodka to seep for the next few months in anticipation for bottling our cassis to enjoy during the holidays.
Madame Milbert's Cassis Liqueur
1 kg black currants
1 bottle 750 ml good quality vodka
400 grams sugar, or to taste
Remove the black currants from their stems by pulling them gently through the tines of a fork. Wash and drain the currants in a colander and put them in a 2 quart preserving jar. Pour over the vodka, adding more if needed to cover the currants completely. Cover tightly and leave in a cool place for at least 4 and up to 6 months. From time to time, open the jar and crush the currants with wooden spoon or potato masher.
After 4 to 6 months, put the currants and vodka in a saucepan and mash thoroughly again using the back of a ladle or a potato masher. Heat gently without boiling, stirring often, until the currants soften and their juice is loosened, 10 to 15 minutes. Work the mixture through a food mill to extract all the juice.
Return the juice to the pan. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes. Take care not to let the juice boil or it may flame. Remove the liqueur from the heat and taste it, adding more sugar if needed. It should be rich and slightly tart or sweet, depending on your taste. Let it cool, then bottle and seal tightly. Store for at least 3 months so the flavor mellows.