So when I came across a recipe for quince ratafia in Jane Grigson's Good Things, I was intrigued. A ratafia is an old-fashioned name for a liqueur or cordial -- a spirit made from fruit steeped in wine or alcohol. This is a classic product of small farmers in France, Switzerland, and Alsace; you can find marvelous concoctions of plums, hazelnuts, black walnuts, peach stones, and apricots made at home and bottled for friendly consumption. The Italian limoncello is also quite similar. (Kathryn blogged about making her own liqueur out of green walnuts, too.)Grigson's book is a classic exploration of English and French cooking, with an emphasis on old-fashioned English recipes. She says it's a "book about enjoying food." Even though some of her recipes seem strange to us, like a lemon and suet pudding, they are classic English recipes that are often quite simple and delicious.
This easy ratafia is one of those. Here's the recipe; I followed it in its entirety today, and I'll report back in a month or two with the results!
Anything made with quinces is bound to be delicious, and this ratafia is no exception. If the only ones you can buy are still green, let them ripen to yellow in the house. A word of warning -- handle them carefully, as they are easily bruised.
Take 2 large quinces. Rub the grey down off them with a cloth, rinse and grate them, peel and core included. Put into a 1-quart bottling jar. Pour in granulated sugar to come about a third of the way up the bottle, add 1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger and mace, then fill the bottling jar with brandy or vodka.
The reader who sent me this recipe remarks that the flavor of the quinces begins to predominate after only a week, that all fruit expel their flavours surprisingly soon. This is true, but I think that if these ratafias are left for a month or two or three, their taste seems to mellow and become more subtle.
-- From Jane Grigson's Good Things, published in 1971 by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Even though Grigson doesn't specify this, I shook the jar vigorously after combining the ingredients, and put it away in a dark place. I'll shake the jar every day or two to help the sugar dissolve.
This basic formula is easily duplicated with other fruits. Next summer I want to put up a few jars of liqueurs like this with in-season fruit.
Related: Vin de Noix and Nocino