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Cookbooks 14: Jane Grigson

14.  Jane Grigson. How her fruit book ever got into such a state is not purely due to glue. I would have laminated the cover because it was getting so much use. I could buy a new copy, always in print at $40, but will instead tie it in strong ribbon for the next consultation. Grigson is a writer I turn to when I get completely fed up with the Australian cliché about British cooking being all meat and three vegetables and aren’t we glad we graduated. When in fact we are, as with so many things, so bound to good things that are British, we don’t even notice. Furthermore, as Grigson makes perfectly clear in her friendly style, British cuisine has been a complex and evolving art, when it isn’t a science, for centuries. Our own adaptability to and absorption of cuisines outside our own purlieu owes much to inherited British enquiry at its best. When we visited family friends the Armstrongs of Rochester, they would serve Kir later in the afternoon. They are people of Kent, for whom the English Channel is an incidental inconvenience between them and France. France means visits to relatives, cheese towns, wine towns, and cathedral towns, fairly much in that priority order. They remind me of Jane Grigson where, for example, she engages in the drollery inspired by the entente cordiale. “Canon Kir, now dead but once the mayor of Dijon and a Resistance hero, had the idea of popularizing the local rince-cochon of crème de cassis and white wine (usually aligoté). It was renamed Kir in his honour. In the summer now you drink it all over France. Everyone drinks it. Either to help down grocery plonk, or to vary the boredom of daily champagne, or to colour up a decent local vin blanc with an air of festivity. It’s refreshing and pretty in the heat, an affable drink so long as you do not overdo the cassis.” (page 86)

Recipe for Crème de Cassis. Soak 1 kg BLACK CURRANTS in 1 litre of “reasonably good” RED WINE for 2 days. Process slowly and tip the mush into a cloth-lined basin. Twist the cloth and squeeze out the liquid. Tip into a pan and for each litre of liquid add 1 kg SUGAR, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Keep at below simmering for two hours, stirring betimes and believing it is reducing. Into a clean bowl pour a mug of your favourite spirit: BRANDY, GIN, VODKA, one of those. Add 3 mugs of black currant syrup. Keep repeating this process until you have used about ¾ of a litre of the spirit. Pour into glass bottles and cap. Jane Grigson’s final instruction reads, “Leave for two days before broaching … Crème de cassis keeps well.”         


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