2013-05-04 16.20.33

How to make Duck Confit: Live from the Keeping Kitchen.

2013-05-04 16.20.33Confit Days are some of my favorites Winter days; pots and kettles, jars and terrines start to align like so many stars in a Winter constellation- the Fat Duck. This weekend is the first weekend in the Keeping Kitchen at Camont in 2015. We’re starting off with the basics: how to buy a duck and how to breakdown and butcher it into perfect confit-sized morsels– all of it!– not just the legs, friends. It’s the most often asked question (next to “how much salt?”)- can you confit more than just the legs? IMG_8190Winter cooking in France is about fattening the larder, pantry or  whatever else you call your stash of gastronomic fast foods. It’s the time to replenish the jars of duck rillettes, pork paté, and confit de canard. There’ll be little jars of gesiers or gizzards for summer salads, hearts stuffed with foie gras for aperitifs, and pots of grattons or duck cracklin’s spiced with my secret Gascon blend!  It’s also the prefect time to salt cure and dry some magrets de canard–those big meaty duck breasts– and hang in my new charcuterie closet under the kitchen stairs. The stone walls, now well insulated, a ventilation hole to the north side of the barn, and a two way fan, I can adjust the natural flow of cold air into the 8 cubic meter space- now holding at 16’C. Last year’s birthday ham has been ripening here and we’ll be tasting it along with some fresh duck products for lunch during the workshop.

IMG_7610If you have an desire to taste the flavor of Gascony and discover the perfume of the Southwest of France, then follow along this weekend as we transform the Gascon staple of the meaty fat duck into a panoply of easily made kitchen charcuterie. I’ll show you  how on Instagram, facebook, and twitter all day Saturday & Sunday. Follow along!


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Learning at Camont 2015



I have to admit I am as drawn to the new as much as the old; the latest smart TV has been a pleasant diversion these last few winter nights; my iPhone is a constant companion; I am looking forward to the learning to make ebooks and other self-publishing adventures. But the Old Ways still hold me in thrall.

I was delighted to find a reference to an old way of curing duck legs- true Jambon de Canard- in a cherished old French book by Marie-Claude Gracia-La Belle Gasconne. Dried, salt-cured Magret de Canard or duck breasts from fatted ducks has been popular with the charcuterie set for some time. I consider it the entry level red meat to learn about what salt, time, humidity and temperature does to meat. A quick overnight cure and 10-14 days drying is enough to convince even the most nervous Nelly that curing meat at home is not only doable, but delicious. It what we start with on the first week of our butchery & charcuterie programs here at Camont.


This long lost mention of Jambon or Ham from duck legs had me at the mention of “age-ing in ashes”. So I took the idea to task and started my 2015 charcuterie year with something new, something old. After boning out the thigh bone on these home-grown Muscovy duck legs (leaving the leg bon in the drumstick), I rubbed them generously in course salt and left them a couple days in the refrigerator to cure. The next day, I dried them off and rolled the boneless thigh into a tight roll and tied a handsome roll of knots all the way up to the end of the leg. A dusting of freshly ground pepper before wrapping in one layer of cheesecloth was all the spices this would need. The three legs went into a wooden wine box lined in brown paper and a thick layer of cold wood ashes from my beloved Jotul stove. I covered the legs with more ash and another loose layer of paper marked with the date.


This week when called upon by a dear client to come and cook a festive frosty Sunday Lunch at a friend’s house near Bordeaux, I tossed on of the legs into my charcuterie basket. The thin slices of dried duck were salty, peppery and just right to accompany a lovely rose champagne as an aperitif. At Camont I would have served a sweeter offering like Floc de Gascogne or a fruity Cote de Gascogne.


The rest of that meal was an homage to more Old Ways-

  • Cooking a perfect Magret-rare and juicy-and serving it with Vetou’s Triple Wine Sauce (red wine, red wine vinegar, and wine jelly). Vétou is working with me again and I love it!
  • A golden lobe of fresh foie gras was pan seared and served with a quickly made prune-infused vinegar glaze.
  • A winter tarte of apples and candied chestnuts with a GF cornmeal and chestnut flour butter pastry was served with a sip of afternoon armganac.



Learning at Camont is what we call our new program of day classes, month long courses, and weekend workshops in 2015. And just to add something else new to the beginning of this year, I will be offering an 2-day Kitchen Charcuterie workshop in Duck- confit, rillettes, and salt curing and a little foe gras on the side. Here is what we will be doing on Jan 24 & 25:

Kitchen Charcuterie: The Fat Duck- Cooking Traditions in the Southwest of France

 Two nights & Two days in Gascony making confit, rillette & paté.

Jan 24- Saturday Arrive by train at the Gare d’Agen mid-morning and we go straight to Camont new Keeping Kitchen. Today we’ll breakdown and butchery whole foie gras ducks, salt them overnight for making confit tomorrow. In the afternoon, we’ll make rillettes, paté, and prepare the foie gras au torchon et en terrine.  Lunch before the cozy fire in Camont’s traditional kitchen.

Jan 25- After a quick visit to Agen’s weekly market, we’ll return to Camont and start the traditional confit cooking, in a copper kettle and outside, while we process the rillettes and paté in glass jars for you to take home. After a lovely Sunday lunch we’ll ‘can’ the confit for you to take home in jars, processed and shelf stable. Return by early evening train from Agen.

Each two-day workshop is 475€ and includes lunches; each participant will have an whole duck (6-7 kg) including foie gras to work with and take home. You can choose to add additional ducks for an additional materials costs (approx 50€ each including jars).  Each duck produces 4 jars of confit, 2 jars of rillettes, and 2 jars of paté. we’ll also pack up and ship them to you if desired.

To book or for more information fill in this little form!

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2015 Programs at Camont

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Along with my new teaching kitchen, new version of this website is nearly finished, but I couldn’t wait any longer! Here are the dates for all programs- from an Introductory Kitchen Charcuterie to our 4 week long French Farmstead Butchery & Charcuterie for those wishing to start a business, discover whole hog farmstead charcuterie, or just understand the Old World traditions of seam butchery for charcuterie. There are also lots of Cooking-at-Camont days for those longing to learn how to make a true Cassoulet, master the easy all butter French pastry for tartes and tourtes, or just enjoy the gracious art de vivre at Camont’s terrace table. And to tempt the adventurous traveler, I am planning a couple Roadtrips as well: Mexico in March and Basquelandia in the April.

2015 Programs

  • February 16- 4 week French Farmstead Butchery & Charcuterie
  • March in Mexico- I’m hatching a plan- ask me!
  • April 8, 29- Cooking at Camont-The Spring Sessions!
  • April 12- One week Introduction to Kitchen Charcuterie
  • April 19- Basquelandia Roadtrip
  • May 11- Savory Spoon Special Week in Gascony
  • May 24- One week Introduction to Kitchen Charcuterie
  • June 3, 17- Cooking at Camont- Summer Sessions
  • June 21-  One week Introduction to Kitchen Charcuterie
  • July 1, 15 – Cooking at Camont- Summer Sessions
  • Aug 5- Cooking at Camont- Summer Sessions
  • Sept 7- 4 week French Farmstead Butchery & Charcuterie
  • Oct 5- One week Introduction to Kitchen Charcuterie
  • Oct 11-24 US Workshops
  • Nov 2- 4 week French Farmstead Butchery & Charcuterie

Need to know more? Just write me a note or leave a comment here. Now, about that new website…  Stay tuned!



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New Food Stories from Gascony

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That new broom. This new kitchen.

There is a fresh wind blowing cobwebs and old ideas out the windows at Camont. Left behind are brand new cream-colored walls and a few red stripes on aprons and torchons in a new teaching kitchen set up especially for butchery & charcuterie. There is also a new direction at Camont, on this site, and with these Food Stories from Gascony.  I hope you like them. Of all the stories I have told around the kitchen table these three decades at Camont, my favorites remain those of the food itself and the people who plant, grow, tend, husband and transform these delicious morsels in my corner of Southwest France- Gascony.

Where is Gascony?

Intimate and vast, mythic Gascony resides here in this southwestern corner of Southwest France cradled under the 600 kilometer long arm of the Garonne River. Gascon food, culture, and lore sprawls down to the foothills of the Pyrenees and kisses the edge of the Basque countries. Rounded hills and sloping fields planted with seed crops, orchards and fields are farmed in small cooperative fashion that conceals a fiercely independent nature evident in the historic Musketeers and current rugby playing heros. Capturing this large spirit of Gascony is a Herculean task as each detail unfolds a new story. I found myself capturing these details in small bites-as aperitifs, in multi-courses feasts, and with many sweet things. It’s this giddy bounty that marks my days here at Camont and the way I like to work. Food Stories From Gascony is my ‘Big Gascon Cookbook’ dished to you in small servings, one taste at a time. Like the way the French like to eat.

cassoulet soup

Garbure by Tim Clinch for Cassoulet: a French Obsession

A Collected Vision

Food Stories from Gascony began as a collaboration between me and photographer Tim Clinch. In the spirit of this creative collaboration, these stories continue with the arrival of  each visiting artist-cook, painter, writer, videographer, photographer-and each meal I cook with them at Camont.

Like me, Gascony is not hip and groovy, thin or young. Gascony is, however, full to the brim of lives celebrating the seasons, the loyalty of farms, and the ever-generous spirit that has marked my years here.  Gascony is the ice cold rosé of summer and the very deep vintage Armagnac of winter. This is my vision, and am going to share it with everybody. All parts of it.


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French Summers- the long perspective on Summer Food.

IMG_6405In my perfectly seasonal mind, Summer is 3 months long- beginning June 1 and ending on August 31. This means over the last 26 years living at Camont, I have had 2418 days of Summer… or nearly 7 years of long days, warm nights, sunshine and summer storms, garden tomatoes, and flip flops for shoes. It also means I have cooked dozens of tomato tartes, made kilos of fig barbecue sauce, and eaten enough fresh fruit from our trees- white and red peaches, summer pears, yellow cherries-to satisfy a sultan.  IMG_6303

Summer Food is the celebration of sharing an explosive bounty like a heavy basket of ripe tomatoes on  my kitchen counter or inviting too many people to a friend’s house for a special indoor Pique-Nique (the summer storm days). We move outdoors for lunch and dinner, dodging the Golfe de Gascogne squalls as laundry moves on and off the line like mad clockwork. Food taste differently outside, even when just a few steps from the kitchen. Wine and apéritifs flow like water, and the kitchen is busy as friends join students and we cook together.IMG_6380

Now “August descends like a nap…” and Camont slows down a notch to savor the last 30 days of early sunrises, late sunsets, leaves plucked from the garden for dinner salads-a mix of roquette, laitue, amaranth, basil, mustard and scallions flourish under soft rain waterings. When students come in Summer, we don’t make confit de canard, we eat it; we don’t eat plum jam, we make it; peaches become clafoutis and are immortalized forever summer at Camont; visiting friends bake cakes for friends as we share summer birthdays.  Bakers, bake, artists paint, and musicians play Summer.IMG_6410

Summer Food is what is growing right now, outside your door, along a country road, at a village market. The goat’s cheese from Marie de Moncrabeau begs for ripening figs wrapped in a slice of home-cured ham; tomatoes jump into a pot for tourain de tomates; and golden eggs scramble themselves into a pan of duck fat for a breakfast-supper.  This is not the time to fret over food, but create the meals you’ll dream about during the 2418 days of Winter. Some summer tomatoes in a jar opened in January will be a good reminder of why we live on the 45th parallel- four season living. For more Summer Food ideas click here.IMG_6310


Summer recipes? just click here for more information: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/basix-six-summer-recipes-from-gascony/

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Éphémère Courses in French Living: FMR-at-Camont


I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching lately. How we learn an idea or a skill. How we assimilate it into our everyday life.

As the summer garden blooms along the kitchen wall, I think about the lessons learned this spring. How even now, that season is just a memory and summer replaces spring thoughts with it’s full blown abundance. My friend Elizabeth Murray‘s new book- Living Life in Full Bloom is a good guide. She reminds me that “The grateful heart sits at a continuous feast.”

The Continuous Feast that is Camont is at the heart of my teaching.  I teach many things here at Camont: how to make a pastry tart; how to make a ham. How to bone out a pork shoulder and make paté. How to cook a meal from start to finish; how to confit a duck from start to finish. Those are things I can tell you how to do step-by-step, demonstrate, help you hands-on, and give you a taste of the final product. However there are other things that I teach that are a bit more…ephemeral.

Éphémère: in French, it is a wonderful scrabble word with lots of accented e’s, the name of those short-lived Mayflies that rise out of the canal once a year, and the very elegant French equivalent of the term ‘Pop-Up’.  I think that it is also a very special category of lessons I  give everyday here at Camont. Recent Butcher & Charcuterie student Diana Dinh nailed it in her ode to the Elderflower Cordial.

At that point of the trip, I had already cut most parts of the pig, slaughtered, gutted, and butchered ducks, and knew how to make five different kinds of paté. But I felt especially proud of making this floral syrup, proud enough to lug thick glass jars of it home to the States. They are proof that I could go beyond my assumptions of what I am capable of doing, that sometimes I need to get  out of my own head and just do it. “


Everyday is as fleeting as those transparent Mayflies. The spring seeds planted have sprouted and are producing the first summer meals. Vin de Noix time has come and gone …already. The lessons learned are often not what we were seeking out, but what was placed in our path to discover. In the kitchen, in the garden, at the market…that’s easy. The stimulus for learning is tangible, sensory and dynamic. However how do we achieve that online? I am thinking about it–on this ephemeral Sunday morning in the French countryside.



And a last Sweet Fleeting Summer memory of Paige on her Birthday at Camont- with the all-too-fleeting Chocolate Éphémère cake.

Merci Paige for all your good energy, willing help, chicken wrangling, garden digging, and wonderful family meals…at Camont.

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More Tips on How to Have a Great Vacation in the French countryside…

Before we jump into Tip # 11, refresh your last summer lessons- the Top Ten “How to have a Great Vacation in the French Countryside.”


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and then


Ready for Number Eleven? When the first hint that Summer has arrived, don’t looking back, switch gears instantly and embrace…

Tip #11   Turn Summer into a Verb

I summer, you summer, he and she summers.

We summer, you all summer, and they summer.

When I heard this some summers ago, I decided to embrace the idea from the first summery day of June to the last warm evening of September. Now, I summer all season long. And here are my favorite ways:


market tomatoesBuy Fruit and Vegetables in Flats as in “I’m going to summer these tomatoes!”

late summer food 044 webLet’s summer this Basque pepper sauce.

Summer PitchersWill you summer the garden a bit, s’il vous plait?

slider-GaronneLet’s summer down by the canal a bit.

slider-marketThey’ve summered up the market square!

slider-tartCome over and summer a little supper with us this evening.

It doesn’t take much to get in the mood and start flinging summery sayings around your conversations. How do you define summer as a verb? let me know here. The best definition get’s a free copy of my Six Summer Recipe e-Cookbook. Comment below. and don’t forget to summer a little this evening.




Chicken and Egg- nothing new under the sun…


This little book dropped into my lap yesterday. Actually, it was gently placed in my basket by my bargain hunting sister on a day’s outing with the Camont Crew to the Fête des Plantes in the village of Lamontjoie.  In it is the record of one small chicken/egg producer during the year 1903. Funny how nothing much has changed. I can read the puffed up pride of new chicken ownership, the prolific accomplishment of rabbit wrangling, the punctilious accounting of sacs of grain and bales of hay between the delicate dotted lines.


Starting with 1 coq, 14 poules, 5 cocquelets, 2 canards, et 56 lapins, this little almanac chronicles the basse-cour on one small French farm in the year when the Tour de France began.  How many feathered and furred critters raised, how many eggs laid and sold, and how much feed, seed, and hay bought over that year? Who administered this rural menagerie? I don’t know, but I am sure it was a tiny but formidable French housewife like my neighbor Madame Sabadini at the Ferme Bellevue.


Over the year, her hens and ducks laid 2186 eggs. The season’s bounty peaked in April at 404 eggs and  by August had started to drop by halves each month, with barely an egg or two a day in October and November.   I imagine the disappoint of November marked by a minuscule zero, day after day until in a last flurry of fecundity, the ducks started laying for an early hatching.  Five large white duck eggs in Mid-December. The meticulous accounting scratched in a fine-nibbed ink pen tells more than the seasonal flow of farming; more than balancing the centimes spent and earned for feed and shelter. Most months, she spent as much or more than she earned; some months, she made several francs and centimes more than spent. It was a delicate balance. No one was getting rich. But they ate well.


What’s old is new and barnyard chickens have their place in the modern home again- 110 years later. This ad in the back of this French booklet is touting an American feed product that included smoked (dried) meat as well as grain, oyster shells,salt, ginger and iron. Here at Camont, we feed our flock a mix of whole grains- wheat, barley, oats, flax and corn, all the garden and kitchen scraps, and all the slugs and bugs they can scratch and peck in the orchard and parc.


It’s an old story, but I raise a few chickens- 10, and a fewer ducks 6, at Camont not because it saves us money, but because we eat the best tasting eggs in town. When a clutch of eggs is hatched, a few more cockerels are destined for the pot, a few more girl chicks for next spring growing into fat laying hens, a few old working girls retired into a golden broth Poule-au-Pot. Last year’s Christmas ducklings have now become summer confit.

We ate this simple salad yesterday. There is no recipe. Look- just an abundance of good escarole lettuce, the first local market tomatoes, and a bowl of hard boiled eggs topped by a lemony mayonnaise made with those golden yolks. One hundred and ten years of barnyard  productivity on a plate. Reason enough to learn about raising birds.

More stories about eggs and chickens at Camont:

 On counting eggs-

Making the Catalan Spinach Egg Tortilla  

What to do with duck eggs

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Diptych: Basque Smoked Trout at 43°07’39”N 1°22’23”W



It starts here. The nursery at the Truite de Banka tucked along the little river, the Nive des Aldudes, that runs from the border mountains. It ends here, 2000 meters away, on our plate at the Basque Country restaurant at the Hotel Erreguina in Banka served with a glass of chilled white Irouleguy wine.  The red roe, the green lettuce and the white asparagus cross remind me of the Basque flag.

The salted & smoked 5 year old salmon-trout are yet another way to say “charcuterie”in Basquelandia.




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I Heart Strawberries Season!


I am eating strawberries for breakfast. They still have the flower attached to the stem. They taste of spring sunshine. And juicy with last week’s rain.


It begins here, down a dirt road along a dry field covered with small plastic tunnels- an Adventure in Red. Within minutes, ten cars are following me, turning around for a quick get away, parking and dashing into a modest brick block barn. I follow. Here are boxes and pallets of boxes overflowing with just picked strawberries from the straw strewn fields. There is an frisson of sweet anticipation as neighbor after neighbor makes their order, puts down their euros, and walks out with boxes and boxes of elongated bright Gariguettes and deep red round Clery. as the sign says- “…they were picked this morning.”


This farm sells only Monday, Wednesdays , and Fridays between 5-7 pm. Most years, I haven’t bothered to try to match my schedule to theirs. After all, there are literally hundreds of strawberry growers in this Garonne River Valley. Boy, was I ever wrong. I have never tasted strawberries like these…even from my own garden! From this heavy clay soil, spring the sweetest berries. We bought a flat for jam and several boxes to eat in the car.



The berries were whisked home and promptly separated from their little fairy caps by a team of cleaver wielding butchers.IMG_3414

Halved and sugared they rested overnight giving up the syrup in which they would poach and turn into a deep red, lemon-scented brew. IMG_3411

The next day, I put the kettle on high and boiled the syrup before ladling in small batches of berries to candy and glisten in the thickening syrup. there are a hundred ways to make jam- This is a classic two stage method by Confiture Queen Christine Ferber. Next batch I’ll use good friend Cathy Barrow’s excellent recipe from the sneak preview copy of her new Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry book.

And to help celebrate the Strawberry Love? Try this Sabayon recipe featured on an earlier post-http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2007/09/07/my-french-kitchen-shelf-sabayon/  and fill your glass full of sweet berries! IMG_3601In honor of Francesca’s First Ever Fête des Fraises today- here’s a painterly tribute to the sweetheart fruit by Francesca’s own Franny Golden. Our strawberries from the little farm at Roquefort 47310, France.

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