NO MORE FOIE GRAS!!!??? FOIE GRAS BANISHED IN FRANCE!!??? From the crazy headlines of international magazines like Conde Nast Traveler publishing cautionary tales to the simply illustrated flyer from my village explaining how to help stop the spread of the avian influenza threatening our poultry producers, we are all about ducks this week. Adding to publicity mix that weaves animal activists, foie gras shortages, and bird flu together is a heightened awareness of the who, what, and why of small poultry farming in Southwest France. How fitting that this week we welcomed Fiona and Ben of Vue de Volcan Farm, a duck farm in Victoria, Australia to Camont. They came to rillette together in the Kitchen with me.
I had met Ben and Fiona when Dominique and Christian Chapolard and I conducted a French Pig workshop a couple of years ago in Australia, and again when Fiona joined 20+ other women working with meat animals for a Grrls Meat Camp Meat-Up! when I was last in the area in January. I knew of their plans to come to France this May, travel by bicycle and do a little R&D (Research & Devour) on foie gras, confit, patés, and other added value duck products. They rolled up to the Nerac market one saturday morning and we made some plans for them to spend some time with the Chapolards exploring that area and then later came to Camont. Little did they know they would be sucked into a whirlwind of entertaining, touring, and cooking. And then helping slaughter my remaining flock of Muscovy ducks and laying hens.
The voluntary slaughter of most of my ducks was to comply with national call to support the industry by harvesting meat birds and containing breeding stock in an effort to help stem the tide of the virus which has already made an appearance in 18 departments in France. The remaining five ducks and drakes and two laying hens would be transformed into food products and one remaining sitting duck and her clutch of nearly hatched eggs who will be quarantined in a large shed and fenced pen until after the deadlines pass. was The morning started with a gentle roundup of the flock into the shed and preparing the slaughter area. With some help from Grrls Meat Camp Treasurer Maurine Fischel and other expat Nerac resident Bill Law, we had the birds, ready for plucking, butchering and salting by the end of the day.
The silver lining in an otherwise difficult time for my poultry growing neighbors is that we would have an opportunity to make confit, paté grand-mère, and rillettes de canard together. Ben and Fiona will have some new products to share in the food loving area around Melbourne and Maurine, Bill, and I will have a little extra duck goodness to share over the summer months.
By the time the farms have had this preventive sanitary break, and the new flocks are established this summer, we’ll be making more confit, patés and rillettes over the winter. Foie gras will be back in stock and we’ll be happy to replenish our pantries and teach you, too. Interested? Come join our Insider’s Gascony week in November and learn how to cook, eat and enjoy life like a Gascon while staying in the darling Chateau de Mazelières.
So ready for a taste of Southwest France? Nothing shouts Gascony more than a simple pot of Duck Rillettes spread on good bread and enjoyed with a glass of chilled rosé wine. Sign up for our newsletter in the right of this blog post and I’ll send you a simple and easy recipe you can make at home!
We might not have much local foie gras this year (However there will be foie gras from Hungary, Bulgaria, and other European countries on the market) but we will have lots of duck confit for summer salads, rillettes to spread on thick toasted baguettes and paté to share with friends when they arrive for apéritifs. Here’s to all the hardworking duck farmers of France! Salut!
More about Rillettes and duck on my blog: