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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rhum- Rum. France’s Rum Agricole Martinique AOC. Rum in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Rum on the rocks.

In every French chef’s storeroom, there are two or three different types of rum; one of them will always be France’s Rhum Agricole Martinique.AOC/AOP.   Rum will be there with AOC Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados. These four AOC/AOP 40% alcohols are behind many of France’s most famous dishes.
Before rum there was sugarcane, and before the import of sugar from sugarcane anything in Europe that was sweetened was sweetened with honey. In 1492 Columbus discovered South America and by 1505 Portugal began sugarcane plantations in Brazil.  Shortly thereafter Spain started their sugarcane plantations in Cuba with rum following on.  When Spain and France were at peace France had regular deliveries of sugar and rum; however, during their frequent wars, France’s supplies came from captured Spanish and Portuguese ships arriving from the New World. Sugar was worth as much as silver and only enough sugar reached France to satisfy the very wealthy.  

France begins cultivating its own plantations.

At the end of the seven years’ war in 1763, France gave England her North American possessions in return for the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique (and Saint Lucia) along with other possessions. France began her own sugarcane plantations and soon after rum production was in full swing.  At that time, all rums were made from molasses, a brown treacle left over from the sugar production process. The plantation system was behind much of France’s terrible attachment to slavery and while the French revolution was supposed to end slavery in 1794 Napoleon I in 1802 allowed it to continue. French laws ending slavery finally came into force in 1848.

Sugar cane in a plantation.
The British Navy changes the daily ration
 of French brandy for rum.
Rum was popular everywhere, but in the 1600s and the early 1700’s the British Navy traditionally gave its sailors a daily ration of French brandy; that, despite France and England being at war through the 1600s.  In the 1700s the British Navy finally said no to French brandy, and the British Navy sailors received rum.  (I think the British still allowed their officers to drink French brandy.  Since, when Admiral Nelson was killed at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1802 his body was sent home for burial preserved in a cask of brandy).  Britain formally ended the tradition of a daily tot of rum in 2007.
The different French rums.
There are many excellent rums produced in all of France’s island departments and dependencies as well as in French Guiana. They include dark rums which get their color from caramelized sugar or molasses. The darkest rums are generally based on molasses and aged in heavily charred barrels that give them much stronger flavors than the darkest Rhum Agricole made directly from sugarcane.
Nevertheless, in the 1900’s nothing except the producer's credentials guaranteed  the age and how a rum was produced.  An amber or dark rum from one producer can taste very differently to that of another. Today’s French rums are made from molasses or sugarcane, with only Martinique’s AOC Rhum Agricole legally limited to sugar cane juice. For other rums the reputation of the producer and the language on the label is the only guarantee of the method of production and the rum’s age.
Rum on French menus:
Baba au Rhum Généreux –Avec sa Bouteille de Rhum sur la Table Pour l'Imbiber sur Mesure - A generous serving of rum baba with the bottle placed on the table for the diner to soak the baba according to taste.  Rum baba is one of France’s most famous desserts and indeed, the most famous dessert made with rum. Rum baba comes with a long and well-documented history.
Crêpes au Chèvre Fraise au Rhum – Thin pancakes, crepes, served with fresh goat’s cheese and flavored with rum.
Filet Mignon de Porc Flambé au Rhum A filet mignon, tenderloin, fillet of pork flambéed in rum. In French cuisine the term filet mignon does not refer to a a beef tenderloin, the beef filet, but rather to the narrow, almost pointed, end of the beef tenderloin.  If a filet mignon is on a French menu it is a pork tenderloin unless otherwise noted.
Pavé de Saumon Grillé (+/-230g) Flambé au Rhum, Sauce Antillaise (Crème Fraîche, Ail et Ananas), Achards de Légumes, Riz Long Thaï Parfumé au Jasmin – A thick cut of grilled Atlantic salmon (approximately 230 grams) flambéed in rum and served with a Sauce Antillaise (made with crème fraîche, garlic and pineapple)  and “archard” vegetables, with long-grain Thai rice scented with jasmine.  There is no single recipe for Sauce Antillaise, so most menu listings, like this one, will include some detail. (The Antilles Françaises, the French Antilles are France’s Caribbean departments and dependencies which include the departments of Guadaloupe and Martinique and the dependencies of Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martine). Achards de légumes are a French-Creole dish from the Indian Ocean island of Réunion; it is a mixture of lightly fried vegetables cut into thin strips and flavored with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and vinegar. Here the dish is served with the long-grained Thai rice of which some sought-after varieties have a natural jasmine scent.

Sorbet Ananas, Vanille et Granité au Rhum – A pineapple sorbet flavored with vanilla and  served with a rum granité. Granité is the French version of the Italian Granita which began as sugar, fruit, and water served with crushed ice, (it is often called sludge in the UK and the USA). Now French granités have gone upmarket and will include sweet wines, rums, and brandies.
The addition of Chantilly cream to a Rum Baba makes a Savarin au Rum
Tartare de Fruits Aromatisé au Rhum et à la Vanille de Madagascar- A fruit Tatar flavored with rum and vanilla from Madagascar.
When France began making sugar from sugar beet on the mainland France’s Caribbean sugar plantations lost their primary market. The plantations which fought off closure began to make rum directly from cane juice of which they had plenty. That started the argument over which was better rum from sugarcane juice or rum from molasses?
At the beginning of the 20th century there were hundreds of rum distillers with a huge variety of names, colors and alcohol levels in their products.  Unless the background of the producer was known there was little to differentiate the product from bottle to bottle with many using generic names like Captain’s rum or similar.  In the 20th century with so much sugar being made from sugar beets the world prices for sugar went down and down, and more and more sugarcane plantations closed.  To continue production many distilleries have begun to import molasses from China and elsewhere to continue rum production. 

Rum and coke.
The only AOC rum is Rhum Agricole Martinique.

Only France’s islands made enough rum at competitive prices to keep their sugarcane plantations open, but there were still hundreds of different labels and no control. In 1996 France issued regulations for Martinique’s Rum Agricole AOC that only permitted rum made directly from sugarcane from the island  of Martinique. In 2004 Martinique’s Rum Agricole received its Pan-European AOP.  (France INAO office is the trusted controller and enforcer of all AOC, AOP and Label Rouge quality standards). Martinique’s AOC rum can only made with the sugarcane juice distilled within 48 hours of harvest.  The initials and names used to show the age of the rum are very similar to those used for AOC Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados,

4 AOC Rum Agricole Martinique producers and products.
The name and ages of Rhum Agricole Martinique AOC:

Rhum Agricole Martinique Vieux– A minimum of two years in oak barrels.
Rhum Agricole Martinique Très Vieux, Réserve Spéciale, Cuvée Spéciale or  VSOP – Aged for at least  four years.
Rhum Agricole Martinique Extra Vieux, Grande Réserve, Hors d’Age,  XO  - Aged for more than six years.
Older Martinique Rhum Agricole is produced by some of the AOC producers, and they have added their own labels for 10 year, 15 year and older rums.
Other French rums have a variety of labels which include the words traditional, planter's choice, navy rum, Caribbean rum, and more.  But only rums with a Martinique AOC  have AOC on the label. .AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. In English that is the Controlled Mark of Origin. 
Ti – Punch.
When dining in any of France’s islands or in a French mainland restaurant serving French-Créole Antillaise Cuisine a Ti-Punch will be the cocktail of choice at the bar or on the menu.  A Ti-Punch began as a rum and lime cocktail drunk at celebrations; now it is served whenever a rum cocktail is called for and its recipe may change slightly with the location.

The English language website of Martinique is

The English language website for Rum Agricole Martinique is:

Connected Posts:
Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?
Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2018.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fumé – Smoked. Smoked Foods in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Smoking is one of the oldest methods of cooking and of preserving foods and there are two very different processes. The first method is hot smoking that quickly cooks while adding a smoky flavor and then there is cold smoking that cures and preserves and also adds flavor but takes anywhere from a few hours to a month.

Hot smoking

Hot smoking cooks with a smoked flavor and is speedily done. Marinating the food beforehand will also affect the taste.  In hot smoking, the food is cooked indirectly by allowing the wood or different flavors to flavor the hot smoke which cooks the food. Hot smoking is fast, and while dishes such as smoked trout may be allowed to cool before serving most hot smoked foods will be served immediately after they are cooked. (Even I can hot smoke chicken, fish, and vegetables using wood chips and other additions for flavor; one of the tastiest I made was tea flavored whole smoked chicken).

Artisanal sausage and meat smoking.
Cold smoking
Cold smoking is the method used for many foodstuffs that may be stored without refrigeration; that includes France's popular Andouille and Andouillette sausages.  Cold-smoking requires a great deal more determination and equipment than that used for hot smoking. Food that is to be cold smoked is completely separated from slowly burning wood chips, and no charcoal is used. In the UK one of the most famous and pleasurable cold smoked products, are kippers, kippered herrings. Cold smoking would already have been used when troglodytes, cave dwellers, hung meat up to dry out of the way of pests. They would have immediately realized that foods stored in smoky areas acquired a unique flavor, and was better preserved than meat that was allowed to dry in the wind.

Smoking fish.

Historically we can see how smoking developed in French cuisine. Boucaner is a 17th-century French word that means "to cure meat." From this came one of the words used for pirates, Buccaneers. Boucanes, buccaneers, were pirates who smoked and dried the meat in the summer to preserve it for long voyages.
Smoked products on French menus:

Agata Farci au Chèvre, Écume de Lard Fume – A baked agata potato stuffed with goat’s cheese and flavored with a foam made from smoked bacon. Bacon was cold smoked though that is not always the case today. Smoked bacon will have been brined, prepared with salt before smoking.  (The French words lard and bacon both mean bacon and are used interchangeably).

Carré d'Agneau et Son Jus à l'Ail Fumé et Thym - A rack of lamb served with the natural cooking juices flavored with smoked garlic and thyme.  Smoked garlic adds a unique flavor, and the most well-known is the peat smoked garlic from around the village of Arleux in the department of Nord bordering Belgium. If you are visiting the area in September, you need not worry about vampires as nearly every house in Arleux is decorated with braids of garlic. Arleux has a garlic fair, the Foire à l’Ail d'Arleux, on the first Saturday and Sunday in September. The website is in French, but it is easily understood with the Bing and Google translate apps.

Smoked garlic from Arleux.

Carpaccio de Magret d'Oie Fumé Mariné au Porto – A Carpaccio of smoked goose breast marinated in Port wine.
Fromage Gruyère Fumé – Smoked gruyere cheese. Among the smoked products you may see in French supermarkets are smoked cheeses.  The dairies who do this will cold smoke whole cheeses; the process takes anywhere from one week to one month. 

Jambon Fumé - Smoked ham. The words jambon fumé are rarely seen on French menu listings. Smoked ham will generally be on the menu as jambon cru, cured ham.  If your French – English travel dictionary has the word cru translated as raw do not worry, jambon cru is not raw. Cured hams are been cured by salting, flavoring and air-drying. Some of these hams are smoked, and that is jambon fume.

Velouté de Cresson et Grillons de Lard Fumé – A velvety soup of watercress served with small, but chunky pieces of braised smoked bacon.   Grillons translates as crickets, the ones that chirp.  Maybe I am disappointing some of the readers; however, when grillons are on French menus these will not be deep-fried grasshoppers. Rather, these will be small braised or grilled food items that may, at a stretch, be considered to look like a cricket.  That’s all they are, no wings, no legs, not even a chirp.

Smoked bacon on sale.

Saumon d'Ecosse Fumé au Sel de Guérande – Smoked Scotch salmon, prepared with the salt from Guérande. The French acknowledge that the best Atlantic salmon comes from Scotland. Scottish salmon was the first food product from outside France to receive France’s Label Rouge, red label, a quality rating for excellence.  Guérande is in the department of the Loire-Atlantique in the Pays-du-Loire and is one of France’s most highly rated sources for sea salt, especially its fleur de sel.  Here the smoked salmon has been brined, marinated, in Guérande salt before cold smoking.

Truite Fumée par Nos Soins au Bois de Hêtre Trout smoked over beech wood by ourselves.  This house-smoked trout will have been hot smoked and may be served hot or cold.  Smoked trout is often served with sauce raifort, a horseradish sauce.  French horseradish sauce is creamy and not too spicy. The French want to lightly flavor the food not to anesthetize their mouths!      
Terrine de Campagne au Magret d'Oie Fumé – A country pate made with smoked goose breast.  A country pate is rarely a smooth pate.

Many of today’s commercial products sold as smoked meats, smoked sausages, and others, outside the European Union, are no longer genuinely smoked. France has excellent laws that control labeling but at home look carefully at the list of contents.  With the additions, you may realize that the smoked taste often only comes from additives and not smoking.  When you have a properly cold-smoked sausage, fish or piece of meat you can taste the difference. 

There are produce, food products, and wines that are not smoked but have the word fumé in their name, Pouilly-Fumé is an example. Pouilly-Fumé is one of France’s terrific dry white wines; it is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  The word fume in the name indicates the smoky, flinty taste of the wine as it meets your tongue.


If you have trouble with French pronunciation just click on this free program that I use:

Connected Posts:


Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?

Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google. Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 400 articles that include over 3,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2018.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman