30 April 2007

Homestyle Val Chisone Genepy or Genepi

About this time of year we noticed that our supply of our local home brew of Genepy liqueur was running low. We still have lots of guests coming this summer that we enjoy introducing to our home style mountain remedy that cures everything that ails you and then some. For the, uninitiated, Genepy is a member of the Artemisia (Artemisia Mutellin) family, and not to be confused with its mystical cousin, Absinthe. Genepy, also spelled genepi, generally only grows above 2,000 meters here in the European Alps and usually on steep rocky slopes. There is much myth, legend, pride, and swagger surrounding the difficulty of the terrain, the procurement of the flowers, the quality of finished product and naturally, "the best" method of making Genepy. It can get fairly long winded and animated at times!
There are many commercial producers through out this part of the alps in France and Switzerland as well, of course, here in our part of Italy.
When our guests want to take some home, we refer them to our friends the Bernards, whose family has been locally producing their genepi recipes and several other mountain infusions, most notably Barathier (www.Barathier.it), for over 100 years and whom we think, make a superior product. Barathier has many different herbs and mountain flowers that gives it it's distinct flavor. The Bernard family business helps fuel the local mountain economy by hiring local mountain folks, to gather the plants in an environmentally safe way and steward the habitat to ensure proper conservation of where genepy grows.
We went high up in the valley last summer (Stalking the Wild Genepy), with my father in law guiding and tromped around looking for the elusive plant with good results. We made one batch and then decided to wait to make another this, that and the other. Hence, we put some of the precious plants to languish in the depths of our freezer until called into service. That day has come and the precious lump of flowers are now languishing in a bath of alcohol for a few days to give up their characteristic aroma and green color. It's times like these when I start wondering about the origins of these types of things, much like the origins of food and complicated techniques to get some amazing results at times. So now we wait for a few days before we finish the product to taste. Then we will have a favorite mountain after dinner "digestivo" that allegedly helps with altitude sickness, amongst it's many fabled medicinal properties. We like to sip it sometimes after dinner with a spot of hot water not unlike a hot toddy for a night cap. There are quite a number of variations on the herbs, flowers and alcohol infusions, the sit, strain, and add sugar syrup to taste bits, just like any recipe. So when we get to the part where we prepare the final product, I will share a recipe and techniques for this particular mountain treat.
And of course,when needed, apply liberally.

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