Sunday, October 13, 2019

Bleu de Bresse – The Most Popular Blue Cheese in France. Bleu de Bresse in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Bleu de Bresse
Bleu de Bresse is the most popular blue cheese in France with a large following of cheese lovers around the world.  It fits right in when a mild blue cheese is needed for a cheese plate, and it also makes excellent blue cheese salad dressings and sauces.

Bleu de Bresse is a 32% fat (15% dry weight), creamy, spreadable, mild-tasting, blue-veined/patched cow’s milk cheese made from pasteurized milk with a natural edible rind and a mild aroma of mushrooms; it is aged for three weeks. The cheese was first made in the village of Servas in the department Ain in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. 

This where you buy Bleu de Bresse.
For several reasons, Bleu de Bresse is looked down upon by some. Firstly because it is considered a new cheese, secondly because it is mass-produced, and thirdly because it had Italian influences in its creation. Now Bleu de Bresse may be new, but you would be more than 70 years old if you were born in the year it was created, and so you would have to be close to 80 to consider 70 young.  Then, many of France’s other cheeses are mass-produced, including pasteurized milk Camemberts and Bries, and while they are not given free passes, they cause less controversy. Following on, Italian input is seen in many parts of French cuisine,  just as French contributions are seen in Italian Cuisine.

Gorgonzola on sale
What's more, this cheese was created during WWII when Italian cheeses could not be imported. Then this blue, cow's milk cheese was made in the style of the Italian Gorgonzola cheese by an Italian influenced French cheese maker; it was given the name Saingorlon. Following on that in 1951, Saingorlon morphed into its present life as Bleu de Bresse and the dairies that make it have never looked back. 

Saingorlon is good as a ten letter word in French Scrabble.
Much of the disapproval above is food snobbery, but the vast majority of French citizens ignore that, and to prove it Bleu de Bresse is the best-selling mass-produced blue cheese in France. Outside France, the Bleu de Bresse also has a very successful footprint, but even there, some food writers have called Bleu de Bresse a beginners’ blue cheese. What a lot of nonsense. Not every cheese has to compete with France’s fantastic, but super strong sheep’s milk Roquefort AOP or the magnificent but mild cow’s milk cheeses like the Fourme d’Ambert AOP and the Fourme de Montbrisson AOP.  I may choose Bleu de Bresse for a cheese platter just as often as I might choose another among the tens of France’s blue cheeses (when I can find five or six together to make a reasoned choice); variety is important. In the UK and North America, Bleu de Bresse, like in France, is sold in packages and wedges that weigh anywhere from 125 grams (4.40 oz) to 500 grams (1.10 lbs).

Bleu de Bresse on French menus:
Carré de Porc Braisé au Bleu de Bresse, Poíres Confites – A rack of braised pork prepared with a Bleu de Bresse sauce and served with a thick pear confit (jam).
Pièce de Bœuf Grillée, Sauce Crème au Bleu de Bresse – A grilled rump steak served with a  creamy Bleu de Bresse sauce. Now a Pièce de Bœuf may seem to translate as a Piece of Beef which doesn’t inspire, but there are four unique French cuts that may be called a Pièce de Bœuf. When Pièce de Bœuf is on the menu in France that indicates the best cuts from the rump, cuts that are usually too much work and preparation for the UK and North American butchers.
Piece de Boeuf

Salade Bressane aux Emincés de Poulet Fumé au Bleu de Bresse et aux Cerneaux de Noix – The Bresse salad, which includes chicken liver, is here served with thin slices of smoked chicken and walnuts and accompanied by a Bleu de Bresse sauce. 

Truite "Mont du Jura" Désarêtée à la Crème de Bleu de Bresse – A boned “Jura Mountain” trout served with cream of  Bleu de Bresse sauce. The Jura mountains are in the Alpes between France and Switzerland and with fabulous skiing in the winter and lakes, including the Lac Morond, Lake Morond, in the summer famous for great fishing at 1400 meters (4600 feet). (Caveat Emptor: In all probability, this is a Rainbow Trout from a fish farm). Désarêté or Désarêtée on this menu listing means de-boned but it may also be used for fish that have been both filleted and skinned).     
Trout with cream of Bleu de Bresse Sauce.
With all the criticism, the producers tried to upgrade the Bleu de Bresse cheese with a name change in the 1960s; then, they renamed it Fourme de Bresse. At that time, the two top of the line French mild blue cow's milk cheese makers; with Fourme in their names, the Fourme de Montbrisson and Fourme d’Ambert got together, went to court and put a stop to that; since then they have received an AOP apiece to add to their names. But, Bleu de Bresse sails on with its old name, no AOP, and a crowd of admirers who would buy it under any name. 

Where it all began.

The village of Servas, where Bleu de Bresse was first produced is next to the River Veyle set in the heartland of the old province of Bresse. It is just 5 km (3 miles) from the village of Bresse and 11 km ( 6.2 miles) from to town of Bourg en Bresse (where it is made today) in the department of Ain. The old Province of Bresse is mostly within the department of Ain in the new administrative region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and the department of Saône-et-Loire in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté with some parts reaching the French Jura. From these departments come many significant contributions to French cuisine apart from Bleu de Bresse;  especially notable are: 

The Crème de Bresse AOP, cow’s milk cream.
The Mâconnais AOP goat’s cheese.
The Volaille de Bresse AOP, France’s top of the line chickens, capons, poulardes, and turkeys.

That’s just a small part of what may be on the table when you travel in the old province of Bresse.

A couple of things to note when visiting Bresse.

French departments have numbers given to them during the French revolution that created them, and Ain at the beginning of the alphabet is department number 01.

The locals are called Bressans, and among them, there are still those who know the old language of Bressan, which developed from Occitan. Occitan was the French language that lost out in the completion to be the official language of France. 
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2019.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog write to Bryan Newman


Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
French menus?
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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Porc Noir de Bigorre, AOP – An Ancient Breed of Pig That Provides the Most Highly Rated Cured Ham in France. The Porc Noir de Bigorre in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

The Porc Noir de Bigorre, AOP.

Pork is the most popular meat in France though restaurants prefer to highlight more expensive cuts of beef and lamb. Nevertheless, there will be jambon cru, cured hams, and other costly cuts from some of the most famous porcine breeds in France on most menus, along with farmed and real wild boar and top-level cured ham imports. In the French lineup of famous porkers, one pig is far ahead of all others in quality and taste, and that is the Porc Noir de Bigorre AOP, the Black Pig of Bigorre. This ancient breed of pigs has been raised for at least 1,000 years around the old French Province of Bigorre, now included in the modern departments of Hautes-Pyrénées, Gers, and Haute-Garonne. (Since 1-1-2016 these departments have been part of the new super-region of Occitanie).
The Porc Noir De Bigorre is free-range for 70% of the year.
Flavor in pork comes from fat and the Porc Noir de Bigorre is very flavorsome, coming as it does from a 55% fat to meat ratio. However, that was too much fat for many farmers after WWII when the farmers needed inexpensive fast-growing breeds with more meat per kilo, and so by the 1980s, the tasty Porc Noir was nearly extinct. Nevertheless, there were always a few farmers who kept raising these pigs as a hobby while waiting for an educated public who would pay extra for the quality and taste of the Porc Noir de Bigorre. 

By 1992 there were enough producers who had agreed breeding and quality standards to begin offering the wider public a uniquely tasting saucisson, a salami type sausage, and jambon sec, dry-cured ham, with a fabulous taste, along with other cuts. The public responded, and in short order, the farmers couldn't keep up with the demand. The Porc Noir, however, is a slow-growing pig, and its dry-cured ham is aged for at least 18 months with its very best offerings aged for twenty-four. Long aging takes up a lot of expensive climate-controlled storage, and they can't compete with popular cured hams that are only aged for seven to twelve months. Altogether, that makes for an expensive product, but at the end, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the Jambon de Porc Noir de Bigorre melts on your tongue. In 2017 the Porc Noir de Bigorre received its AOC, and a Pan-European AOP closely followed that. (The Porc Noir de Bigorre AOP is also one of the few hams supported by the Slow Food Movement).  
Slices of cured ham from the Porc Noir De Bigorre AOP.

The Porc Noir de Bigorre of French menus :

Carré de Porc Noir de Bigorre, Flan de Haricots Tarbais et Jus Corsé – A pork chop from the Porc Noir de Bigorre accompanied with a savory tart made from the Label Rouge Tarbaise dried bean and served with a Jus Corsé, a sauce made from the natural cooking juices. The dried white Haricot Tarbais bean was the first dried bean to be awarded the French Label Rouge, the red label, for its unique and consistent quality. 

A Porc Noir de Bigorre sow will also have fat piglets.

Gambas et Poitrine De Porc Noir De Bigorre Caramélisées Et Poivrées - Caramelized large shrimps with pepper accented pork belly from the Porc Noir De Bigorre.

Porc Noir Burger: Pain Burger, Sauce Fumée, Oignons Confits, Ventrèche De Porc Noir De Bigorre - A Porc Noir Burger served with a burger roll, accompanied by a smoke-flavored sauce, onions confit (slowly cooked and offered as a sweet jam with their taste made to contrast with the meat) and pork belly from the Porc Noir De Bigorre  

A store of Porc Noir hams.
Jambon de Porc Noir de Bigorre et Langoustine Croustillante de Kadaïf, Assaisonnés D'une Huile de Noisette du Gers, Fraîcheur de Pomme Granny et Gingembre – Cured ham from the Porc Noir de Bigorre served with crispy Dublin Bay Prawns (the real scampi) wrapped in the thin pasta strands of Kadaïf, flavored with oil from hazelnuts from the department of Gers and slices of chilled Granny Smith apples flavored with ginger.

Kadaïf is a pastry with both savory and sweet versions that were brought to France with North African cuisine though it is found all over the Middle East as well as in Turkey, Greece, and Albania.  Kadaïf is made from pasta-like vermicelli in very thin angels’ hair strands made from wheat flour, corn starch, salt, and water. Kadaïf may be on menus as Knafeh, Knofa, and Kadaïfia.
 Assiette de Charcuterie: Jambon de Porc Noire de Bigorre, Rillet des d’oie, Saucisson sec, Pate de Campagne - A platter of Jambon Noir de Bigorre served with goose rillets accompanied by, a small salami type pork sausage and a country pate. (Goose rillets are goose meat that has been slowly cooked in goose fat until the meat can be made into a paste to spread on toast or bread).
Porc Noire Saucisson
The Black Pig of Bigorre’s salami type sausage.

The Black Pig of Bigorre live freely for 70% of the year in small herds in natural settings in open forest where they feed on wild herbs and flowers, acorns, chestnuts, and locally cultivated vegetable additions. The piglets are raised freely by their mothers until they are weaned and no antibiotics or growth hormones are permitted.

In the countryside of the old province of Bigorre:

The whole area where the pigs are raised is very much into fine foods and the following are just a few:
The Haricot Tarbaise dried beans, the first dried bean to be awarded the Label Rouge, the coveted red label for consistent quality and taste;
The Mouton Barèges-Gavarnie AOP, France's uniquely raised and aged mutton.
The Volailles Fermières du Gers, Label Rouge poultry, with chickens, poulardes, capons, turkeys, and Guinea fowl.
The Cadours Ail Violet AOP, the unique violet garlic from around the town of Cadours in the department of Haute-Garonne.

The Porc Noir de Bigorre AOP will not be on every menu, so look out for it and do not pass it by.


Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2019

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

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" (best when including the inverted commas), and search with Google, Bing, or another search engine.   Behind the French Menu’s links, include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 450 articles that include over 4,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.

Connected Posts: