|Still Life: Jane Lear's Recursive Ratafia|
In her post Obsession: Peach Ratafia, she makes a distinction between familiar wine-based ratafias and those based on brandy:
The peach ratafia I’m talking about is different. Based on brandy and peach pits (for color and an almondy flavor), it has more in common with the ratafias of the Georgian and Regency eras, which today have their own Facebook pages. I would kill to have a conversation with Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer about that fact.
But instead I turned to Gerald Asher, Gourmet’s wine editor for 30 years and the author, most recently, of A Vineyard in My Glass, for context. ”Ratafia was originally the unfermented sweet grape juice preserved and stopped from fermenting by adding brandy,” he explained. That brandy, he noted, was usually young, fiery stuff, not aged Cognac. “The French—women, mostly—drank a small glass of ratafia as an aperitif, in the same way the French drink a small glass of ruby port, or concoctions like Lillet or Dubonnet.”Fortunately, noyau can be made year-round, even with out of season peaches, since its defining marzipan and almond tastes are derived from kernels within the peach pits. Lear’s peach ratafia, however, calls for fresh peach slices in addition to cracked pits from those fruits.
Now that our days are growing shorter, decent peaches are becoming scarce, but if you can lay your hands on some, try her version. The advantage of Lear's approach over mine? Her's yields a batch of brandied peaches as well as the cordial. Not, it should be noted, a horrible thing.