Thursday, May 07, 2009

Alchemy

So what's going on around here? I haven't been posting as much as I'd like to. I had so much to catch up around here after my trip to the States. It's spring and I have a huge vegetable garden to plant and lawns to cut and weeds to eliminate and......
Then, just as I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I was contacted by Chateau Vieux Chevrol where I have worked for the last 7 years to come on Sunday night to begin work cleaning the vines.
The actual name of this task is called l'Empamphrage and we use a medieval tool called an Empamphrette. Each commercially grown grape vine in France is grafted onto wild American grape vine root stock. This is the result of the disaster in the late 1880's when a small aphid caused a disease named Phylloxera. The pest came from North America and destroyed the roots of the European Grapes which were not immune to it. Wild American Grapes were.
So, ever since, the roots of all grapes in France are l'Americain, which wants to grow and live its own life but has to be suppressed.
That's part of the job, we cut off the wild grape shoots on each vine and at the same time, we take off the excess branches.
Once we get going, it takes on the average of 20 seconds to a vine.
That operation is repeated thousands of times over 25 hectares of land.
Consequently, I will be away from blogging for another two weeks starting Sunday!

Today, though, I did my own seasonal production, the first step of making the speciality of the Dordogne, Vin de Noix, or Walnut Wine.
Vin de Noix is a sweet aperatif. the version I make starts with the collection of the budding leaves from the walnut trees. I have no exact quantity, I try to get them just before the leaves open. They are very sticky and fragrant and I fill a plastic bag with them.
Then I get a bottle of fruit alcohol. Here you can buy 40% clear fruit brandy, or higher proof if you know someone with an alembic. I take a liter of alcohol and crush the leaves in it and tightly cover the alcohol and leaves. I did that today.
After a month, the liquid is dark black and very fragrant, like spicy walnuts.
I buy five bottles of dry red wine. Here I use Corbieres, which is inexpensive, but a very good table wine. I have a big enameled pot and I pour in the wine, a kilo of sugar and strain the walnut infused alcohol into it. Then stir until you are sure the sugar is dissolved and bottle it up. I save nice bottles with screw tops, but for nice presentations, I use a bottle I can pound a cork into and seal it with wax.
The most important step after this is to let it sit for a few months.
You will have a delicious tasting apero with a proof of about 16%.
There are many variations of this recipe. Some call for orange peel and quatre epices.
I have made a version with green immature walnuts, ideally collected on June 21st.
It's basically the same technique but you must pierce each green walnut with a needle before you macerate it with the alcohol.
This is a very nice treat to bring out for friends before a meal to insure conviviality and conversation...and a very special gift!
Later, this year, I will tell you hope to make your own Creme de Cassis, all you need is your own Cassis bush! I have 2!

1 comment:

mikeb302000 said...

Wonderful post, Micro. The country life is beautiful, n'est-ce pas?