Saturday, June 2, 2012

Montmorency Cherries on French Menus. Camille Pissarro and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who made the village of Montmorency internationally famous.

Behind the French Menu.
Bryan Newman
A Basket of Cherries.
The Cerise or Griotte de Montmorency -

Montmorency in the 1800’s was a village near Paris and its groves of cherry trees brought it fame in  French kitchens.  French and other menus  around the world still have Montmorency cherries as part of many dishes. These small, slightly sour, but uniquely tasty cherries may be part of an hors d'oeuvres, an entree, the French starter or be in the sauce for the main course.  In many desserts and pastries Montmorency is the cherry of choice.  N.B.: Sour cherries in French are often called griottes.

Montmorency Cherry Blossom.
Photograph courtesy of Princess Ruto.

The cherry orchards that were all around the village of Montmorency  have long gone.  Today Montmorency today is a bedroom suburb of Paris with 20,000 inhabitants.  Officially, Montmorency is not part of Paris, but it is just 14 kms (9 miles) from the center of Paris.  The Montmorency cherries on your menu will  have come from other parts of France.

Montmorency cherries may well be on your French Menu:

Confiture de Cerises de Montmorency – Montmorency cherry jam.

Clafoutis aux Cerises de Montmorency  - Clafoutis  are a cherry tart  that originated in the region of Limousine; it is made in a crepe-like batter. Clafoutis with cherries or other fruits are now on menus all over France.
Crème Brûlée Montmorency  -  A crème brulee flavored with Montmorency cherries.
Grenadin de Porc Montmorency -   A grenadin is a thick cut from the leg of pork or veal. This cut is usually  barded, while being cooked, that is wrapped in fat, to keep the meat from drying out. Here the Montmorency cherries will be cooked and flavor the pork and will be served with it.

Magret de Canard Montmorency -  Duck breast grilled or fried with Montmorency cherries.
Gateau Forêt Noire aux Cerises de Montmorency   A Black Forest Gateau is an incredibly rich cake of German origins, but very popular in France.  The cake is a layered chocolate cake made with a few, but rich, ingredients:   Fresh Montmorency cherries, chocolate, butter cream, kirsch, vanilla and whipped cream. Finally the case is encased in chocolate shavings and topped with more Montmorency cherries and cream. 

Gâteau Foret Noire.
Photograph courtesy of Laurence Vagner.
The most famous French Kirsch, the cherry  liquor,  used in this  and other recipes, in France, will probably come the small town Fougerolles.  Fougerolles is in the department of Haute-Saône  in the région of the Franche-Comté. Kirsch is the German name and locally liquor is called Guignolet  when made with Montmorency cherries.

Giffard Guignolet Kirsch

Today Montmorency cherries are by far the most popular sour cherry in North America.
The village of Montmorency

The Village of Montmorency
and the two men who made it famous 
The village was famous in French cuisine for its cherries, but  what made the village internationally famous was the work of two people. The first was  Jean-Jaques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), the writer and philosopher who lived and wrote most of his works in Montmorency.  The second, but no less important was Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) who lived in a village nearby.  Together with other artists they made the village famous from the paintings he and his friends  made  of the village of Montmorency and its cherry and chestnut orchards.

Picnic at Montmorency
Camille Pissarro
The little village of L'Hermitage, near to Montmorency, was where Pissaro made his home for quite a number of years, but that has also long gone.  The village was just below the town of Pontoise which  looked out over  the River Oise.  You  may see Pissarro’s oil painting of  The Village of L'Hermitage as it was in 1867 at  the Guggenheim Museum, NY. 
In Montmorency there is a Musee de Jean-Jaques Rousseau. It is closed on Sundays and open on Mondays through Saturday from 14:00 (2.00pm) through 18:00 (6:00p). It has a French Language website:

Google and Bing translate will help with checking the opening times.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Photograph courtesy of Renaud Camus
The town of Pontoise had some 5,000 inhabitants when Pissarro lived nearby. Since then Pontoise, has changed radically.  In the 1960's Pontoise, became the planned large town of Cergy-Pontoise. Cergy-Pontoise today has only one thing left to remind us of Camille Pissarro, and that is its small Musée Camille Pissarro, the Camille Pissarro museum.

The Museum is open from Wednesdays through Sunday from 14:00 (2.00pm) through 18:00 (6.00pm)  However, as always in France, check  the times. The museum has a page on the Pointoise town's French language  website  as  the Musée Camille Pissarro:

Google and Bing  Translate  make reading it straightforward in English.
The Pissarro museum has some drawings and other works by Pissarro, along with a number of works by Camille Pissarro's contemporaries. However, the museum has only one Pissarro oil.
Cergy-Pontoise is  20 km (13 miles)  from the center of Paris. On the RER C railroad, it is a 20-minute ride. The bedroom suburb of Montmorency and the town of Cergy-Pontoise are both in the department of Val-d'Oise in the région of Ile de France. N.B.: Cergy-Pontoise  has little else for visitors as with 200,000 people  and high unemployment  it also has a high crime rate.
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Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
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