I was recently reading a post by one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz. He posted a lovely recipe for cherry leaf wine, a drink often served as an aperitif during the summer months in France. While I typically prefer letting a quality glass of wine stand on its own, the idea intrigued me. Mulled wines often marks the start of the holiday season, so why not create an equally festive wine to enjoy during the months of summer?
The idea of infusing the flavor of the fruit leaf into the wine sounded lovely. While I do love cherries, there is sadly no cherry tree near me that I can pilfer of its leaves. What I do have at my disposal is a fig tree. I know fig leaves are often used to wrap fish and poultry when cooking. They impart a lovely fragrance, and flavor. I decided to do some research to see if fig leaves are ever used to infuse wines. I didn’t find any recipes, or articles, about figs leaves being used in wines. But I did discover that fig leaves (aside from great flavor), have numerous health benefits. In fact, they are often used to make medicinal teas, as they help to control insulin levels, and lower triglyceride levels. With the added health benefits, I decided it was the perfect leaf to try out in my summer aperitif!
Now in Greece, property lines and rightful ownership can be a bit hazy. If your fig tree has branches, heavy with fruit, and those branches are hanging over the sidewalk, you can be certain that the neighbors will head on over with their sakoules (bags) and help themselves to the fruit they can access from the road. Lucky for me, I don’t have to bother the neighbors, as we happen to have an empty lot next to us, that is to say, it’s empty in the sense that there is no house, just some lovely fig trees. If you don’t have access to a fig tree, or aren’t feeling bold enough to snag some leaves from your neighbors tree, try finding some fig leaves at your local farmers’ market. The important thing is to make sure that the leaves have not been sprayed.
Once you’ve gathered the leaves, take them home, rinse them thoroughly and tear them into pieces. You will need about 15 leaves.
Stuff the torn leaves into a pitcher with a nice fruity bottle of Rose, add about a dozen fresh cherries, some sugar, and some cracked black peppercorns. Stir the mixture and refrigerate for 24-48 hours (depending upon how strong you want the flavor of the fig leaves). This mixture not only makes a wonderful aperitif, but it also makes a fantastic marinade for a lovely fruit salad. Here is my recipe.
Fig Leaf Wine
15 fig leaves, washed and torn into pieces
1 bottle (750ml) Rose (I used Monemvasia Winery Fileri Rose, but any fruity rose will do nicely)
3/4 cup (200ml) purified water
1/3 cup (60 grams) sugar
12 black pepper corns
12 cherries, washed with the bottoms scored
In a large pitcher, stir together the first 5 ingredients. Wash the cherries. Using a small knife cut an x into the bottom of each cherry. Add the cherries to the mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Taste the mixture the next day. If the fig leaf flavor is strong enough, strain the wine and discard the leaves and peppercorns. You can save the cherries. If you want the flavor stronger, allow the mixture to marinate for an additional day. Serve over ice.
To make a fruit salad, simply add a mixture of summer fruits (I used apricots, peaches, raspberries, cherries, and figs) to a large bowl. Thirty minutes before serving, pour in the fig leaf wine. Serve the wine and fruit mixture in bowls.