Crème de Cassis is a long tradition in Burgundy, where blackcurrants have been harvested for centuries. Jules Theuriet is among the best producers of this richly flavored liqueur, and this is delicious when poured over a classic Crème Glacée (ice cream), or in a classic “Kir.”
The “Kir” is made from white wine (traditionally the Bourgogne Aligoté) with a small amount of Crème de Cassis.
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Viticulture in Burgundy was well established by the second century AD, and likely predates the arrival of the Romans. By the late Middle Ages, the influence of the monastic orders had organized wine growing in Burgundy as nowhere else in Europe. It was the monks who recognized that certain individual vineyards consistently produced distinctive wine.
Land reform came with the French Revolution, and the Code Napoléon abolished primogeniture, establishing that all inherited property be shared equally among siblings. As a result, the ownership of many of the finest vineyards is fragmented, with some growers owning just a few vines in many different vineyard sites.
Until the 1930s, most fine Burgundy was bottled by négociants, who buy grapes or wine from the growers and market it under their own “brand.” Today, with few exceptions, the finest wines of Burgundy are all estate-bottled: that is, sold by the farmers who grow the grapes.
Crème de Cassis de Dijon, is a liqueur produced from the black currants farmed near the city of Dijon. It is (along with Bourgogne Aligoté, the basis for kir.
Burgundian cuisine is relatively uncomplicated; it relies on the high-quality ingredients that adorn the countryside. These include naturally raised chickens from Bresse, beef from Charolais cattle, and game and fish from nearby forests and streams.
Wine, of course, is used for making sauces a la bourguignon, usually with onion, mushrooms and lardoons (salt pork). Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq a Vin follow this pattern. In contrast, sauces without mushrooms are called Meurette and are flambéed with marc (eau-de-vie made from grape must). Meurette sauces are excellent with fish, eggs, and poultry. Escargots are raised nearly everywhere in Burgundy and usually prepared in a slow braise, then stuffed with garlic and parsley butter.
Other specialties include parsley-flavored ham from the Morvan hills and white-wine-poached fish finished with lardoons. Epoisse, Citeaux and Aisy Cendre are the best-known cow’s milk cheeses and Charolais the best-known goat’s milk cheese.
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