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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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.”


wednesday wpodchef 016

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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A week in review in the Butchery at Baradieu

Pigs & Newbies

It doesn’t take much to make a pig smile.  And what does it take to make four young cooks, butchers, and foodistas smile?  Our Spring 4 week Butchery & Charcuterie program begins here with the pigs. Here are six more happy things from the first week in Gascony.


 1. White rubber boots and a hooded Butcher’s coat.


2. Team Work by the Grrls Meat Camp Scholarship students Larissa & Ali.


3. Watching Dominique sheet out the ribs on an XL Baradieu pig.


4. Larissa jumping into the Boudin Noir production.


5. The steamy kitchen.


6. The tools of the trade for making headcheese, paté, fricandaux, boudin noir, and other French Farmstead Charcuterie at Baradieu.

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HAM FAIR- la Foire au Jambon in Bayonne

au Fête a Bayonne

It starts with a parade. Drums, whistles and stomping feet. The Easter Weekend in Bayonne has feted the Foire au Jambon- or Ham Fair for 552 years. Since the 1400’s farmers have brought their wares to the riverside quays of this Port city to share the wealth of the forests and pastures of the Atlantic Pyrenees farms. This was a big deal in the day. And it is a bigger deal now.

French Fast Food

From the important competition for the best Farm Produced Ham (see winner below) to the walking and browsing, eating and drinking- the Holiday weekend draws people to the Basque lands from all over France. Good friend Cathy Barrow arrived to report on the fair for National Public Radio ( http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/04/18/304537880/like-ham-theres-a-festival-for-that-in-france), and we headed south through the mountain pig farms of Les Aldudes, past the smoked Truita de Banka, and on to the Coast for a few days of Gascon R&D- Research & Devour. Little did she know she would become a media star in her own right!

Mrs. Wheelbarrow on FR3 TV

From the beautiful displays of French Farmstead Charcuterie like the one from Arruabarrena below …

the Ark of Charcuterieto the Basque Porc  or Kinto brand hams raised in Les Aldudes by Pierre Oteiza and company, Local artisan producers- over 30 producers filled a salt-scented tent selling and sharing their wares. 


Reporting from Basquelandia… Au Marché. St. Jean de Luz France



At Les Halles- the brick and iron work market in St. Jean de Luz, the French coast, the Basque Countries.  Here, the light is aching clear as the sound of fishing boats rocking in their harbor cradles, small waves sanding the beach, and the clatter of knives and forks from a slew of small restaurants act as soundtrack.IMG_2294

Sweet almond pastry and black cherries Bateaux Gasque float in pastry creme. I am still looking for ‘the best’.IMG_2374

Easter Spring lamb from gigot to kidneys vie with line caught St. Pierre for the Sunday menu.IMG_2373


A petit blanc and a  jambon beurre sandwich breaks the fast at la Buvette de la Halle. Spring Color pops. IMG_2372This 5 minute walking tour of the market at St. Jean de Luz in Basquelandia is brought to you by Salt Circle Roadtrips. More information for September’s dates here: CLICK


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25 Springs… making myself at home.

IMG_1700I was born under a wandering star… at least that was what the astrologer told my Mom when I was 13. Quadruple Sagittarius with all sorts of trouble rising. What she didn’t say was that as much as I loved traveling, I would dig and dig and dig until I made a strong foundation before I built my home.  So after digging deep around these parts-what I often called my Long Village-for 25 years, I finally have made a home. 


I Heart Australia: Finding France Down Under


I found myself saying this over and over during the last two weeks-I heart Australia. And this is why.

Over the last two weeks,  Christiane and Dominique Chapolard and I traveled the Victorian Countryside visiting farms, towns and markets. We came to meet some former students, make some new friends, and learn a little about life with pigs down under.  The French Pig Workshops, farm chats and special lunches and dinners were shared with over 50 people-farmers, butchers, charcutiers and chefs. That would have been reward enough with new found energy for the sort of Seed-to-Sausage gospel we preach. But best of all was traveling the two lane roads lined with ghostly reaching eucalyptus trees from farm to homestead to charming gold rush villages and meeting people on their home turf-that vast sky over an end of summer golden, gum-forested landscape called Australia.


Jonai Farms- Eganston VictoriaIMG_0771

Meet Mr. & Mrs Jonas of Jonai Farms. Jonai Farms spills down a slope of open fields edged in eucalyptus trees with a view of the paddocks and pastured farmland from the Moonrise Porch. Tammi and Stuart Jonas and their three bright and welcoming kids shared their home, their table and along with their their Large Black pigs hosted our first ever French Pig workshop in Australia. They generously offered their farm and life over a long weekend that stretched to just one more ample biscuits-and-gravy breakfast before we left. 

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