RAINY MARKET NERAC

Rainy Market at Nerac

RAINY MARKET NERACBuy that brightly colored umbrella, please, so that I might share in the dancing parade of rainy day markets. Stop and gossip under the drips that water the fields and orchards along the hillsides of Nerac. Roll those carts over my toes and let me celebrate your heavy bounty of good local food.

 

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Looking at France …from afar and from within.

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This timeless scene- the Basque charcutier Pierre Oteiza and a table of French fans.

I had thought I would write a post about my  trip to the Salon d’Agriculture in Paris last week. You could call it the largest Producer’s market in France. Then I read David’s great photographic account on his blog here; I bow to his alacrity and fabulous pictures!  But before you take a stroll through the Pavillion #7 with David, Susan and I (and we only made it through one part of the amazing farm show!) think about this. This is what I see from within France. 

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Let’s talk about charcuterie and how to learn to make it

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I am looking at four students at the end of four weeks and one happy French farmer/butcher/teacher. These are the faces of accomplishment and I am proud that we help get them there. Can you picture yourself here? Working with year-old XL pigs (400 lb.), only salt and black pepper as seasoning, and the simple low-tech solutions to curing.

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In 2014, we have just two four-week programs scheduled: one in May, one in November. If you are thinking of creating a charcuterie business, incorporating direct sales, farmer’s markets, and added value products from your farm, or want to authenticate and improve your charcuterie skills with some classic French savor-faire, then think about joining us. This year we will be working in the new BarnKitchen at Camont- a 600 sq ft workshop teaching space including a built in charcuterie curing cabinet, outside smoker, canning station, and 8 burn professional range. There is limited space available; just 6 students at a time. Only 12 students per year.

eric showing lepoa

This year we will adding a week of advanced studies in the Basque Country in making salt-cured, air-dryer ham and working with heritage breed pork- Kintoa and Black Gascon pigs.  This study is on site on a farm in the Pyrenees and in the abattoir and workshops of the Jambon de Bayonne producers.

aldudes pig walk

There are also a couple of one week introduction programs- a sort of “how to” basic that covers pork, duck and other farm poultry as well if you just want a taste of and overview of how we turn animals to meat to preserved food. For more information and how to sign up for our Butchery & Charcuterie programs just click here: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/programs/charcuterie/

 

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Christmas Cookies revisited- I heart chickpeas, chocolate & duckfat

Christmas Cookie Shopping list:

  • Chickpeas
  • Duckfat
  • Black Chocolate
  • Armagnac

This week a local newspaper reporter asked me what was a typical American Christmas Dinner tradition.  From this corner of my French kitchen, I stumbled over the usual suspects: roast turkey- the French do that, too;  ravioli- my Italian family’s contribution; there’s always eggnog- try explaining that to a Frenchmen! In my stuttering Anglicized Phone French, I finally found the one safe and very American idea-  Christmas Cookies. So relieved to find this safe haven from political discussions, I volunteered to send a recipe or two.

Full disclosure: I am not a cookie baking sort of cook. I love cookies, of course, and can eat my weight in uncooked dough, but if I’m going to make something homemade, I want it to have my own personal stamp. Perhaps not so typical, but all mine.  So, I looked to my 2011 Christmas post about Italian Chickpea and Chocolate cookies, and reached back to a duckfat shortbread recipe. I thought I’d throw in a few gingery gingerbread pigs as well just for fun. Recipe to follow!

I am on my own at Camont this Christmas (waving at my Boston family from here!!!), but I am making batches and batches of cookies to take to my farmers market friends tomorrow. They are my French family. After all, they work hard all year for me and what are a few cookies and a Gascon hot toddy going to taste like on a cold December morning ?

From my Kitchen-at-Camont to yours- have a wonderful holiday season and share some of your favorite cookies with someone you love.  Thank your farmer with sweetness and armagnac.

I Heart French Farmers!

 And I Heart all you Faithful Readers, too!

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Spring Market inspiration. Open your eyes!

Why go to the market?

I mean the local farmer’s market, of course.

Fresh, simple, direct- a bargain.

Inspiring, colorful, nurturing- satisfaction.

Diverse, diverting, fun- amused.

All those words pop into my head when I think of the many very good markets I can throw a Gascon stone at from Camont. But versatility is reason I stay faithful to one of my first loves in this area, the little true producer’s market nestled under the unattractive eaves of the Chat d’Oc strip mall on the Avenue des Landes. Not only can I buy just picked old-timey vegetables out of neighboring market gardens, get a great baguette  at l’Envie de Pain (thanks Pierre & Valerie!), take my weekly beekeeping lesson from Narcisse, pick up some house paint or maybe get a blood test at the Laboratoire and get Bacon groomed, I can also wash my car at the best carwash in town! It’s a full service strip mall French style… with wine.

What the Chat d’Oc lacks in French country charm it makes up in seriously good content. Here’s a sample of what I picked up yesterday before our MAGYC Day Cooking Class with Michelle & Rochelle where we started with a little fresh herb soup we drank as a hot cocktail.

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May Day ~ Mayday ~ M’aider: in a pickle

May Day. All is quiet this early morning but the vast aviary outside my kitchen door. In France, this first seasonal holiday, Labor Day, is the promise of Summer to be. Although it still smacks of worker’s right and labor issues, waving red flags or lily of the valley, it is just a very quiet day in the Gascon countryside.

Mayday- Mud! The famous Garonne River Fog is late this year; it has rained, rained, rained these last two weeks. So much rain now that with the soggy bottom clay silt soil holding moisture like a sponge, the promise of a clear sunny sky later makes morning fog. My own little micro-climate at Camont alongside canal & river is good for the garden…if I could only get to it though the muck.

This week’s market also shouted “Mayday” with a rouge abundance of rhubarb, strawberries, peppers and early tomatoes. Instead of pique-niques, boat rides, country walks, and gardening, I’m sticking close to my Keeping Kitchen and brewing up some seasonal treats- micro batches, single jars, starter vats. Here’s the list from the market booty…

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My Keeping Kitchen! A is for Asparagus

I’ve always loved the term “a keeping kitchen.

Keeping Kitchen…

  • a place for making food to keep for the winter.
  • an edible way of keeping traditions alive.
  • a gathering then sharing of abundant harvest.

Over the years, I’ve referred to my French pantry, the way of keeping it stocked, and the very kitchen at Camont as the “Keeping Kitchen”. Within these stone walls at Camont, I have been keeping the traditions of Gascon cooking alive as well as adding to it with my own fresh take on authentic recipes- folding in a new good idea here, leaving out an old bad habit there but always keeping true to the spirit if not the actual letter of the laws of the kitchen.

Good friend and co-conspirator in Italy, Judy Witts- the DivinaCucina diva and I hatched the idea of another combined blog effort like the Going Whole Hog blog project we did a couple years ago. We wanted more than a way to keep tabs on each other’s gardens, kitchens, and lives in Tuscany and Gascony. We want to share our euro-view of what surrounds us as not-quite natives/not-quite-expats. Trends come strong and fast up the internet pipeline but from here they can actually be old world news.  We decided to share our everyday cooking habits for stocking the Euro-Larder otherwise known here as the Keeping Kitchen.

I drew a little drawing. Judy added some home drawn font. We both posted it on our sites and away we go! What do we do first? While Judy finds artichokes first in Italy and in abundance, my farmers markets in Gascony are pushing asparagus, the bigger, fatter and whiter… the better. Very local, very expensive. So how do we keep them in Gascony? This is the old way…

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Inspiration rolls into town- Les Fromages de Marie

Where does it begin?

“It” being the Frenchness of  the good food made here in Gascony.

“It” being the idea for recipe.

“It’ is an homage to a certain way of life. My life.

For me, it begins and ends 100% with a list of names that sketch across the Gascon landscape like 18th Century signatures.

Jehanne = foie gras, rillettes, vin de peche.

Narcisse = amber bramble honey

Pierre = dense and crusty baguettes

Chapolard = charcuterie- deep and porky

And most newly arrived at the Saturday Market at Nerac…

Marie de Chèvre = Creamy goaty goodness, clean sweet hay milk transformed into  a plateau of delicious chèvre.  And what did I do with the 4 creamy fresh faiselles I scored?  Here’s my recipe for les petit gateaux de Marie.

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spring treasures- wild leeks & aillets

Spring arrives early in Gascony.

I remember that first February along the canal, watching two flaneurs along the canal, walking and stopping, bending and tugging, standing and walking. What were they doing? I watched from the voyeuristic comfort of the Barge until I could stand it no longer. Crossing the canal over a little stone bridge, I went to meet les messieurs.  “Excuse me, but what are you looking for? have you lost something?”

They smiled at me and my naivety then reaching into a vest pocket pulled out a handful of pencil thin, green and white stalks- Poireaux de Vignes.

These wild leeks not only grow among the vines and along the canal but in my garden, too. These came from the Saturday Market in Nerac along with a small bunch of the first aillets or garlic shoots.

Georgia braised them with some endive and we ate them with this fat magret, grilled very rare over the coals under the watchful eye of Cheminée Angel.

Magret Angel

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Day two… this Gascony, this terroir.

Driving to the Chateau St. Loup en Albret this morning was like flying between cloud and earth- rows of golden vines turning in sunshine alternated with blankets of fog concealing house and farm. Montagnac’s church spire floated above the mist.

First stop after gathering Melissa, Robert, Tag, Porter and Nick was the morning market at Lavardac- a good beginner’s guide to local good food.

What we bought and then cooked and ate this day:

  • pâté de grand-mere-  a black pepper-studded liver pâté from Patricia
  • 2 magrets de Canard. 1 1/2 pintade
  • pâté de langue- pork tongues en gelée
  • 3 cheese from Bruno-a Pyrennes sheep cheese, a creamy goat cheese from the Perigord, a slice of perfectly ripe Brie de Meaux
  • from the Chapolard’s charcuterie stall- saucisse de toulouse, boudin noir, an aire-cured noix de jambon, saucisse sèche
  • black radishes, mustard greens, radicchio, spinach and sunchokes form Francoise’s organic garden
  • mushrooms-  cèpe and girolles from Paul
  • bread
  • wine, armagnac and little shot glasses with a pruneaux drowning in Armagnac in each one

We ate lunch, a picnic near the river at Vianne before driving to Camont.

Camont in sunshine on a November day- the kitchen warming to the fragrance of a richly perfumed Gateau Basque,  a pintade braising in a short wine broth enriched with pruneaux, la cruchade cooked and steamed, and several bottles of Domaine la Galine.

Dinner was the rich and savoury terroir of Gascony on a plate.  Fotos to follow.

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