June 27, 2010

cures just about anything including half bad white wine

Good for soar throat because of its anthocyanoids. A vermifuge for intestinal parasites. A tissue drainer for congested tissues especially the kidneys, liver and urinary tracts. Great for dermatitis, psoriasis and vasoprotective properties. Not to mention as something to use for diarrhea, dysentery and jaundice.

Driving along the 344 east along the Outaouais river, slightly sick with overwork and exhaustion I was thinking of these discussed and researched properties of the blackcurrant plant. I suddenly felt, for no more than a minute, that I was headed towards a field of miracle cure all. But in all reality it is always easier with a soar throat to see how much more food does than twisted to look pretty, to feed, to pleasure or occasionally to shut up. There is truth in the saying that `herbs do things that drugs have not yet invented.' I am heading towards the town of St-André-d'Argenteuil where there is a 32 acre blackcurrent farm called Aux Cassis d'Argenteuil. This is a young business of 3 years now. My main goal was to buy a case of their Reflet d'automne which is a 19% crème de cassis. After a blind tasting of 4 others including the ever all too common one from France, we found that Reflet was the better tasting, less sweat and more complex. Great for locally made Québec kirs, or alone on ice, or even a nice layer of jelly on an organic chicken liver mousse.

mousse de foie de volailles bio au Cassis Reflet d'Automne (makes 30)

950g cleaned organic chicken livers
200g butter plus 15 grams for cooking livers
700g cream
1/4 cup cassis plus 50ml for after
50g sugar
3 garlic cloves
4 french shallots
5 sprigs of thyme
1 tea nutmeg
1 tea four spice

Cassis jelly

1 gelatin leaf for every 100ml of cassis

1-cut butter in cubes and put in a bowl with the cream. You want this mixture to be around 15 degrees or so. The idea being to never melt the butter, but be able to mix it properly with the liver.

2-heat th 15 grams of butter in a pan(Make sure your pan is big enough for all the livers to fit in a single layer). When bubbling and hot add shallots and halved garlic, cook a few seconds, add thyme and livers (which have been salt and peppered). Colour the livers on both sides and cooking to a medium rare. Deglaze the pan with the 1/4 cup of cassis reduce. You will want rose livers, so if the liquid is not almost completely reduced, remove the livers and continue reducing liquid.

3-put livers in a blender with reduced cassis mix, thyme included. Add the sugar. Blend to a paste. leave until tepid. Pass through a tamis over a large enough bowl, then pass the cream and the butter.

4-whisk this mixture for a couple of seconds until homogeneous. Add 1 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1 tea of 4 spice, 50 ml of cassis, salt and pepper to taste. At this point you can judge whether to add more spices or not, depending on the looked for intensity. Pour into jars. Set overnight before pouring the jelly on top if using.

5-soak gelatin leaf in water. Heat a little cassis. Take softened gelatin leaf out of water squeezing out maximum liquid, add to warm cassis whisking until disolved. Add to the rest of the cassis. Pour desired amount over the chilled liver mousse. Allow an hour for the jelly to set before serving.

Carole Valiquette takes me to their little boutique where we talk about the weather. The weather with agronomists is in fact very important as opposed to urbanist's opinions on the issue. This year has been a little difficult. Early frost, extreme heat, and then continuing morning frost has killed off a part of the flowers. She admits though that they are still trying to understand the relationship of the blackcurrent bushes and the land they purchased 15 years ago. A lot of preparing went into this. I look out the window at their rows of bushes in the afternoon light and saw how precocious it could be. Sometimes it rains and nobody comes to the restaurant. Sometimes you have shitty weather and there are not enough fruit. She tells me that the first few years preparing their land with cereals such as buckwheat, then they had to wait another 5 years for the bushes to produce abundant fruit. The average lifespan of a bush being 20 years. At that point a customer comes in and starts asking about the 'booze'. Carole tells them their history, does a tasting of their three products. Rubis, Rastel a sort of porto and the Reflet d'autumne. "Not bad, not bad. How much?" She tells him. He hesistates. "I don't know. Why do you people charge so much when at the SAQ I can get a bigger bottle of Schnapps for cheaper? It does not make sense." Oh boy I thought. He asks to taste again. Carole explains that they hand pick all the fruit and the final product goes through 4 filtrations. "Ya ya, but it is just alcohol after all. I mean, it is not THAT good. I've tasted better for cheaper." I ask him if his boss asked him to work for cheaper would he? "What does that have to do with anything?" He waves his hand and mumbles something and leaves. We watch him leave and I see the same attitude repeating itself over and over everywhere. This Walmart, cheaper attitude which does not seek the source but rather cultivates a strange sort of greed which in the end gives one a very strange version of the world. And although I myself could argue that it is easy to make creme de cassis, there are some who do it well, and get better at doing that. And my money goes to that, call it research and development. I cough. She pours me a little glass of Rubis. Sickness. I forget about my soar throat and think about the sickness of being a blockhead. Oh well, fuck him, artisans will stand together, and we will stand behind them.

I look out the window at the blackcurrent's blessed bush, a fruit we rarely see in supermarkets, or never except in preserves. This modest fruit, may tells us more about our condition than we think, a modest fruit which is still illegal to grow in a number of States. Not to mention that it can really enhance a bad batch of white wine!

Kir. 1 part kir for 9 parts white wine.

Leaves picked in the spring can be made into a delicious infusion. 20-30 grams of leaves for a half liter of hot water. Infuse for 10 minutes.

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