flour+lard+sugar+eggs=biscotti

1503455_10151885175827404_11836510_n

If you haven’t figured it out glancing at these pages, I love the old ways. The simple, straight forward, traditional ways of cooking. Yes, I have a portable computer, iPhone, Mini-iPad, etc… but what anchors me to my 18th century kitchen is a wonderful full proof recipe pulled from the back corners of my brain- like my Grandmother’s Italian biscotti recipe.  The last time I saw my grandmother make these, she was proabaly my age. I was a curious kid and paid attention.

40 years on, I just baked these for our neighbors and friends. I wrote this down today for my nephews and nieces, great nephews and nieces…and anyone else who like a tender crisp biscotti. Maybe they will be making them in 40 years. Warning, these are not Vegan proof. The lard is essential! I remember it was what Julia DiPietrantonio would pull first from a box of groceries- the lard. I don’t really think I knew what it was. But the biscotti are delicious- not too sweet and toasty.

The basics of this and many of these traditional recipes are the same: for every egg, add 1 tablespoon sugar + 1 tablespoon lard + 1 cup flour ++. This is what I did.

Julia DiPietrantonio/Kate Hill’s Biscotti with lard.

  • 12 fresh eggs
  • 1 lb or 500 gr lard (or half butter/half lard)
  • 1 lb or 500 gr sugar
  • 2.5 lbs or 1 kilo flour (I added another + 200 gr)
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • rum and anise flavoring plus anise seeds
  • Julia would use walnuts & maraschino cherries; I used almonds and dried cranberries
  1. Beat the lard with the sugar until well mixed
  2. Then add the eggs. mix well.
  3. Add the flour and baking powder to the wet mixture and mix well.
  4. Add flavorings.
  5. Knead lightly on a floured board and fold in the ferries and nuts if using.
  6. Divide into 8 pieces and form into  8 flat loaves- about a finger wide and a foot long. (10 cm x 30 cm).
  7. Place on baking trays on parchment paper and bake at 190’C or 375’F for 25-30 minutes until just done and light brown.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, then slice each loaf into 1/2 in or 2 cm thick slices.
  9. Return to the oven and toast for 10+ minutes. remove and let cool.
  10. Now share with your friends and neighbors over a glass of vin santo, wine or… armagnac.

Happy Holidays! Kate

3 Comments

What Goldilocks would have cooked… for 1, 2, 3.

2012-12-25 14.45.00

I belong to the Goldilocks school of cooking. It started when I got to be a tree in the second grade school play while someone with a paper bag with wood shavings glued on it for a wig got to be the naughty star. I’ve been looking for Goldilock’s secret sex appeal ever since. I think I finally get it now in the kitchen.

This year after a busy season of teaching 23 & 32 years olds to chop, salt and dry, I found myself in my little French kitchen alone. That cassoulet is too big to make this weekend. That modest little piece of cheese and ham is too sad tonight. Oh, but that bowl of hot hammy soup (ok, garbure.) is just right! I call it the Goldilock School of Cooking. 

The Three Laws of Goldilocks Cooking.

Too Big. First boredom with the too-many-times leftovers sets in followed by shameful waste.

Too Small! I feel mean-spirited in my kitchen and later deprived.

Just right… produces satisfied feeling of nailing the portions, having enough for one ‘pre-cooked’ meal the next day and feeling slightly smug with my savor-faire!

2013-05-19 16.09.28

Scaling down the kitchen to 2 people after three seasons of teaching cooking madness is… hard. Everyone knows that I am a ‘more is more’ sort of person. So when the students retreat to their own lives- salty charcuterie nuggets dancing in their heads- I always need a couple weeks of readjusting to winter days and dinner for two. Just two. Here are three well-honed tips on what I do:

  1. Pans. Figure out which size pan works for how many people. My favorite ‘small batch’ pan is a vintage (means I found it at a flea market for 2 euros) acid green, 4-liter Le Creuset casserole with lid.  All that sizing didn’t mean anything to me until I learned that 1 liter=1 kilo. So now when making jam I use 2 kilos of fruit plus sugar etc. it’s the right size for not boiling over. For soup, I add a layer of vegetables to the bottom, cover with 2 liters of water- eh voila enough soup for 2-4 people. Just enough.
  2. Shopping… is hard. Shopping at the market is my social life, my contribution to the local community of producers I support, and my weekly inspiration. It’s hard to shop for fresh when there are still leftovers in the refrigerator.  take a week off from shopping, use EVERYTHING in the fridge. Then shop with an eye like a 90 lb. French grand-mère. Buy a half chicken, a handful of endive, 4 carrots.  count your vegetables, just buy what you need. Think about what you are going to cook as you put the extra fun stuff in your basket.
  3. Cook with a light hand. Forget the big roasting pans, make a tight little braised dish of meat and vegetables. Using a small skillet or sauté pan (the 8 inch size) and use just enough food (your choice here- meat fish, veg…) to cover the bottom, then toss, cover, and steam until done. Serve on top of a salad. One perfect cheese and a some home grown honey is dessert. Dinner for one in ten minutes! Pour yourself a glass of wine. One glass.

2013-05-25 12.39.03

It might not seem the right time of year to talk about scaling down, but this just means you can do the Papa Bear portions for your big friends and family dinners and keep the kitchen in control the rest of the time.  I love me a little Holiday Fairytale… now where’s that blonde wig?

One Comment

Garbure: a recipe with ham

IMG_7601

Garbure is neither soup nor stew. It is a celebration of hot broth, salted pork and winter vegetables: turnips, carrots, leeks, potatoes, and a curly green Savoy cabbage. More vegetable than meat, this warming soup either gets a leg of duck confit stirred in at the end to enrich the broth or as below where I donate a heel of ham, a last slab of ham cut into chunks, or a handful of trimmed rind. Garbure is perfect to transform a handful of odds and ends into a starting soup for lunch or dinner or a main course. Serve garbure in a wide soup plate over a slice of rustic bread that has been rubbed generously with raw garlic. It will transport you straight to your grandmother’s kitchen… that is if your grandmother lives in Southwest France.

Serves: 6 people

Time: 30 minutes to chop and prepare; 1.5 hours to cook. Total about 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • Ham- 200-400gr /7- 14 ounces cut into large chunks about 3cm/1 in. wide.
  • Leeks- 2 cut in knuckle sized pieces
  • Carrots-2 peeled and cut into big chunks
  • Onions- 2 large chopped coarsely
  • Turnips-2 peeled and chopped
  • Garlic- 4 cloves peeled and chopped up
  • White beans-100gr/ 4 ounces dried beans, soaked overnight or 200gr/8 ounces fresh or pre-cooked beans
  • Potatoes- 4 large, peeled and cubed
  • Savoy cabbage- 1 whole cabbage, cored, halved, and cut into strips
  • Bouquet garni- the usual suspects: bay laurel, lovage, parsley stems, thyme
  • Sea Salt and whole peppercorns
  • Bread- pain de campagne or other rustic loaf; one thick slice per serving
  • Optional * duck confit

Instructions:

  1. Place the ham, leeks, carrots, onions, turnips, garlic, beans, potatoes and cabbage in a soup pot and cover with 2 liters/2 quarts of fresh water. Add the bouquet garni and a tablespoonful of salt and a dozen peppercorns.
  2. Cover, cook over a high heat, and bring to a boil. Once it has come to a boil, reduce the heat to slow setting and let simmer for about 1.5 hours.
  3. The longer this cooks, the sweeter and more melting the vegetable become. The next day it’s always better.
  4. Toast the bread and then rub them with raw garlic. Place in a wide soup bowl. Ladle the soup over the bread. Or you can place all the bread in a large wide oven-proof bowl, ladle the soup and vegetables over it, and sprinkle a hard grating cheese. Place in a hot oven until brown.

* adding a leg of confit de canard and a little of the duck fat and continue cooking raises the stakes to making this a main dish soup. Cured pork belly or ventrêche is another alternative. 

2 Comments

Back at the Taxidermy Café… on real cooking and how to find it in France.

IMG_7623

Now that I have your attention… let me tell you about just one of the good meals that Elaine and I encountered on the last ‘This Little Piggy’ research road trip to Basquelandia. We ate homemade garbure at every meal, drank tart basque cider and local Irouleguy wine, and best of all, sat in cozy unpretentious restaurants whose only aim is to feed their customers good honest food—everyday. This menu documents one such very good meal of many at what I call ‘The Taxidermy Cafe’.

IMG_7628

I did what I often do, followed my nose along a small road. Away from the pilgrim tourist traps of St. Jean Pied de Port, we headed out of town. “There, near the vineyards. We’ll find a place where the winery workers eat.” We passed Maison Brana- the leading vignoble in the Irouleguy AOC and I knew we had taken the right road. When have you not eaten well where the wines are made? Past memories of lunches in the Medoc, St. Emilion, Cote de Gascogne, Armagnac sprung to mind and propelled me to this table. This was twenty-plus years of training showing off.

A wall of lace curtains framed in wood panels and a massive double door indicated the entrance. When we walked in, three things hit me at once: the smell of soup singing in the background, a dozen male heads turning to see who was walking in, and a stuffed zoo of game animals watching crowding an old piano. Welcome to The Taxidermy Cafe… with Ham.

What we had for lunch:

IMG_7601

 Garbure

In my France, the Southwest, all good meals start with soup. Vétou Pompèle told me years ago, “On souper beaucoup ici.”  As we turned toward the steep slopes, a cluster of white-washed, red-shuttered buildings huddled together, a Basque village at the foot of the wine growing slopes- Ispoure. The houses draped like freshly laundered linen down one main street and there, in the middle of the grouping, was a public house- the bar, cafe, restaurant. A restaurant that would surely serve not just soup first, but garbure- the classic cabbage, potato or bean, ham or confit soup.

IMG_7603

Omelette Basquaise

IMG_7608

with Ham Bits

Since this was a ham fact finding mission trip for Elaine’s This Little Piggy project (please go look at her project site for more information here) and since I am focusing on ‘ham-in-cooking’ recipes, I was delighted to find that after the great garbure, homemade and silky with long-cooked cabbage and ham bits, the second course was a perfectly cooked omelette- a la Basquaise.  In the diners and coffee shops of California, this would be called a western omelet- onions and enough salty ham to offset sweet green peppers.

IMG_7612

 Lomo & Lentilles

 When we walked in, I was so dumbstruck by the gallery of glass eyes staring at us from that piano that I didn’t even hear what was the plat du jour. I didn’t need to. Elaine and I eat anything; that is why we are friends. And I am happy for a home cooked meal anytime and it was already one o’clock- dangerously late to be looking for lunch in rural France. So I was delighted when this platter of lentilles et lomo (pork loin) appeared. The lentils were cooked like the omelet- perfectly, dressed with a bit of vinegar, and studded with sweet carrots. The loin slices were porky and tasty. It’s hard to resist this sort of dish served in a platter with enough for a second helping. Groaning when Madame returned to ask “Dessert?”, gourmandise fever took over and although we had eaten well and copiously, when the choice was offered simple as “Flan“, we said “Oui.”

IMG_7629

#Flan

The simple four letter word FLAN can conceal either a nightmare of culinary distress or the prefect marriage of egg and milk, sugar and …?  The cook’s secret was the mysteryflavorquestionmark in this well prepared home-made flan, golden yolked, and not too creamy flan. When asked, the cook/owner, from his post at the bar around the corner from the dining room, shared - a splash of Ricard. That popular anise and herb-infused aperitif floated a subtle counterpoint to the eggy custard and confirmed my well-honed suspicions that we were eating real food in a house of a real cook. This would be the first of many hashtag flans, but the one that remains most fondly in my memory.

IMG_7631

le Café

A solitary strong coffee (not espresso) completed ‘the proper drug mix’ of soup, starter, main, and dessert- the ubiquitous four-course routier lunch served in hundreds of village cafes across France for 11-13 euros including wine, coffee usually extra. By 1:45 the room emptied of our dining companions- wine makers drinking from the house carafe, painters in red-splattered white overalls, and a couple of businessmen lingering over an armagnac. Our waitress reset their tables for tomorrow’s lunch while we plotted the afternoon adventures with pigs.

IMG_7630

At last, we were alone with our cameras, Instagram and the furry set. Elaine met her porcine match lurking back by the toilettes while I reflected about how easy it is to cook well and please people- everyday. No more thought is needed than what goes into buying a new computer, learning to use a smartphone, or figuring out a new app. And yet, I am always surprised by the thoughtlessness that goes into most daily meals- at home or in restaurants.

IMG_7620

People come to Camont to cook, to learn to cook, to celebrate cooking. And while stirring, salting, and tasting, we talk about the demise of good cooking, about finding real and honest homemade food made from scratch. It’s the number one topic in my Kitchen, on my Facebook feed and over the tweets.

It’s been big news in all the French print media recently as well as several prime time TV exposés directed at famous restaurant kitchens that feed local and tourists alike a very ‘faux cuisine.’ These scandalous reports have documented pre-cooked and pre-assembled food masquerading as haute cuisine in restaurant kitchens, frozen Tarte Tatins and crème brûlées from industrial bakeries dubbed fait maison, and imported frozen duck breast from Bulgarian factory farms dished up as local fresh artisan-produced magrets. All too common in this age of ‘foodie-ism’ where the weight on marketing and garnishing overshadows the raw materials— their provenance and intrinsic quality, both nutritive and gustative. How do tell the real thing from the faux tables? I listen to my friends, people I trust,  a good guide, and follow my well-trained nose.

IMG_7626

Here, in a small Basque town of less than 600 people, we ate well. Good café-cooked, simple, delicious real food from the original raw ingredients- eggs, cabbage, ham, lentils, pork, milk. The Bar Restaurant de L’Arradoy served 14 people that lunchtime. Maybe there would be another dozen customers in the evening. A few more glasses of Ricard, a vin rouge,  a couple glasses of cider for the working boys, multiple coffees over the afternoon and a tisane for one grand-mère.  Sunday lunches will be busier, more village folk, a few from St. Jean Pied de Port. They are open everyday from Jan 2- Dec 24- cooking good food. Merci et Milesker to M. Chevalier for making our day.

IMG_7635

RESTAURANT DE L’ARRADOY
Olivier CHEVALIER- Owner Chef
Bourg
#05 59 37 06 01

P.S. Here’s my basix Garbure with Ham Recipe…http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2013/12/10/garbure-a-recipe-with-ham/

 

Leave a comment

#HamHeaven No.1: Terroir

2013-03-15 13.44.38

Ham Heaven. It’s what I started calling this part France- the space below Gascony and above Spain- over a year ago as I stumbled my way around looking for salty bits of Basque goodness still on the bone, hanging from tall rafters, inspiring delicious dinners in small Basque cafes. Over a winter of ruminating about the delicious hams and their charming makers, I began to plan bringing my serious Butchery & Charcuterie students with me. I wanted them to experience another side of French farmhouse charcuterie traditions after spending nearly four weeks working alongside the lovely Chapolard family. I wanted to open their eyes wider. And learn about the big hams, other breeds, and expand their playing field. I wanted to expose them to another element we often talk about in France- terroir.

ardatz spring

Terroir quite simply is about a sense of place… in your mouth. And Ham Heaven is where the terroir of premium Jambon de Bayonne, Ibaiona and Kintoa hams is born. Ham Heaven is a very real geographic place. It is located here:

IMG_7653

The salt laden breezes of the Port of Bayonne flow inland to small valleys and pocket-sized micro-climates tempering the air under the Gulf Stream influence. In fact, I saw my first Jambon de Bayonne hanging in a fishing boat shed along the Adour River over 20 years ago. I was looking for barge mooring lines. I found ham. Today, this early December morning, the temperatures are warm under brilliant blue skies (it’ll hit around 60’F by mid-afternoon). This is a gift of Le Foehn- the winds that swoop up over the Pyrenees from the South and, having dumped their rain-charged load on the Spanish side, race down the French leeward slopes warmer and drier. Perfect ham aging conditions.

Now, Elaine and I are standing on an historical footpath that crosses the Pyrenees here at Roncevaux. I wanted to start at the top and show her the lay of the land, the backside of Josette’s mountain, the valley where the piglets are born, the road leading to the Larre farm and on to Eric’s charcuterie. The Moors arrived from the South to conquer France; Charlemagne’s son, Roland, pushed them back-late 700’s. The Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostello crosses here as hundreds of thousands of two-legged sinners tramp ‘The Way’ to Western Spain in its medieval heyday- the 11th-12th Century. Even off-season there is a lone pilgrim striding uphill. Giant ‘V’s” of migratory birds soar through this pass back and forth, spring and fall: cranes, geese and those tasty palombes. The Basques remain to farm their sheep, cows and pigs.

IMG_7684

From here, my back toward Spain, I can look across the snow dusted peaks and on to a Basque flag of red and white farms, green fields and sheep, sheep and more sheep.

On Scouting

This week was the second scouting for Elaine’s This Little Piggy Project*. The goal was to meet the breeder for the piglet that would become the ham, Eric Ospital’s Ibaiona ham, and meet the Larre family on their farm near St. Etienne where the pig will be raised until it is slaughter weight- 180 kg. The First Scouting in September was a preliminary visit for Elaine to meet charcutier Eric Ospital at his workplace and ham aging rooms at Hasparren. We also met up with fellow Californian Josette Arrayat who produces the Basque Pig- or Kintoa near St Jean Pied de Port. Josette is an educated goldmine of local porcine lore and has become a good friend. Talking to Josette is like having a direct line to all the esoteric as well as practical information … in English, American English. You see, scouting isn’t really about choosing beautiful locations, which restaurants to eat in, or where to find warmer socks. It’s about finding and meet the people who will open their doors to you. Ultimately, they are the reason I do any of this. Meeting passionate, committed people living a full life is daily inspiration.

IMG_7763

Why Ham Heaven?

As I become privy to a mine of good information on ham, I want to share it with my former students, my fellow cooks and charcutiers, my Meat Grrls, and you. So first meet this place and meet the players. I’ll take questions to ask on the comments below.

IMG_5239

Josette Arrayat- Pig Breeder and Farmer at Anhaux

IMG_5238

Jean Guenard- Pig Breeder at Lasse

Eric Ospital- Ibaiona

Eric Ospital- Charcutier

IMG_5240

Elaine Tin Nyo- Artistpigville Spring snow

Vallée of Les Aldudes

aldudes pig walk

A typical Pig Park in the mountains.Ibaiona ham & piment espelette (1)

The Ibaiona Ham

 Follow along on Instagram and Twitter as katedecamont, hashtag #hamheaven, and on Facebook at the Kitchen-at-Camont page or here under the Ham Heaven tab above here

http://about.me/katehill

* I am working with Emerging Fields Artist Elaine Tin Nyo as ground coordinator and scout for the French Pig for her ‘This Little Piggy’ Project, a Creative Capital funded project. 

 

 

2 Comments

On Birthdays, Clay Pots and Why We Cook Cassoulet.

IMG_5209If you love France, read on. If you love Cassoulet, read on. If you are reading this and don’t love either, then let me talk to you about why I do. France + Cassoulet = my long obsession with understanding French cuisine. You probably already know that how we grow, prepare, cook, serve, share, and enjoy French food is a big part of my work and pleasure. But my big obsession is ‘Why we do this?’.

Look at that photo above. What do you see? Yes, the oversized helping of Cassoulet on a well set table- linens, silver, glassware, wine. And there are some postcards on the table promoting a national Tripe campaign (more on that another time). But the slightly skewed view out the table side window, down the hilltop village slopes, across the golden shorn corn fields of the Lauragais plain, and off to the hazy Montagne Noire is the defining factor of the ‘Why’ behind Cassoulet.

IMG_5211

 

To celebrate my birthday this week, Stephanie, Elaine and I drove the arrow straight A62 From Agen to Avignonet du Lauragais and on to St. Felix du Lauragais to dine on cassoulet at the Auberge du Poids Public. In 25 years of haunting the Canal du Midi and its cuisine, I have never made it here. It seemed like the right occasion- the launching of the Camp Cassoulet Roadshow, both French and US editions.

IMG_5207

 Lunch came from this page of the menu.

IMG_5216

We were not alone on this blue sky Lanquedocienne day. This table of 5 were being served a Lievre Royale prepared by chef Claude Tafferello. Arriving with all it’s pomp and silver cloches, the hare—having been marinated four days in a wine/port/cognac sauce then stuffed with foie gras—was much appreciated before they moved on to cigars and armagnac in the bar.

IMG_5208

Our starter was simpler. An elegant and generous portion of foie gras served in its duck jus with a slice of toasted brioche and one perfect savory macaron.

IMG_5215

Next came the Cassoulet and a Confit Gesier Raviolo.

IMG_5214The individual bowls were dressed with a perfect small leg of confit de canard, piece of sausage de Toulouse and a pork spare rib.

IMG_5220One helping was enough, however we ate two.

IMG_5213

Dessert was wonderfully silly, too much and totally unnecessary. But it was a birthday after all.

IMG_5206

Then we rolled down and out the doors on a post prandial excursion that was my real gift to myself. And the celebration of 25 years of cruising past this archetypal beacon of tradition on the Canal du Midi- The Poterie NOT at Mas Saintes Puelles near Castelnaudary.

1477363_776719142353972_2052297607_n

The ‘Why’ behind Cassoulet is written on the bottom of a clay bowl, spun into baked gold terra-cotta, glazed with the colors of the south and fired in a hot oven. I make Cassoulet because 25 years ago, I met these friendly clay-encrusted souls, sitting at their wheels and quietly, doggedly, spinning cassole after cassole. Two Brothers, then two sons. I bought a bowl; I bought two.

IMG_0087

Over the years I have bought, and shared with friends, these special cassoles and cassoulets on many occasions. I have cooked this signature dish of beans and charcuterie and told my stories of a Long Village in Southwest France as bottles of good red wine were passed.

IMG_0090

We cook cassoulet because it warms the hearth, warms the spirit, and nourishes the body to keep the core warm agains the infernal Tramontana winds. I cook cassoulet to teach the basics of how to cook something simply but perfectly: beans, broth, meat. And how to make charcuterie, of course.

IMG_0080

I cook cassoulet to gather a large group around a noisy table at Camont. To clean the dining area, light the fire in the wood stove, pick some flowers and put candles around. I cook cassoulet to Make November a more special month and drive off the dark nights a little longer. I cook cassoulet to welcome the festive sprites of the holidays and give small gifts of bean sized goodness to my friends.

I cook cassoulet all winter because it makes me feel like I mastered something special over the years, like the NOT Frères mastered the clay arts, and I learned to define a regional dish, adding my own finishing touches. I mostly cook cassoulet because I am a show off and I think it is one of the best I have ever tasted.

IMG_0069

It began with a bowl, a simple clay pot, and thus cassoulet and its cassoles became the leitmotif for my learning about the Cooking of Southwest France over 25 years of crawling these backroads. If you want to learn how I make cassoulet, or just share the table with me, then watch for the Camp Cassoulet App and pre-Launch Roadshow Calendar coming soon!

IMG_0029

Merci to my Soul Sister Elaine Tin Nyo for my official Birthday Portrait, some of her photographs at the Not brothers, and her porcine-centric project here: http://www.thispiglet.com. 

 

17 Comments

Whole Duck Workshops at Plum Lyon & Camont- January 2014

CASSOULET-MASTER004

If this time of year starts you thinking about hot crispy duck skin, melt-in-your-mouth succulent confit de canard, and bowls of steaming duck studded cassoulet, then you have come to the right place. This January, I am offering just two seasonal Whole Duck Workshops- One in Lyon at Lucy Vanel’s lovely city teaching kitchen- Plum Lyon  January 11th & 12th and one here at Camont in my own 18th Century Farmhouse Kitchen at Camont- January 18 & 19th 2014.

confitpop up 3

Want to work with the XL ducks of Gascony? Taste authentic and traditional Confit de Canard? And understand the whole carcass approach to duck butchery and charcuterie as practiced in Southwest France? Then join me for either of these two day workshops to experience, learn, and devour the best of Gascon cooking.

confit pop up 4

Participants learn to butcher, preserve and confit their own duck taking the finished products home: confit cuisse de canard, magret (for drying or grilling), rillettes, stuffed neck sausage, and cracklings.
confit Pop-up

For further information about the Lyon workshop: http://www.plumlyon.com/collections/home/products/kate-hill-s-whole-duck-workshop-in-lyo

The workshop at Camont: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/programs/cook/ 

Leave a comment

Fête des Arbres or how Apples & Saints conspire to plant trees

2013-11-23 09.40.21 HDR-1

Today is November 25- the feast of St. Catherine. If she was alive today, my St. Catherine would be wearing these rubber boots. And planting some trees. It’s what we do here on her feast day in France.

 IMG_5133

“A la Sainte Catherine, tout bois prend racine” / “On St. Catherine’s Day, all wood takes root.” This overloaded Apple is one of over 400 different Apple varieties growing in an Orchard Conservatory down the road from Camont. Here, trees are not only planted in a sort of orchard seed bank, grafting being the main way to propagate fruit trees, but they are laid out in historic references to how we farmed in the past. Trees, vines grains and animals sharing the fields.

IMG_5123

Just a few of the over 1200 varieties of fruit on display. These Pears are a rainbow of flavors, colors and romantic names.

IMG_5124

Grape varietals are harvested as well and rest in special vials until this weekend.
IMG_5131

Corn from the Americas grown in France for centuries put the monoculture of US exports to shame.

IMG_5132

With my list in hand, my guide and I thread through the forests of one and two year old scions for sale.

IMG_5129

This year I am reining in my natural ‘more is more’ tendency and choose just three new trees… and a dozen berry bushes.

IMG_7468

This Reine-Claude, one of my most favorite French plums, will welcome visitors to Camont and be the first tree to blossom.

IMG_5127

The Fete de Arbres at Montesquieu is more than just about buying trees- It’s a celebration of fruit- http://www.sudouest.fr/2013/11/23/la-fete-de-l-arbre-a-montesquieu-47-1238444-3779.php  

IMG_5122
The large numbers of red-apron volunteer helpers make the selecting, picking, paying, packaging, and carting away of your treasures, a friendly and very Gascon affair. We were offered our first glass of local white wine at 9:00 a.m.  Seriously.

IMG_5126The List was concise with an eye to completing the Frontyard Foraging Garden with blueberry, red and black currants and a small fig called a Petite Violette du Lot-et-Garonne.
IMG_5125

The helpful staff include both young Ag School volunteers and neighboring retired farmers who know these fertile clay fields well. This is a jar of Good Gascon clay rich soil collected on site and just 9 kilometers down the valley from me along the canal. If all these wonderful trees grow well there, they grow well at Camont.

IMG_5130

It starts with soil and ends in a pie.

Click here to discover an Apple, Fig & Walnut Harvest Tart. 

For more about this annual Celebration of Fruit trees, read this:

http://from-gascony.com/#/autumn-pomologie/ 

No it’s your turn. Go plant a tree!

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Camp Cassoulet 2013

3

 

This year marks the 7th Annual Camp Cassoulet at Camont!  Although I always give credit to the BEAN as the star of the show, this year we are featuring a special appearance by an honored guest- HAM. Pack an overnight bag, jump a TGV to Agen or fly into TLS or BOD for a weekend of good food, friendship and… cassoulet, of course. We’ll visit the annual Fete des Arbres Fruitier (Festival of Fruit Trees) just up the road and plant heirloom fruit and berry bushes in the new ‘frontyard foraging’ garden at Camont while the beans are soaking, cooking and baking. We’ve got lots of heritage apples for Tarte Tatin-ing, gateau pans for Gateau Basque-ing, and sufficient quantities of Floc- the Gascon cocktail for  Armagnac aperitif-ing.

And H.A.M. Although some folk thinks it stands for Holy Animal Meat, H.A.M. should be an acronym for Hardwork Animal & Man. As I delve further into the ham-centric lives of farmers, butchers, and charcutiers in Southwest France, I am awed by the commitment of these few to provide for so many. Over this last year, I have been gathering small bits of ham-making instruction from my neighbors and friends. This weekend, we will welcome the 12-month-old Chapolard Birthday Ham as the honored guest. Just how many days, weeks, and months of tending forest, field, pig, and product does it take to make Ham? Come find out for yourself on this Ham version of Camp Cassoulet- 2013.

If you have never made cassoulet, or even eaten it, or just long for a weekend in the French countryside, we are taking bookings now for old friends and new to join on November 23 &24 for a weekend of fun at Camp Cassoulet! Leave a comment below if you are interested.

A little history of Camp Cassoulet at Camont:

http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2012/11/10/voulez-vous-cassoulet-avec-moi-ce-mois

http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2007/12/27/is-cassoulet-times-man-of-the-year/ 

http://kitchen-at-camont.com/2007/11/06/camp-cassoulet-the-recipe-en-fin/

 

Leave a comment

Pop-Up! The Fat Duck Workshop & Cassoulet Supper at Camont

confit Pop-up

 

POP UP FAT DUCK!

This Weekend!

If you have ever wanted to learn to make confit de canard, rillettes and cassoulet- this is the perfect chance.

A Weekend at Camont. A few Delicious Days. A Cassoulet Supper.

confit pop up 2

confitpop up 3

confit pop up 4

confit pop up 6

 

We’re throwing a party. A confit-making party all weekend long at Camont in the not yet completed new teaching kitchen- The Keeping Kitchen in the restored barn. I couldn’t wait. So join us NEXT WEEKEND for 36 hours of Confit & Cassoulet madness. Only room for 6 more people:

https://confit-pop-up.eventbrite.com

Need more inspiration?

Leave a comment