Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Valençay AOP Cheese and the Valençay AOP Wines. The Town of Valençay and the Chateau de Valençay.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman
    
The Valençay Cheese.
Photograph courtesy of Frédérique Voisin-Demery
www.flickr.com/photos/vialbost/5486322753/
 
 
The Valençay Cheese and Wine

In 1998 the Valençay cheese received AOC status and the wine followed in 2004. That made the town of Valençay the first place in France to have both an AOC cheese and AOC wines. 

The Valençay cheese and the Valençay wines took their name from the small and attractive town of Valençay in the Valley of the Loire. The valley has beautiful countryside with fabulous chateaus and some of France’s most beautiful villages. Many of these are within 50 – 80 km (30 - 50 miles) of Valençay.

The town of Valençay is in the department of Indre. Indre, together with the department of Cher, was created from the old Province of Berry during the French revolution. Berry has its own cuisine, and though rarely heard today, it also has its own language. Along with its cuisine, the language is called Berrichone.


France’s mainland regions.
The departments of Indre and Cher are in the region of the Centre-Val de Loire, close to the center of mainland France.
Photograph courtesy of aer.eu/
  
The Valençay Cheese

Valençay is a mild, tasty, smooth, creamy, non-pasteurized goat’s milk cheese with 45% fat. (A pasteurized version of the Valençay cheese is available for export). Both versions of this cheese are at their best when just ripened, and that’s after about five weeks of aging when the edible rind becomes blue-grey. The blue color develops naturally as the cheese ages. The farm-made cheese, marked “Fermier,” is covered with a charcoal powder before sale though the rind remains edible. When I have the opportunity, I scrape off most of the charcoal and enjoy the rind. The dairy-produced cheeses are marked “Laitier” and are covered with vegetable ash.


Valencay “Fermier”
A farm made Valencay
Photograph courtesy of Affinord. 

The Valençay cheese looks like a truncated pyramid, and its weight varies between 250 grams ( 8.8 oz) to 300 grams ( 10.5 oz) with a base of 6 cm (2.4”) by 6 cm (2.4”). Also available is a Petit Valençay, which weighs approximately 110 grams. Both are suitable sizes to take home from a visit to France. Request a cheese that will be ready in one week and have it vacuumed packed. The cheese will be perfect if placed in the refrigerator when you return home within 48 hours, and it will keep well for about two to three weeks. Keep it refrigerated, not frozen. Take it out of the refrigerator one hour before serving. (For more about buying and taking French cheeses home, click here). When taking this cheese back home with you, make sure you buy one that explicitly says pasteurized. Declare it, and the customs will not argue with a pasteurized cheese.

Valençay cheeses made with organic milk are available. They will have the word Bio or Biologique a food product is organic the label will include the government-approved AB logo clearly visible. 

 


The AB organic produce label.
The AB logo became part of French law in1985. 
The label identifyies products that are defined as organic under French law.
  

Fresh goat’s cheeses will be off the market between January and February. These two months are the birth times for most goats, and then the nanny goats need their milk for their young. However, matured cheeses will still be available. The whole region around Valençay is famous for its goat’s cheeses. Look out for the local Crottin de Chavignol AOP, Pouligny Saint Pierre AOP; Selles sur Cher, AOP, and the Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine AOP. 


A few of France’s many goat’s cheeses.
Photograph courtesy of Marc Kjerland
www.flickr.com/photos/marckjerland/3956521102/
    
The Valençay cheese and its shape.

The Valençay cheese itself is considered a new cheese as it is only 200 years old! With its truncated pyramid, the cheese's shape has many stories about how it arrived at its final shape. The stories told and retold include a tongue-in-cheek story that includes Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I. In that story, Emperor Napoleon I cuts off the cheese's pointed top with his sword since the points reminded him of the sails of the British ships that destroyed his navy in the Battle of the Nile. Nevertheless, whatever the reason for the flat-topped pyramid, it is the shape of the cheese today, and its taste remains none the worse for it.

Valençay cheese on French Menus:

Polenta Crémeuse au Fromage de Valençay et Flan de Sucrine du Berry  Polenta is the French version of the North Italian dish of cornmeal polenta. For much of the European peasantry, polenta was a cornmeal and corn flour dish brought from the New World and easily adapted to France's agricultural needs. Cornmeal saved many peasants from starvation. Today polenta in France and Italy has returned as a fashionable side dish in fine restaurants. Here a creamy polenta is made with Valençay cheese and served with a flan made from the Sucrine du Berry. The Sucrine du Berry is a baby Romaine lettuce; it is crisp and sweet and sold as the "Little Gem" in North America. In France, the Sucrine du Berry may be in your salad or part of another dish. In Berry, where this baby lettuce was first grown in France, restaurants may also offer Soupe à la Sucrine du Berry, a little gem lettuce soup. For more about Berry's cuisine, click here.

Beetroot and watercress on a base of Valençay cheese.
www.flickr.com/photos/ideasinfood/8311593231/

Quiche de Valençay au Parfum de Basilic - quiche made with Valençay cheese and flavored with basil.

Boudin Noir au Valençay, Purée de Pommes de Terre – The French version of Black pudding, the much-loved pork blood sausage served with here with Valençay cheese and mashed potatoes.

Valençay AOC/AOP Wines

The Valençay AOP wines are whites, roses, and reds. The white wines blends include  Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Chardonnay, and sometimes the Arbois grape. The rosés are made from Gamay, Pinot Noir and Pineau d'Aunis. The Reds use the Gamay, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir grapes. Even with all these grape, only 240 acres are included in the Valençay appellation, and so from this tiny area comes an extensive range of wines. When you try a Valençay wine, you had better have done your homework or brought an up-to-date French wine book with you or have a knowledgeable sommelier as the wines produced under the label Valençay are incredibly varied. Valençay wines are not a single type of blend.


Rose and white Valençay wines
Photograph courtesy of Loire Valley Wine Tour.com
   
Valençay wines on French menus:

Salade Berrichonne, Œuf Poché Sauce Valençay Toast de Chèvre Valençay Chaud, Lardons Légèrement Fumés, Lentilles Vertes du Berry -  The Berrichonne salad is prepared with an egg poached in a Valençay wine sauce served with toast and warm Valençay cheese. The dish is accompanied by slowly smoked lardons (bacon pieces) and the famous green lentils of berry. Dishes with accents from the old Berry province will be on the menu as Berrichonne. Despite the two-hundred years that changed the name of the province the people still call themselves Berrichonnes.

Entrecôte Sauce Vin Valençay à la MoellePommes Frites - An entrecote is a rib-eye steak in North America and a rib-eye, fore rib or Sirloin in the UK. (USA sirloins are a different cut). Entrecôte is a French name and means between the ribs, and that it is. A French entrecote steak is usually prepared without the bone and is one of the tastiest steaks that any restaurant can offer.  Here the steak is prepared in a Valençay wine sauce with added bone marrow and served with French fries, the UK chips. (To order your steak cooked the way you prefer click here.) 

Tournedos de Lapereau Farci Sauce au Valençay Rouge  A stuffed tournedos from a young, farm-raised rabbit stuffed and prepared with a Valençay red wine sauce. A Tournedos is usually thought of as cut from a fillrt steak like a Tournedos Rossini; however, the word is used to described a thick cut.  However, a tournedos of a young rabbit must be seen through the eye of the beholder. From a young rabbit, the tournedos is not going to be a large serving. 

 


A red Valençay wine
Photograph courtesy of Loire Valley Wine Tour.com
 
 
Wines from the Loire Valley include the Valençay  wines. 

If you are looking for wines from Valençay as well as the area around the town, then you had better have done your homework. Your homework will need a very up-to-date book on French wines and there are some excellent pocketbooks are available. In the Loire Valley, there over 69 appellations and producing them are hundreds, if not thousands of vintners. In a restaurant, which in any case will not offer all the 69 different appellations, ask for their carte du vins, their wine-list. Then to reduce the myriad choices look for their white, rosé and light red Sancerre wines, the wines of Anjou, Saumur, and the Touraine. In a restaurant, a good sommelier along with your French wine book and a clear budget will aid in choosing the better vintners and the affordable years. I am not a wine maven and without a book, I would not remember 10% of the vintners, let alone the years with the best vintages.

Over a three day period, Valençay has its wine and cheese fete. It is usually held in the last days of May and the beginning of June. However, dates have been known to move a little every year or so. Check with the French Tourist Information Office in your home country before leaving home or look at the Valençay Tourist Information Office website:

http://www.valencay-tourisme.fr/infos-pratiques/les-offices-de-tourisme-du-pays-de-valencay.html 


The town of Valençay
Photograph courtesy of Moto Itinerari
www.flickr.com/photos/motoitinerari/20759332392/
 

The attractive small town of Valençay is walkable; it has less than 3,000 inhabitants. The town has an antique car museum, the Musee de l'Automobile de Valencay; most cars are pre - 1939. N.B. The museum is closed from mid-November through Mid-March. The town also has a museum of sugar art: The Musee du Sucre d'Art is attached to a local pastry shop.

In Valençay, there is a farmer's market every Tuesday morning, and the Valençay Tourist Information Office has the dates and times for other markets and points of interest around the town.


A Panhard-Levassor X-17-SS, 1912.
From the Valençay Car Museum
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Jolivet
www.flickr.com/photos/sybarite48/20254895704/
 
 
The Chateau de Valençay.

The Chateau de Valençay is one of the most beautiful Chateaus in France. It was made famous by Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754 – 1838), France’s first consummate politician.


The Chateau de Valençay.
Photograph courtesy of Patrick 
www.flickr.com/photos/morio60/7271645878/

Under King Philippe XVI Talleyrand, the last king before the French revolution was a deputy of the National Assembly. Then, after the French revolution in 1789, France was ruled by a new National Assembly. Talleyrand participated in writing the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The writers of that French declaration included some famous American citizens led by Thomas Jefferson as well as Thomas Payne and Benjamin Franklin. 

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were passed by France's National Constituent Assembly the 26 August 1789.  The United States Bill of Rights that comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were proposed on September 25, 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791.  Without faxes or email, the very similar laws were proposed 30 days apart.

Five years later on, the 2nd November 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor Napoléon 1 and his wife, Josephine Empress. The new Emperor’s first appointment as Foreign Minister was…. Talleyrand. In 1804, Talleyrand bought a monetary gift from Napoleon, the beautiful Château de Valençay. In this Château, Talleyrand employed the man who would become the most famous chef of the 19th century, Antonin Carême. Talleyrand believed in a well-set table along with excellent wines to win over politicians and prominent visitors to France. Carême and his cuisine brought the power behind the thrones of foreign rulers to Talleyrand’s table.  

Talleyrand served all masters and promoted at varying times opposing ideas. Talleyrand was also an ordained Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, but turned against the Church with the revolution’s anti-clerical bias. He became the Foreign Minister of Emperor Napoleon 1 and would later serve in the same post for King Louis XVIII after the monarchy was restored when the combined armies of Europe overthrew Napoleon. Talleyrand made tens of millions for a politician in the 18th and 19th centuries; today, that would be billions. Talleyrand, essential as he was at the time, would today be in jail for insider trading, bribery, breach of trust, accepting bribes, demanding bribes, along with money laundering, and much more!

The Chateau is open from the beginning of April until the first few days of January and even on France’s sacred museum Mondays. However, French dates and hours occasionally move around, so do check the dates and times with the Chateau’s English language website:

https://www.chateau-valencay.fr/en 


The gardens of the Chateau de Valençay.
Photograph courtesy of stephane333
www.flickr.com/photos/stephaneollivier/30053769558/

Talleyrand resigned his post of foreign minister in 1807, and then with time on his hands and money in his pockets in 1812, Talleyrand bought a permanent home in Paris on the Place de Concorde, Paris. That was a town palace that became known as the Hôtel de Talleyrand. After WWII, that palace was the headquarters of the Marshall Plan, and the United States still owns the building.

The building is now fully restored to the former glory seen under Talleyrand and may be visited; just ask directions to the Hôtel de Talleyrand on the Place de Concorde, Paris.

 With Napoléon’s defeat in 1814, Talleyrand once again changed sides as well as political philosophies; this time, he supported the return of the French Bourbon Kings. The first French King after Emperor Napoleon I was Louis XVIII (1814-1824), and he made Talleyrand the chief French negotiator at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. When Napoleon I returned in February 1815 and reached Paris in March 1815, Talleyrand remained a private citizen. Then in 1830, a new King from the Orleans branch of the royal family King Louis-Philippe (1830 - 1848), came to power, and Talleyrand, now aged 76, became the French Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1830-1834). Talleyrand died aged 84. On his deathbed, he changed sides again and repented for all his sins and received absolution from the Roman Catholic Church. Talleyrand is buried in the grounds of the Château de Valençay.

For those seeking a quieter vacation near Valençay:

For those seeking a quieter vacation near Valençay, the River Naon south-east of the town is a favorite site for amateur anglers and picnics. Fishing permits cost some 12 Euros per day, and all the equipment for an angler, from worms to rods, are available close by.  

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Jambon Sec (Cru) - Air-Cured Ham. The Ten Most Popular Air-Cured Hams on French Menus.

from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan G. Newman

 
Hams  on sale.
 
 
Hams in France

French cured ham comes from the upper part of the rear legs of a pig, and two kinds of ham may be on French restaurant menus. The first type of ham and the subject of this post is Jambon Sec (also called Jambon Cru), air-cured(air-dried) ham. The second type of ham is wet-cured ham and that may be cooked again. Wet-cured ham includes the ham used in ham sandwiches, called jambon blanc, white ham, or jambon de Paris, Parisian ham; other names include jambon supérieurJambon sec is called dry-cured ham in the UK and country ham in parts of the USA.

(N.B. In America’s south country ham is prepared differently). The Italian word ‘prosciutto” is also often seen on menus in the English-speaking world for air-cured ham. Though, to be accurate, the correct Italian name for jambon sec (cru), air-cured ham is prosciutto crudo


Sliced jambon sec
Photograph courtesy of Marco Verch    
www.flickr.com/photos/30478819@N08/48689023142/
 
Jambon Sec, Jambon Cru, the dry-
cured hams.

Using a French-English dictionary word by word, jambon sec may translate as dry ham while jambon cru may translate as raw ham. However, jambon sec (cru) is neither dry nor raw; it will have been cured by salting, flavoring with herbs, and air-drying (curing). Some hams are smoked and then air-cured, and jambon sec may be air-cured from three months to over two years. Most cured hams need no further cooking, in fact, cooking would destroy their taste and texture. 


A cured-ham sandwich
Photograph courtesy of _BuBBy_
www.flickr.com/photos/_bubby_/5984529247/
 
The history of curing hams

When curing ham began, we cannot be sure. However, we know from the recipe books of the Romans and Greeks that they were already preserving ham with salt, herbs, and vinegar, as well as air drying and smoking three thousand years ago. 

The flavors of cured ha

The differences in taste among cured hams come from how the pig was fed, what it ate when freely roaming, the pig’s breed, how the ham is prepared, and how long the ham is hung. To the meat’s natural taste, while curing, will be added salt, herbs, spices, berries, and eau-de-vies. Each type of cured ham has a very definite taste and texture; knowledgeable French diners look on the menu for the ham with his or her preferred flavor and texture.

The unique IGP or AOP hams

Many hams are unique, and why they may be excellent, like the Jambon Sec Prisuttu de Corse AOP, from Corsica, are only rarely seen on restaurant menus. With limited production and or distribution, these hams will not be part of the list below. If you are traveling in France and see a different ham on a menu, ask about it and consider trying it. 

N.B. Hams that have been cured for six months or more will not be part of cooked dishes and will only be served cold or added to a cooked dish at the last minute. The unique flavor and texture of air-cured hams, like that of fine olive oil, will disappear when cooked. 

Each of the ten hams in this post holds a distinct restaurant menu share and a particular reason for its fame. The hams in this post are in alphabetic order, with one exception. Jambon de Bayonne stands head and shoulders above the others, and for that reason is awarded first place in this list.

The ten most popular air-cured hams on French restaurant menus:


No: 1. Jambon de Bayonne IGP.

  

Jambon de Bayonne is the most popular air-cured ham in France; it accounts for nearly 40% of the hams on restaurant menus. Only eight breeds of pigs may be used, with most of the ham coming from the pied-noir Basque pig. These pigs are allowed to roam free in the forests and hills, and in the winter, they have wooden shelters that keep out the cold. The pigs eat acorns, and chestnuts they find and are also fed natural cereals for a balanced diet. Bayonne ham is salt-cured for ten days, then air-cured for at least seven months; the best Bayonne hams will be air-dried for 12 months or longer.

 


Bayonne ham with pickled wild mushrooms.
Photograph courtesy of Brett
www.flickr.com/photos/83096974@N00/455489083/

 
To verify the real Jambon de Bayonne, it is not enough to have a ham that came from any pig around Bayonne or other licensed areas. The pigs may not be treated with growth hormones or antibiotics, and the piglets must be raised by their mothers. With its fame and taste, the demand for Bayonne ham is immense, and that means that much of the Bayonne ham comes from farms that are hours away from Bayonne.     

 


Jambon de Bayonne on wheels.
Bayonne ham will be on sale at nearly every farmer's market.
Photograph courtesy of a_marga
www.flickr.com/photos/amarga/5861619926/[BH1] 

 s

Despite the quantity produced, the quality and the controls for this ham have not changed. There can be no more than 40 pigs in each hectare (2.4 acres), and the food the pigs eat and how they are raised remain the same.



The Basque cross on Bayonne ham.
The cross is an old Celtic mythological symbol.

 

All piglets that will have their ham sold as Jambon de Bayonne are tattooed after birth and their ham will be stamped with a Croix Basque, the Basque Cross, below the clearly written name Bayonne. Bayonne ham is identifiable all the way from the farm to the Charcuterie-Traiteur or restaurant where it is sold.

   

Where is Bayonne?

     

Bayonne is an inland port city set on the River Adour 8 km (5 miles) from the Atlantic and about 30 km (19 miles) from the Spanish border. Bayonne is in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Bayonne is also the cultural center of the Pay Basque and if you are in the area, enjoy Basque cuisine and their ham, in its home base.

 

N.B. In Bayonne, there is one non-culinary experience that should not be missed. That is the high-speed Basque ball game of Zesta punta (also called Cesta punta and Jai Alai), it is amazing. The Basques brought this game to Spain, Mexico, the USA, the Philippines, and elsewhere. In Bayonne you may also bet on the games…. I always lost. For more about Zesta-punta and the Basque country, see their English language website.

   

http://www.euskoguide.com/basque-culture/basque-sports/cesta-punta-jai-alai/

   

If you are visiting the Pays Basque around the time of the Easter vacations, consider taking a day to enjoy Bayonne's Foire au Jambon, their ham fair. This is a long-established fair that the organizer's claim was first held in 1426. The official date is from the Thursday before Easter through the following Wednesday. Check  what’s happening in Bayonne and the dates of this year's Easter Fair with the official Bayonne Tourism Office English language website:

  

https://www.visitbayonne.com/en/

  

Jambon de Bayonne on the menu:

   

Asperges Vertes Poêlées, Anguille Fumée, Jambon de Bayonne et  Parmesan -  Green asparagus lightly fried, accompanied by smoked eel, Bayonne ham, and Parmesan cheese.

   

Salade Verte, Pommes de Terre, Lardons, Tomates, Jambon de Bayonne, Magret Fumé - A green salad with potatoes, bacon pieces, tomatoes, Bayonne ham and smoked duck breast.

 

Jambon de Luxeuil

     

Jambon de Luxeuil or Jambon de Luxeuil Les Bains is marinated in salt, wine, and juniper berries  After one month, the ham is lightly-smoked and the air-dried for a minimum of seven to nine months. Luxeuil-les-Bains is close to the town of Fougerolles, where they make some of France’s finest kirsch liqueur. Fougerollse is also the town where Jean Valjean was caught stealing bread in the book Les Miserables.

Jambon de Luxeuil on a French menu:

  

Jambon de Luxeuil à l’Os, Saucisse de Morteau IGP, Comté et Salade – The cured ham of Luxeuil, on the bone, served with the Sausage of Morteau IGP, a unique locally smoked sausage. Here it is served along with Comte cheese and a salad

  

Chiffonade de Jambon de Luxeuil Et Griottines de Fougerolles – Chiffonade translates as rags; however, on your menu this will be thinly-sliced  Luxeuil ham, served with the sour cherries from the town of Fourgerolles.

     


Luxeuil-les-Bains
Photograph courtesy of France-Voyage

 

Where is the town of Luxeuil-les-Bains?

 

The spa town of Luxeuil-les-Bains is in the north of the department of Haute-Saône, in the Franche-Comte part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region.  Luxeuil-les-Bains is just 10 km (6 miles) from Fougerolles.

 

The English-language website of the Office de Tourisme de Luxeuil-les-Bains:

 

https://www.luxeuil-vosges-sud.fr/en  

 

 

Jambon de Parme (Palma, Italy).

    

Jambon de Parme (Palma)– This is the Italian Prosciutto Crudo di Parma IGP, and is as highly rated in France as it is in Italy. The ham is salted for over one month and then cured for 12 months or longer. Parma, the city, is in the Italian province of Emelia-Romagna equally famous for its Parmigiano- Reggiano, Parmesan cheese.

  

Parma ham.

Photograph courtesy of Udo Schröter

www.flickr.com/photos/nordelch/6198040562/

 

Jambon de San Daniele  

Jambon de San Daniele or Prosciutto Crudo di San Daniele IGP, is considered by many to be similar to Parma ham; however, it is not. This ham uses sea salt for the salting process and is cured for a minimum of 13 months. The producers, claim the ham’s unique taste is the result of the microclimate where the ham is aged. The small town of San Daniele de Friuli is 80 km (50 miles) from Venice.


Bruschetta of Raisin Bread, San Daniele Ham

and Saffron Goat Cheese.

Photograph courtesy of Citterio

 

Jambon de Savoie

   

Jambon de la Savoie is an air-cured, usually boneless, ham made in both Savoie (Savoy) departments in the Rhône-Alpes part of the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. The ham is salted and steamed before being air-cured for at least nine months.

  

During the curing process, the salt is applied to the hams by hand, in accordance with the traditional recipe. The aging lasts a minimum of 12 months and takes place in Alpine curing sheds at an altitude of over 650 m (2,100 feet).

 

The Savoie hams may be smoked.

  

Savoie hams may also be smoked over beech wood. The smoking results in a more robust tasting ham than most others on this list.

   

What else is there in the two Savoie departments?

 

Apart from its ham the Savoie is famous for some of the best cheeses of France, including Abondance AOPBeaufort AOPReblochon AOP, Tomme des Bauges IGP, Chevrotin AOP and the Tomme de Savoie IGP. Apart from cheese, ham, and wine, the Savoie departments have some of the best skiing in France.

    

Where is the Savoie (Savoy)?

  

The two departments of the Savoie are in the Rhône-Alpes part of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. Haute-Savoie borders both Switzerland and Italy and includes the French part of the Mont Blanc mountain along with the tunnel to Italy. The department of Savoie borders Italy.

.  

Jambon de Vendée IGP

 

Jambon de Vendée IGP is a cured and boneless smoked ham. The ham is rubbed with herbs and sea salt from the Atlantic Island of Noirmoutier off the department of Vendee's Atlantic coast. The island of Noirmoutier is reached by a bridge from close to the small town of La Barre de Monts. Noirmoutier is a very trendy French holiday resort and equally famous for its fish, oysters, and mussels.

  

The flavor of Vendée ham.

 

The herbs, spices, and flavors include cinnamonthymebay leaves, and an alcoholic eau-de vie. With the climate of Vendée making drying difficult, this is a pressed ham that allows for a shortened drying time of 3 to 4 months. After drying, this ham may be smoked with a process that creates a taste claimed by some to be comparable to Canadian Bacon. Vendée is a tasty and different ham, but never having tasted Canadian Bacon, I cannot confirm the similarities. On my next visit to Canada, I will check this out.

 

Plage Normoutier in Vendee

Photograph courtesy of Huges

www.flickr.com/photos/chugues/6839420794/

 

Where is Vendée

 

Vendée is the most western of the departments in the Pays de la Loire region and is on the Atlantic coast. Vendée is famous for its cuisine and historically famous for its politics; however, this is not a blog about politics. In Vendée, apart from their renowned ham, expect menus with fresh fish and shellfish, their Label Rouge, red label, ducks, chickens, quail, and guinea-fowl from Challans. Additionally, consider their unique Label Rouge Brioche de Vendée made with added crème fraiche and orange zest. (For more about Brioche and other French breads, click here) The Vendée also has many excellent local cheeses with locally produced butters and creme fraiche that round-up their amazing milk products. Vendee with nearly 200 km (125 miles ) of coastline is very popular among the French for summer vacations; so if you’re planning to stay in there is a hotel during July and August book a year ahead!

 

Vendée's ham on French menus:

   

Salade de Jambon de Vendée et Poires - A salad of Vendée ham and pears.

  

Tarte Fine aux Figues, Jambon de Vendée et Son Sorbet de Melon – A thin disk of puff pastry baked with figs and served cold accompanied by Vendée ham and a melon sorbet.

 

Jambon des Aldudes

      

Jambon des Aldudes is an air-dried ham made from the Aldudes Basque pig brought back from close to extinction.  This ham is salt cured and when matured the ham has a deep red color from the chestnuts the pigs eat and a unique taste.

    

 

Free range Basque pig and piglets in the Aldudes.

Photograph courtesy of  France-Voyage

         

Where are the Aludes?

            

The commune of Aldudes in the department of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in Nouvelle Aquitaine. It is close to the border with Spain. This is the same French department that includes Bayonne and its own famous ham and Jambon de Kintoa AOP. Apart from ham Ossau-Iraty AOP cheese is produced here. It is one of only two sheep’s cheeses that have AOP ratings. (The other cheese is Roquefort AOP).

 

Jambon du Morvan

 

Jambon du Morvan or Jambon Sec du Morvan is a cured ham from the Morvan in the Bourgogne, Burgundy part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. This ham is cured in a salt-crust for four weeks and then hung for a minimum of six months before being sold. The ham is made around the small town of Château-Chinon, which is set in the Morvan National Park. From personal experience, the park is a lovely place to drive through, stop and dine, or just get out and wander.

 

Jambon de Morvan on French menus:

   

Jambon Persille de Morvan. - Jambon persillé is a sliced ham and garlic and parsley dish served in a wine flavored beef or veal-based aspic.


Jambon Persillé du Morvan

Photograph courtesy of MorvanDrive

    

The French-language website of the National Park of Morvan:

 

http://www.parcdumorvan.org/

   

Where is Morvan?

 

Morvan is in the department of Cote d'Or in Burgundy. The Cote d'Or is also famous for its red wines that include Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet. The department of Cote d'Or also produces a large part of the regions sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.

 

Jambon Fumé du Haut-Doubs

   

Jambon Fumé du Haut-Doubs is a smoked and cured ham from the mountains in the department of Doubs in the region of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. These hams are smoked in house of local resident's with their famous chimneys called tuyés. The whole area, which includes the Jura, is also renowned for its many wines, meat products and cheeses, including Comté AOP cheese, among many others. The same area produces wines and liquors that include the sparkling white Crémant du Jura AOC

 

Doubs

Photograph courtesy[of Thomas

www.flickr.com/photos/96585604@N03/21892544454/

 

 

Where is Haut Doubs?

  

Haute-Doubs is in the department of Doubs in the France-Comte part of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region bordering Switzerland. The prefecture, the departmental capital, is the town of Besançon. Besançon was once the home of France’s watchmaking industry, competing with Switzerland for the best watches in the world. Visit its fascinating watch museum.

   

Jambon Noir de Bigorre – Porc Noir de Bigorre

  

Jambon (Porc) Noir de Bigorre comes from the Porc Noir de Gascon AOP, the black Gascony pig. This ham is salt-cured and hung for a minimum of 20 months before being sold. The ham has an intense red color and a sweet taste. After being hung for 20 months, the ham almost melts in your mouth; some of this ham is aged for 36 months. This ham is produced in the Hautes-Pyrenees and is one of the few hams supported by the Slow Food Movement.

   

Jambon Noir de Bigorre on French Menus :

 

Assiette de Charcuterie : Jambon de Porc Noir de Bigorre, Rillettes des d’Oie, Saucisson Sec, Pate de Campagne  - A plate of Jambon Noir de Bigorre served with goose rilllettes. (Goose rillettes are goose meat that will have been slowly cooked in fat until the meat can be made into a paste to spread on toast or bread). Here the ham is served alongside the rillettes, a small salami-type sausage, and a country pate.

   

Jambon Cru (Sec) de Pays

A ham outside of the ten most popular hams but still on many menus

Jambon Cru de Pays indicates a locally cured ham. If the ham is local, then the better menus will clearly state its origins even if it is not nationally famous. The problem is that the name is generic and may be seen in supermarkets where any mass-produced cured ham may be sold as Jambon Cru de Pays. Unless you know where the ham on your menu comes from, it will a mass-produced ham. The problem with anonymous hams are the coloring agents, and synthetic flavors that may be added along with tastes that vary by producer.

N.B. Not everything marked jambon comes from pigs.

As in other countries, chicken, duck, and goose that are smoked in a similar manner to ham may be on the menu; though none of them are aged like ham. In France, in the USA, the UK, and elsewhere, some non-pork products, especially poultry, may have the name ham added to them. In the USA, turkey ham is an example. In France, jambon d’oie is smoked goose, and that translates as goose ham. Jambon de canard is smoked duck, duck ham, jambon de magret is smoked duck breast or goose breast, and jambon de dinde is French turkey ham. (French turkey ham tastes very differently to the American turkey ham). 

Look for the description on the menu or ask; in a supermarket, check the label. These poultry products can be tasty as they will have been smoked in a manner similar to ham and can have a slightly similar taste. That explains the name of duck ham etc. Additionally, those with religious sensibilities to pork use these poultry hams in recipes that would otherwise require cured ham.


Magrets d'Oie du Perigord
Goose breast from Perigord.
Photograph courtesy of foie-gras-sarlat.

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