Ratafia is “A liqueur made by steeping nuts, kernels, fruits, or herbs in any sweetened spirit; (b) a sweet aperitif traditional in several regions of France, made by adding brandy to unfermented grape juice and ageing it in a barrel; sometimes flavoured with herbs and other fruits. Almonds and the kernels of cherries, apricots, and peaches are the ingredients most commonly used to flavour ratafia.”
I have found a nice recipe, so we can make our own – and just in time for Christmas too, if we start straight away – if we can afford the cherries, can source the proof spirit, and have some huge flagons – or can do the math to reduce it to a manageable quantity.
Ratafia of Cherries.
Morello cherries eight pounds, black cherries eight pounds, raspberries and red or white currants, of each two pounds, coriander seeds three ounces, cinnamon half an ounce, mace half an ounce, proof spirit one gallon; press out the juice from the fruit, take one half of the stones of the cherries and pound them with the spices, and add two pounds and a half of sugar, steep for a month and filter.
The complete confectioner, pastry-cook, and baker, (Philadelphia, 1844) Eleanor Parkinson.
If you don’t like nutty, herby ratafias, the following one might suit, and it is certainly much less complicated.
Lemon Peel, Ratafia of.
Grate the yellow rind only of seven or eight lemons; infuse it in three quarts of the best brandy for three weeks, at the end which time, add three quarters of a pound of clarified sugar to each quart, let it stand a fortnight longer, then filter and bottle it.
The Cook’s Dictionary and Housekeepers Directory, by Richard Dolby, 1830.
Ratafia Biscuits are another treat that would make a good Christmas gift. Ratafia biscuits are flavoured with almonds, and are made to eat with ratafia or other liqueurs, and to use as the base for trifle.
Blanch two ounces of bitter almonds in cold water, and beat them extremely fine with orange-flower water and rose-water. Put in by degrees the whites of five eggs, first beaten to a light froth. Beat it extremely well; then mix it up with fine sifted sugar to a light paste, and lay the biscuits on tin plates with wafer paper. Make the paste so light you may take it up with a spoon. Lay it in cakes, and bake them in a rather brisk oven. If you make them with sweet almonds only, they are almond puffs or cakes.
The Lady’s Own Cookery Book, and new dinner-table directory, by Lady Charlotte Campbell Bury (1844)
If you should find yourself with a surplus of ratafia biscuits and macaroons, then you could make this variation on a trifle theme.
Break two dozen macaroons into small pieces, and the same number of small ratafia biscuits, pour over them a hot custard, and stir well until the whole is thoroughly mixed; turn it into a trifle dish, and pour over it the whites of two eggs well whisked for an hour with red currant jelly; grate nutmeg over the top, and serve.
Macaroons, 24; ratafia biscuits, 24; custard, sufficient; eggs, 2 whites, with redcurrant jelly.
The Dictionary of Daily Wants (1861), by Robert Kemp Philp.
Quotation for the Day.
A half-dozen glasses of ratafia made him forget all his woes and his losses.
William Thackeray, in Henry Esmond III (1852).