Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Picodon AOP Goat’s Milk Cheese. The First Goat's Cheese to be Awarded an AOC.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Welcome to the world of Picodon

The Picodon AOP cheese, (also called the Picodon de la Drôme AOP or Picodon d'Ardèche AOP), is a 45% fat (29.1% dry weight), lightly spicy to spicy goats' milk.  Pasteurised and unpasteurized versions are available. The cheese’s spiciness depends on the cheese's maturity.

The ages of Picodon AOP

The youngest cheese, the Picodon Jeune, has a white or bluish edible rind and is aged from 8 - 12 days; it is likely to be in your salad or mixed with olive oil and herbs as a spread.  Then, from twelve days to one month, the next stage, the Picodon Mi-affine, will be cooked in pastries, prepared as a cream of Picodon sauce or part of another recipe.  More mature Picodon AOC cheeses will have been aged for at least 30 days (Picodon Affine) and comes with an ivory or darker rind; they will be on the cheese platter. The mature Picodons comes with tastes and spiciness that depend on the way the cheese was aged. The Picodon Affiné Lave passes through alternating periods of aging and washing with clear water and is called the Affiné Méthode Dieulefit, or with washes in wine, the Affiné Lavé. These mature cheeses are considered a step up from the younger Picodons and they have a bite that can surprise the uninitiated, though they are not the strongest of France's goat's cheeses.

Picodon AOP

Picodon AOP was the first goats' cheese to receive a French AOC (now an AOP) and that was in 1983. The cheese's origins, however, date back to the 14th or 15th century.

The cheese is produced in small discs that weigh from 45 - 60 grams (1.59 - 2.11 oz) with some slightly heavier. The best Picodon AOP cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk on the farms where the goats are raised with a number of larger dairies producing cheeses made with pasteurized milk. Nearly all the Picodon AOP cheese comes from the departments of Drôme and Ardèche in the administrative region of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alps. 

The meaning of Picodon.

The citizens of Ardèche and Drôme, and others in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône–Alps, will not be surprised that Picodon AOP is a spicy cheese. Nearly all the long-time residents of the region speak or understand some of the old Occitan language and Picodon just means spicy in Occitan.  

(Occitan is the language that, over 200 years ago, lost out to modern French as the language that would unite the French nation. Nevertheless, Occitan or one of its dialects, like Provencal or Niçoise, is still spoken in many homes in many parts of France; that is apart from perfect French). 

Members of the AOP production team.
For at least seven months of the year, the goats are free-range. They will be eating grass and wild herbs, hawthorn leaves, acorns, and chestnuts. In the winter, they are fed grasses collected from the same area during the summer, and as may be expected, the winter hay and dried grasses produce a cheese with a slightly different taste.
In a restaurant, when you have chosen your three or four kinds of cheese from the cheese trolley or have ordered a pre-selected cheese plate that includes Picodon AOP, do remember that its flavor can overpower milder cheeses so enjoy the Picodon after the others.
Picodon at different ages
Picodon AOP on your menu:
Velouté de Potimarron aux Éclats de Châtaigne et Crème de Picodon – A velvety soup made with pumpkin and flavored with slices of chestnuts and a cream of Picodon cheese sauce.

Velouté de Chou au Picodon
A velvety cabbage soup with Picodon

La Salade Picodon: Picodon Chaud Dans sa Feuille de Brick, Lardons, Salade Verte.  A Picodon AOP salad made with hot Picodon cheese served inside Feuille de Brick. Feuille de Brick (often just called Brik) is a flaky thin durum wheat semolina-based pastry of Tunisian origin. Here the pastry stuffed with Picodon cheese is accompanied by bacon pieces and a green salad.
Carpaccio de Boeuf Mariné et Son Croustillant de Picodon – A beef Carpaccio made with marinated beef and accompanied by a crisply grilled (or fried) Picodon cheese.
Tiramisu with strawberries and Picodon
For the Recipe click here.:
Salade au Magret de Canard Fumé et Flan du Terroir au Picodon. - A salad of smoked duck breast served with a traditional tart made with Picodon cheese. (French flans are usually tarts made using pâte brisée, a crusty pastry).
Suprême de Poulet De l’Ardèche Sauce Crème de Picodon, Crique Ardéchoise.  Breast of Ardèche chicken served with a Picodon cream sauce and accompanied by a Crique Ardéchoise, which is a traditional Ardèche potato pie.    A crique in your French-English dictionary may indicate a creek or even a fiord; however, the word crique here comes from the Occitan language and not modern French.
A Crique Ardéchoise, a traditional Ardeche potato pie.

Picodon, Picodon, and more Picodon
If you are traveling around this area, you will see other cheeses with the word Picodon on the label, though without the AOP. These different Picodon cheeses are traditional variations of the more well-known Picodon AOP and were created around the same time as the Picodon AOP, probably in the 14th or 15th century; however, they have slightly different textures and flavors. Many of these other Picodon cheeses are excellent, but only available locally as they do not produce enough for commercial distribution outside a very limited area. On the plus side, they will cost you less than their more famous cousin.
Cheese on sale at the covered market in Libourne, France.
When buying a Picodon AOC cheese, or one of its close cousins, try and do so in fromagerie, a cheese shop. A fromagerie has trained, knowledgeable staff and will be able to explain the differences among the various Picodons and vacuum pack your purchases if you are buying some cheese to take home. For the link to buying cheese in France and taking it home, click here.   
Warm goat’s cheese salad.

The Picodon Fete
If you visit the Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes, remember that the third Saturday and Sunday in July brings you the Fête de Picodon. The fete is held in the village of Saoû, in the department of Drôme. The village of Saoû, with less than 600 inhabitants, is the Picodon AOP producers' promotional center.  Here you may enjoy Picodon AOP cheese tastings together with local wines. The fete also has attractions planned for children that include parades with clowns wandering around. On Saturday, there is a human circus that everyone can enjoy, and Saturday night brings several free concerts. Of course, you will have to pay for all the snacks, plates of French Fries, cheeses, and wines that you consume. On Sunday, there is a huge luncheon that you may join in, for a very reasonable price; however, you must order a place in advance, and that you may do via the internet. Usually, the Sunday includes a large market selling nearly everything under the sun: antiques, would-be antiques, modern artworks, fruits, wines, other cheeses, and more. Within 30 km (19 miles) of Saoû, there are plenty of B and B's and hotels up to 3 and 4 stars, but book ahead.

N.B., as, unfortunately, expected, the 2020 fete has been canceled, but make a note in your diary for the 17th and 18th July 2021.
 The village of Saoû

For the French-language website of the "La Fête du Picodon" click or copy/paste the link below.  The website is easily understood in English with the Google or Bing translation apps.

The Confrérie de Picodon

The Confrérie de Picodon is the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Knights of the Picodon Cheese. These brave knights dress up in would-be ancient costumes, and as interested parties work to promote the Picodon AOP cheese. They will be in costume during the fete, and at other times when they will be checking that you are only sold the genuine article.   
The Confrérie de Picodon

Apart from promoting the Picodon AOP cheese, the village of Saoû along with other communities close bye has activities throughout the year, from rock climbing to music festivals. Apart from these activities, there are many different cheeses and wines from the Ardèche and the Drôme. On sale during the fete and on each villages’ market day will be honey (especially the chestnuts and chestnut honey from the Ardèche), poultry, lamb, snails, lavender, Ardèche Safran, the herb, olives,  olive oil and much more. The Romans settled in this region 2,000 years ago, and they brought many of the fruit trees, including almondsapricotspeaches, and cherries, among others. In the valleys of the Ardèche, those trees have created orchards that produce fruit that is sold all over France. Call your local French Government Tourist Office for the dates of all the happenings in the village of Saoû and the departments of Drôme and Ardèche.

Music at the fete
                 The English Language website of the Rhone-Alps:


Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016. 2020

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

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Crepes, Galettes, Gaufres, Mille Crepes, Pannequets and more.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman 

Enjoying her first taste of French street food
Crêpes are a summer favorite

Is it true that:
A crêpe is a pancake?
A galette is a wafer?
A gaufre is a waffle?

The French-English dictionary on your PC or mobile may well tell you that a crêpe is a pancake, a galette is a wafer, and a gaufre is a waffle. However, as you have probably already discovered few French chefs pay much attention to French-English dictionaries. This post will show you the most popular variations and names found for crêpes and their family members on French menus.

The French did not invent the crepe, but they certainly have created hundreds, possibly thousands of recipes for crepes, galettes, gaufres, and other close family members. Crepes and their family may be made from regular wheat flour, potato flour, buckwheat flour, or mixed flours. Crepes will be either thin and quickly cooked or thick like a pancake, baked until crisp like a biscuit or layered with additions and made into a cake. Some variations will serve as casings for vegetables, smoked fish, or other savory additions, while others may be covered in maple syrup (rarely seen in France) or served with fried eggs for breakfast. 

Crêpes au chocolat

In France, crepes will be sold on street corner food-carts covered with Nutella or chocolate spread or served as beautiful desserts in wonderful restaurants. Crepes may be anointed with a fruit sauce, accompanied by fresh fruit, ice cream, and whipped cream, and the much-loved dessert called Crepes Suzette will be flambéed.

On your menu, crepes, galettes, gaufres, and their family members will change their descriptive names at the chef’s whim. Read the menu carefully or ask.
As you travel through France on French menus you may find:
Crepaze  A cake made of crêpes interleaved with fruits or vegetables and baked. This cake differs from a mille crêpe, which is made with many thin pancakes interleaved with fruit, cream, or cheese, but not baked.

Bourriole au Bleu d'Auvergne – This is an Auvergne buckwheat or blended flour, crêpe made with the mellow 45% fat, pasteurized, cow’s milk blue cheese the Bleu d'Auvergne AOP.
Mille Crepe
Mille Crepe- A mille crêpe’s name has the same roots as a Millefeuille, a pastry made with interleaved layers of pâte feuilletée and fruit, vegetables or pastry cream.

Crêpe à la Farine de Châtaigne Corse AOP - A crêpe made with the AOP chestnut flour from Corsica. Chestnut flour will be used in many crêpes, gaufre, and galettes.
Crêpe à la Farine de Châtaigne Corse Fourrée au Brocciu - A crêpe made with the Corsican AOP chestnut flour stuffed with the Brocciu Corsican cheese. Forests cover close to one-quarter of France, and more than 25% of them are chestnut forests. The chestnuts from the forests of Corsica produce the top rated chestnut flour in France; the only chestnut flour with an AOP. The Corsican Brocciu AOC/AOP cheese used in the menu listing above is a soft sheep’s or goat’s cheese. This Brocciu cheese is one of the few cases where an AOP cheese may be made with the milk from more than one animal. Brocciu is made from the whey, and for a cheese made with whey, it has a surprisingly high-fat content of 40%; the high-fat content of Brocciu is explained by as much as 20% whole milk being added to the whey.  (The only AOP chestnuts in France come from the department of Ardèche situated in the region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
Crêpe Sucrées - Dessert crêpes. These are made with many recipes; some use egg yolks, some whole eggs; all use milksome add light-cream, and most will be thin.
Nearly all crêpe sucrées will be part of a dessert.
Crêpe Sucrées
Crêpes au Coulis de Fruits Rouge – Crêpes served with a thick fruit sauce. Depending on the season the fruits may include berries such as bluets, bilberries; baie de Genièvre, juniper berries; sureau, elderberries, and other fruits such as fraise, strawberries, and cherries.  Out of season, the sauce may be made with added peaches and apricots and while these last two are not red fruits they are often called to the banner.
Crêpes Suzette - Crêpes Suzette - Thin crêpe sucrées prepared in a sauce made fresh orange juice flavored with a combination of liquors.  Crêpes Suzette plays an important part in the culinary stories of France, and it has its own post. That post tells the story of the Prince of Wales and the Chef Henri Charpentier.

Crepes Suzette Flambée
Crêpes Salées Savory crepes. These may be made the same way as sweet crepes but the additions will be vegetables, ham, or chicken. Some savory crepes will be made with chestnut or buckwheat flour.
Crêpes Américaine also called Pancakes Americaine - On some French menus. American pancakes are much thicker than crepes, and they contain baking soda to help them rise. Crepe batter is allowed to rest before using, and that results in thinner crepes.
American pancakes with maple syrup 
Sirop d'érable, maple syrup, is only rarely seen accompanying crêpes in France.
Nevertheless, in the cities with many tourists, 
you may find American pancakes and maple syrup.
Crêpes au Saumon Fumée et Fromage Frais  - A crepe filled with smoked salmon and fresh white cheese.

Crêpes Parmentier, Galette de Pommes de Terre, or Crêpes de Pomme de Terre Potato pancakes made with grated potatoes, onions, and eggs. These potato pancakes come in all sizes and are all very similar to Swiss Röstis and Jewish Latkes.(Swiss Röstis themselves come with different recipes though potatoes are always at their heart.  The most famous röstis are the röstis bernois named after the City of Bern). 
Swiss Rostis
Ficelle Picarde   A crêpe from the historical region of Picardy (Picardie), in north-western France. The Ficelle Picarde is a crêpe stuffed with mushrooms and ham.  The finished crêpe is baked in a béchamel sauce with gruyere cheese and served gratinée. The old region of Picardie includes the departments of Somme, Aisne, and Oise and is now part of the new administrative region of Haute de France.
Galettes Galettes began as thicker crepes and crepes made with buckwheat flour; however, the usage of the word galettes and their recipes are not written in stone.

Galette Bretonne, also called a Galette Complète’– A traditional pancake from Brittany made with the local buckwheat flour, its blé noir, black flour, is also called the farine de sarrasin, the flour of the Saracens. A Galette Bretonne may be served with a variety of garnishes though the most traditional would be salted butter, fried eggs, ham, and grated French Gruyere cheese.  I was reminded that when you dine on galettes in Brittany expect to find cider on the menu as well. Normandy and Brittany make sparkling ciders that are recognized as among the best in France and will often replace Champagne at local celebrations.

A Galette Bretonne or Galette complète,
Accompanied by a small cup called a bolee, it looks like a small teacup in this photograph and contains 220ml of Brittany cider.
The small jug is a refill and also contains 220ml

Galette de Pommes de Terre- see Crêpes Parmentier,
Galette du Paludier – This is not a member of the crêpe family. It is a creamy goat’s milk cheese. The cheese is made in flattened circles that weigh approximately 90 grams, so its shape is like a thick crepe, a galette. The Galette du Paludier is a goat’s milk cheese aged on a bed of the coastal plant called samphire or salicorne. This cheese is only made close to the coast, near Guérande in the department of Loire-Atlantique and the nearby island of Noirmoutier in the department of Vendée. Guérande is just 80 km (50 miles) from the regional capital of the Loire-Atlantique, the beautiful City of Nantes).

Gaufres – Waffles.

Like French fries there are arguments among the French and the Belgians about ownership of the original gaufre recipe.  Recipes for gaufres are found in French literature over 600 years ago and there are many modern recipes for gaufres that are undoubtedly French.  However, gaufres come in many variations, some may be Belgian with some may be as thin as a crepe while others maybe 3cm (1 1/4”) thick. Particularly famous varieties of completely French gaufres include the Gaufre Meert and the Gaufres Etoile.

Gaufre Belge - The Belgium waffle, by tradition, it is nearly always served with whipped cream, the strawberries are extra.

A French friend disputes the history of the Belgian Waffle claiming its format for France, and he is sure that the source of the confusion dates back to the 1960s.  Then many Britons visiting the Continent used to cross the Channel to Ostend, Belgium by ferry and then almost immediately traveling onwards to France, a mere 40 minutes to the border. The reason for the popularity of the UK-Belgium route was simply because ferry boats from the UK were much cheaper. In Belgium, the arriving Brits who stopped for lunch or tea found a particular type of gaufre that they liked and named it the Belgian waffle. 

The above UK - France route may have been true for many visitors but I know that my grandparents used to cross the Channel to Ostend, Belgium at least once a year. That was for the sand, the sun, the excellent cuisine, and of course the famous Ostend, Belgium casino.  While I was not allowed in the casino I was, in 1958, invited along.  In Ostend, I spent my evenings cycling the streets on a rented bicycle in the company of other likewise outfitted underage compatriots. All of us had been dragged along by relatives who spent the day on the beach and the night in the casino; few ever made it to France. A side-effect of this trip to Belgium was my early introduction to some excellent Belgian versions of French cuisine.

Belgian waffle
Gaufres Liégeoises –– A Belgian waffle made with brioche dough, Liège is the French-speaking city in Belgium that gave its name to this waffle.

A Gaufres Belge with fruit and Creme Chantilly.
Photograph by elenathewise/

Gaufrettes - On a menu or in a store these are usually wafers.   
Pannequets – Small crêpes, rolled or folded over with savory or sweet fillings. It may seem unnecessary to have yet another word for crêpes or galettes, but in this case, the term describes how the crêpes will be served.
        Pannequets aux Fraises  – Crêpes wrapped around a strawberry filling.
Pannequets with lemon & cherry filling and chocolate sauce.
Sanciaux  Another traditional name for crêpes or galettes. Sanciaux will be on the menu with a variety of recipes in a number of France's régions.
Socca or Socca Niçoise - Crêpes and or donuts from in and around the City of Nice on France’s Mediterranean coast; these are made with farine de pois chiche, chick-pea flour.

Crêperie - A crêpe bar; a pancake bar.
A crêperie is a particular French institution and maybe a street-side kiosk or a full-service café-restaurant. Those crêperies that are café-restaurants have the central part of their menus built around savory crêpes for the main course and sweet crêpes for desserts. 

Along with crepes, many crêperies offer popular local dishes as well. When traveling close to the coast in Normandy you will find crêperies offer moules et frites, mussels and French fries, alongside their crepe menus. Then in a Savoie creperie, you may be offered an Assiette de Charcuterie Savoyard, a traditional Savoy plate of cold meats and pickles. On a visit to the Camargue, in the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on the Mediterranean coast, a creperie offered a Friture de Poissons de Roche, locally caught, tiny deep-fried fish. Most crêperies offer inexpensive fixed-price menus, a local house wine, coffee, and ice-cream as well as children’s menus which include French fries and ketchup.
All roads lead to the Crêperie Avel-Mor

Crepes in the language of France’s neighbors:
(Catalan – crespó), (Dutch - pannenkoek), (German- pfannkuchen), (Italian: crespo), (Spanish: crespón, crepé).

Are you searching for words, names, or phrases on 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

Copyright 2010, 2014, 2016, 2020.