Bonne Fête de la Saint-Jean, happy Saint John’s day!
Traditionally on this day (which is special because it commemorates holy birth rather than death) in France bonfires were build that were reminiscent of Midsummer’s pagan rituals. Nowadays these celebrations have become rare, but we have our own joyful reason not to let this day pass unnoticed. Nine years ago we tied the knot, in the presence of family and friends and just thinking back to that moment sends shivers down my spine. We let love rule that day as we have done ever since, touching the leaves that touch the sky and we managed to find our own fields of joy at Les Pierres. Yay!
Part of the celebration today is the start of a new batch of Vin de Noix, an aperitif made from red wine, infused with crushed green walnuts, dried walnut husk, fermenting leaves from the walnut tree, oranges and sugar, fortified with some kind of distillate.
Making green walnut wine is extremely easy and there’s not a lot of effort put into it. You gather the ingredients, mix them up and then allow time to do it’s magical thing, which you can closely observe happening by taking some tasting sips once in a while. The old fashioned way is to let the wine permeate for 40 days to three months, before filtering out the nuts and other remnants, after which you bottle the intoxicating potion to let it mature and ripen. The time frame is debatable. I have the strong conviction that the filtering should not take place before November 3rd, but have lost any interpretation of this date, so don’t ask me why. Stirring every time you think about it will surely help develop more flavour.
Most recipes found on the internet will tell you to just use cheap red wine for this beverage, but since I turned French in my heart I urge you not to listen to this advice. It will pay off to invest a bit more by using good quality wine, obviously not the grand cru’s of this world; that would be like swearing in church and a sinful waste. But, you know, a good vin de table or even a vin de pays.
Adding more ingredients like spices and fruit (even the orange that I put in seems not to be very traditional) in the mix is rather controversial. I figure, since the infusion has to steep for quite some time, adding spices will make the wine take on an acrimonious taste that will overpower the natural flavour of the walnuts. It happened to last year’s batch, not because of any addition, but because I used an antique tin vessel for the brew. Pooh!
I wouldn’t be me without adding an adventure to the operation to complicate things and escape from lurking routine. So today I will start to firstly ferment the walnuts and leaves by mixing them with sugar and add some brewed water kefir to get things going and put an airlock on it. If you don’t have water kefir going, don’t despair. It’s fairly easy and straightforward to create your own fermentation starter from scratch. Heidi from Rain Country Homestead (a fantastic resource for self-education regarding fermentation and much more) has a video on Youtube where she explains elaborately how to do this. I promise you it’s laughably simple.
The wine and it’s fortification can wait another two weeks before joining in. Or we might drink some today. After all it’s the Feast Day of Saint Us.
P.S. I’m also working on another extension of Booze Festival Week today, by turning the excess sour cherries into Ginginha, a Portuguese liqueur. Thanks for the tip, Lou!