Troussepinette?! I just love this word! It is so cute and so French and so charming! What is it? A liquorish aperitif, often home made. Yep, this is a special DIY!
Note: drink with moderation!
There are lots of different ways to make troussepinette. As many as the number of French regions that claims to have invented it! Or so it seems. I’m certainly not an expert and don’t really want to dig into the origin of it. I just like to drink it!
Apparently it isn’t just made in France either. You can find a variante of it, pretty much all over Europe. Everywhere there are blackthorns, there is a use for it!
To me, the troussepinette has always been called simply “pousse d’épine“. It is the aperitif I was raised with. There is something very nostalgic about it… found memories of Sunday messy family lunches, huge table, too many people, discussions that were soon too loud to follow, laughter and joy…
Yet, I never really knew where the pousse d’épine we were drinking came from. I could tell from my mom’s hand writing on the label that it had not been bought in a store, but I never questioned the endless supply there seems to be.
The first spring after my mom’s passing, my dad mentioned that it would soon be time to gather blackthorn shoots, to prepare that year bottles.
Wait what? You actually make your own pousse d’épine?! How?
I felt stupid not knowing but I also felt that my dad was about to pass on the type of knowledge that parents are keen to share with their children.
So we soon went on to gather the required supplies: young shoots of blackthorn!
Step 1: Gathering blackthorn shoots
Blackthorns are very common in Europe. They are like clouds of white flowers in Spring and later produce black little prunes. The official name is Prunus spinosa but it is also called Epinette in French, hence the name of the wine!
Blackthorn trees have savage thorns! They are so dangerous that even cows don’t get near! Luckily for the pousse d’epine, you don’t need to get close to the thorns, you need to get young shoots. So, look for the mature trees and around them, you will find the young shoots.
However be careful. Nature provides a bounty of plants that are a blessing. But for every comestible plant, there seems to be at least one that looks just alike, but can basically kill you.
I insist: You need to gather only young shoots. If you take mature branches, the result will have a bitter taste.
Step 2: Macerate
Clean your harvest thoroughly and prepare your other supplies: the wine, the eau de vie and a big enough container!
Put your blacktorns in your container first. We attached them in a nicely trimmed bouquet first and let it loose, once the wine was poured.
Fill up your container with the wine and eau de vie, add the sugar, stir a little and voila!
Close your container, and store it, in a cool and dry area, for a month or more. We waited 3 months, stirring once a month.
Step 3: bottle up
The next step is to bottle up your wine. It took us a while to filter all of it but it was nice to take such time.
The corks were put into hot water for just a few minutes and inserted with a special tool. It’s really hard to do but my dad has the hand for it.
We waxed the bottle tops to finish the work! Stickers are optional but it’s nice to know the year it was made.
Step 4: Enjoy!
Well you have to be patient. You should probably wait at least a year before drinking. I know people who drink it right away but we’ve always waited much longer. If you prepare some every year, you should have enough to do so as well.
As mentionner above, there are as many recipes as there are regions of France and maybe as many as the people who make it!
- 1 littler of eau de vie (quite a strong one, not the store bought kind…)
- 6 bottles of red wine
- 500g of sugar
- as much as blackthorn shoots we could fit in the container!
Some people use red wine, other uses rose or even white wine. Some people add vanilla and even oranges. The sugar quantity vary, the ratio of wine to eau de vie varies… It’s really up to you to make your own concoction based on your preference. With time, you’ll find what is right for you!
I’ve seen recipes before for this troussepinnette and I’ve seen pictures of blackthorns. Yet, there was nothing like going in the fields across the streets from my parents home, with my dad, and gathering the shoots ourself.
Truly, I would have not found the blackthorn bushes if my dad had not been there. I would have not known how to prepare them, if he had not shown me.
Maybe our recipe isn’t the original recipe but it is our family recipe! And I now understand what it means for something like this to be passed down from generation to generation. I understand how important it is to nurture these moments when simple knowledge is taught and entrusted so it can survive. And I know that to every bottle we made, is attached the souvenir of the memorable moment we spent together. There is true beauty in it.