Summer + Red = #Summerrosso


This is “Not Campari”. When my dear friend in Tuscany, Judy Witts Francini proclaimed “Red is the New Black” this summer, it started a hashtag war. Her Italian Campari; my Gascon rosé. Somehow, all of a sudden, I was seeing red everywhere! And here’s the proof.


Childhood Summer memories are running rampant right now. One of my earliest Red images-a horizontal soda pop machine with small glass bottles sporting brightly colored caps full of sweet sticky cold Strawberry Soda.  So when I was given a precious gift of these old variety strawberries-dubbed a Raspberry-Strawberry by some, I knew that I had to find a way to savor the amazing flavor that was quintessentially red.

After a quick game of tic tac toe with the startling white Pineberry-those oldest variety of new world, South American berries, I took the few remaining red berries-super charged with flavor-from the box-and with just a scant 7 berries I made a VSB (Very Small Batch) of Sirop de Fraise using some simple syrup already tucked in my fridge.IMG_0726I let the strawberries mingle with the syrup over night and declared this a perfect Sunday breakfast drink: a splash of syrup over ice, a float of cold water, a quick stir. As refreshing as a Campari Soda (last savored in Portofino an age ago!) and OK before breakfast.

IMG_0717The idea behind VSB (Very Small Batches, remember?) is to not drown yourself in gallons and liters but to celebrate the very short season and small precious tastes in a mini-moment of Summer Redness. So when another friend (nice to have good friends, eh?) brought a lovely small basket full of THE MOST DELICIOUS cherries to Camont, I knew if I didn’t snag a few handfuls for later, they’d be gone in Gascon minute. IMG_0737So I grabbed a canning jar (the size I usually put my Duck Confit in), and using that same smash with a fork technique, I covered the fruit, stones, stems and all with a cup of fine sugar and filled the jar with some homemade eau de vie stashed in the bar. I covered the top with some cherry leaves for added flavor (check David Lebovitz’s recipe here for more inspiration)  and  set it aside for a few more days. IMG_0730It was only after I had sat back, that I thought to check my own cherry trees here at Camont. There were so few when I looked a couple weeks of ago, I hadn’t bothered. What a delightful surprise to see small but perfectly ripe clusters weighing down the end of the branches by the Gypsy caravans. #Summerrosso confiture coming next!


Celebrating Summer is a Camont tradition… check our archives here of summer posts for more #Summerrosso inspiration!


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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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Preserving + Pantry = Confit de Foie Gras

camont de canard

A tale of many jars begins and ends in a round robin of preserving and Canning-at-Camont.

confit boilers

Last September, we made our first batch of Confit de Canard for the 2012 season.

60 Years ago there was water above the stove. That’s the flood mark on the left.

confit de canard

When the Confit  de Canard was cooked, processed and labeled, there was enough fat left over for a bonus- Confit de Foie Gras.

confit de foie gras au torchon

The Foie Gras was salted lightly for a couple hours (while the rest of the duck cooked) then wrapped in a net cloth and tied.

confit foie gras in my vintage le creuset

When the fat was just beginning to simmer- 82°C, I lowered the foie gras into my vintage le Creuset pot. I rolled it around for a few minutes then started taking it’s core temperature. Once it reached 65°C (about 30 min) I removed it from the the pot and the cloth, placed it in a terrine, pressed it, and let it sit overnight. Confit de foie gras mi-cuit  ((rosey inside) will taste best when left to rest a few days at refrigerated temperature- 4°C.

confit kingsThis was September’s Charcuterie-at-Camont crew- Felix, Michael and Mick, the Confit Kings of Camont. Interested in learning how to make confit? Come for a special February weekend – Confit 101 or meet me at a French Pig Workshop in April in the U.S..



Thinking about confit de canard. A seasonal affliction.

_MG_8103Winter rolls through Gascony like a fast train: whistling in through December, screeching to a quick stop for January, and then on the rails again by end of February. That’s how I like my winters- short and sweet as a TGV (Train Grande Vitesse).

Winter forces Camont to calm down and take a nap as gardens get raggedy and the chickens get eaten (yes, foxes got them all). All is quiet on the Gascon ranch; the fair weather ‘Franco-Carpetbaggers’ have yet to arrive and even Cinderella, my sister, jumped ship this winter so I could work and write in peace. I am writing, plotting and producing next year on paper, but I am also a master at distracting myself.  As much as I crave a bit of real down time- no schedule, no planning, just everyday what comes next- the Gascon winter clock is ticking and that tic-toc, tic-toc is starting to drive me mad. Soon I will rush to prune the orchard, and plot the potager, and finish the plans for the barn being built as we speak.

But the real ticking time bomb at Camont has feathers. Fall migration has passed. Spring is just down the flyway. I am, of course, thinking about confit de canard. Yes, I know Fall is the traditional preserving time, but we are just going into the post-holiday, serious confit season. The foie gras madness at Christmas and New Years (along with truffle hijacking) is past, prices come down and even a premier grade AAA foie gras entier can be had for a reasonable 26 euros a kilo. I even saw frozen foie gras for the first time in the supermarket today. So this is the season to be thinking about how to put up, preserve and store duck- beak to tail.

Meat is as seasonal as fruit in rural France. Lambs are Spring only- the rest of the year it’s hogget/yearling or mutton. Family farm hogs are slaughtered for charcuterie in the Winter months, like now. Beef and veal even have their own rhythms as we move from daubes and blanquettes to grilling. To each purpose, a season.


I begin to look at my pantry shelves, nicely filled with last summer’s fruits, jeweled jars of confitures and tins of salty Spanish fish. However the poultry section, with the exception of two whole confited mallards in tins that I scored in the Basque country, is dangerously low on duck: confit de canard, pate de foie gras, cou farci, gesiers, etc..  How many jars will I need to get through the year of festive summer nights? Welcomed visitors? And school lunches for my students? I start counting weeks figuring that once a week at least, from May through October, I use confit from my pantry. Confit de canard makes a fast supper of green lentils and crispy duck legs, a mountain of duck fat fried potatoes to accompany a grilled magret, a Salade Gasconne with slices of confit gesiers, stuffed neck sausage, and a few generous slabs of foie gras. There would be no Fall soups like garbure without confit.

Oh, and cassoulet. Don’t forget each Winter there is cassoulet and that’s a great way to use the wings, or bone a couple legs to add to the saucisse de Toulouse. (I have a feeling I’ll be making it a lot of cassoulet this year). When I’ve cooked and eaten enough French food, there are also rice paper wraps and dumplings to make and tamales with prunes… all with duck confit. Shepherd’s pie or tarte de gaveuse is a perfect picnic meat pie. Confit de Canard is that blast of uber-umami flavor, silky satisfying texture and chic convenience food all wrapped into one.

How many jars? How many ducks? Two jars a week, spread over 6 months (25 weeks) = 50 jars put in the pantry. I count on getting 5-6 jars of confit, legs, breasts, wings, gizzards and necks per fat duck. So butchering and making charcuterie with 10 ducks, weighing around 5-7  kilos, means I’ll also have 50+ jars of rillettes, some pate and a few jars of smooth pain d’epice foie flan– last year’s favorite. Over the next two months as charcuterie students come and go, we’ll be making confit and more confit. Each student tackles a fat duck and passes it on to the next group. Now, that’s passing the charcuterie love forward.


You can also confit old hens, roosters and other birds. But it is at this season, when the distance memory of early spring migration thrills the Muscovy and Mulard duck farms of Gascony that I start thinking about wrapping up winter. By next month, I know I’ll have access to the best fat ducks from one of the several local Marche au Gras. As an added feature on our new cassoulet iPad app- (Available soon at an iTunes store near you), I am including an introduction to making confit de canard.  After all, it is the season… and I am thinking about confit de canard.

For more of these beautiful pictures by Tim Clinch check out our new publishing site- 


le weekends at Camont: the friends sessions

Remember those special times when Bob and George and Willie got together and jammed all night? Or the Duke dropped by with his entourage for a mid-summer masquerade fest? How about when your favorite friends showed up with a hamper full of goodies for an impromptu pique-nique on the terrace? Put them all together, pop open a box of cold Pink Wine, and join me in celebrating the French Summer with old friends and new… at Camont!

Pop over for a weekend to bake, i-shoot & can to your heart’s content with some of my best friends. This French Summer I am booking out the Gypsy Caravan for friends only- those mad, special creative and talented friends of Camont.

Le Weekend #2,  August 4 & 5 with Emm at Camont.

 “How to Make Bread”– A 1-day bread making workshop with Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, a.k.a. Em, based on his best selling, award-winning book.

Meet Emmanuel. Emmanuel Hadjiandreou. Just call him Em.

Em lives with his family in Hastings on the South Coast of England. Originally from South Africa of a Greek family, he bakes. And bakes and bakes. And now, he teaches you to bake, too. Join Em at Camont in Kate’s Kitchen to discover the journey of good bread using organic local French heritage wheat and Em’s fool-proof, easy techniques. You’ll go home smiling with the knowledge that you too, can make good bread. Who else is coming over for a weekend? 


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…


Jambon de Bayonne en fête! A Basque Country road trip with Kate.

What’s red and green and red and white… and ham all over?

The Foire au Jambon in the colorful Basque port of Bayonne.

A memory of a Bayonne surfaces from a long ago road trip looking for marine goods along the Atlantic coast for my barge, the Julia Hoyt. Rope, cord, and lines I was searching. I drove along the river port of the Adour outside of Bayonne in the very southwest of  Southwest France looking for some fishermen, a working boat or chandlery.  The newly fitted nose of wooden fishing boat peeked out of an over-sized hanger; I braked for a quick look inside. Yes. Men working with wood and fiber glass, paint and canvas. Ocean going small fishing boats. Sturdy, serious and hard-working. The boats and the men. I knew they would know. I have a nose for these things.

I thanked them for the directions to the Co-op Maritime in St. Jean de Luz, I turned to say au revoir  and stopped dead in my foodie tracks. Although the Captain in me was looking for cord, the Cook in me spotted a treasure trove of maturing hams hanging from every square foot of rafter space. A boat yard/charcuterie shed? Welcome to Baiona!


Can U Garden? The French Potager part 1.

My secrets to planting a successful French Potager or kitchen canning garden this year?

  1. Perfect Spring weather.
  2. Dense soil left dormant all winter as chickens did daily slug and poop patrols.
  3. Kitchen window fertilizer.
The first two are easy to understand. This year a dry warm spring means the Garonne River Valley is awash in perfect pink and cream frosted orchards. From here, I can see a bumper crop of peches de vignes, those juicy red late harvest peaches, staining September wine cocktails with tangy sirop; creamy white plum blossoms herald the August Pruneaux steeping in armagnac; my own heirloom orchard of pastry apples, summer pears and reine claude plums is trembling in anticipation of the glass jars to fill.
Number 3 is the magic ingredient.

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A week of cooking duck in Gascony

From fat markets (no, not us the ducks, silly!) to charcuterie meccas, foie gras to smoked magret to cassoulet, this week has been a celebration of good Southwestern cooking, Camont style. This is what we made in one week of Enjoy this taste of Gascony!

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  • Foie Gras & Lotte cassolettes- oven baked Foie gras & monkfish on a bed of julienned aillets & carrots
  • Foie Gras en Chemise Verte- spinach wrapped poached foie gras
  • Confit de Canard
  • Rillettes de Canard
  • Paté de Foie Gras
  • Terrine de foie gras
  • Confit de Oie- goose
  • Cassoulet Camontw/ saucisse de Toulouse,
  • Grattons or cracklins- Gascon popcorn Piment d’Espelette
  • Magrets seché fumé
  • Magret Chemineé
  • Huitres Roti (for a little duck relief)

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