Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cerises, Bigarreaux and Griottes - The Cherries of France. Cherries on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated October 2019

Cerises - Cherries
The cherries on French Menus will be under the names
Cerises, Bigarreaux, and Griottes.

While the word cerise does cover all types of cherries, bigarreaux usually  indicates sweet cherries while griottes always represent the mûre, slightly sour, morello type cherries.

La Cerise sur le Gateau.
This French expression translates as the cherry on the top of the cake and has the same meaning as “The Icing on the Cake” in English.
After strawberries, cherries are the second most popular fruit in France, and to prove it France is the 15th largest cherry producing country in the world. In season, from May through early August different cherry varieties fill the markets and restaurant menus will be filled with dishes made from fresh cherries.
Cherry Blossom
Cherry dishes on French menus:

Aumônière de Poire et Mousse de Griotte au Grand Marnier – Pears stuffed with a mousse made from the griotte sour cherry and flavored with Grand Marnier liqueur.
Cerise au Marasquin  -  Maraschino cherries were originally a native Croatian cherry used for making maraschino liqueur. Today the maraschino cherries on top of your whipped cream or cakes are produced primarily by adding a red pigment to regular cherries while flavoring them with all sorts of substances and lots of sugar. I suggest you think twice before eating the red stuff in these cherries!
Cerises au Porto sur Glace à la Vanille  –   Cherries; here they are probably griottes, the morello type cherries, flavored with porand served with vanilla ice cream
Cerises Burlat  - Burlat cherries are native French cherries that taste and look like a medium-sized California Bing cherry, and I love Bing cherries. From that similarity, I was not surprised that the Burlat is the most popular sweet cherry in France. The Burlat cherry developed from cuttings from a wild cherry tree, and the finder was a French soldier, named Léonard Burlat.  Léonard had been called up for service in the French army during WWI, and in 1915, he discovered a remarkably different wild cherry tree near the city of Lyon. When Léonard went home on leave, he took the cuttings from that tree back to his family’s farm, near his home village that is now the small town of Loire-sur-Rhône in the département of Rhône in the Rhône-Alps, and the rest is history. France had fallen in love with Burlat cherries.
Burlat cherries

Léonard Burlat ended up with a cherry and a street named after him as well as the thanks of a nation of cherry lovers. Burlat cherries are now grown all over the world, and in France, they account for over 50% of the cherries sold annually. 
Cerises Noir - Black cherries. Usually, this indicates griottes, morello type sour cherries.
Cerises Jubilee - Cherries Jubilee. These are morello type cherries marinated in kirsch, a liqueur made from cherries, accompanied by vanilla ice cream, and flambéed in front of the diners while being served. This famous recipe was created, and first served at the Savoy Hotel, London, by Auguste Escoffier in honor of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, her 60 years on the British throne; that was on the 22nd June 1897. 
Cherries Jubilee
You may wonder how a dish created in England in honor of a British queen remains on so many French menus?  Well,  to begin with, Escoffier was, of course, an extremely famous French chef, and Queen Victoria loved France and was also much loved by the French. Queen Victoria and her family were close friends of the Emperor Napoléon III and the Empress Eugénie. When Napoléon III lost his job as Emperor at the end of the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871), he found refuge in England.

 When Napoléon III died in exile in England in 1873,  Queen Victoria paid for the crypt built in the Benedictine Abbey of St Michael’s in Farnborough, Hampshire, England, where he is buried. The abbey itself was built for Napoleon III by the Empress Eugénie, and when she died in 1922, she was buried next to him. The only son of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie was  Eugène Louis, the Prince Imperial, and Napoleon IV; he died fighting for the British Army in the South African British Zulu wars, in 1879 and is buried in the same English church alongside his parents. Many French tourists, visiting the UK, make a point of visiting the last resting place of Napoleon III and Napoleon IV.    

More about Napoleon and cherries.

The bigarreau Napoleon is a sweet cherry, and it is a yellow to pink to red sweet cherry.

For more about Napoleon III see the post:

and for more Napoleon I's descendants see the post:
Clafoutis aux Cerises Burlat Clafoutis made with sweet burlat cherries.  Clafoutis, pronounced clafooty, (the S is silent), is a traditional tart from the old region of Limousin.  The original clafoutis was only made with cherries mixed and cooked together in a crêpe-like batter. Now clafoutis are popular all over France and just as popular when made with other fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and fish. The old region of Limousin included the departments of Corrèz, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne that are now part of the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.   

A cherry clafouti.
Confiture de Cerises Noires - Black cherry jam
Filet de Canette Montmorency  Slices of duckling breast prepared with Montmorency morello type cherries. Cherries are no longer grown in the village of Montmorency outside Paris, but any dish with Montmorency in its name will contain cherries, and Montmorency cherries are grown all over the world. The village of Montmorency is now a bedroom community of over 20,000 people, but apart from being famous for its cherries, the French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived and worked there, and the painter Camille Pissarro loved to paint there.
Sliced duck breast with sour cherries.
Entrecôte de Daim aux Bigarreaux  -  An entrecote, a rib-eye steak, from a fallow deer served with a sauce made from sweet cherries.  This will be farmed deer, as in the hunting season when wild game may be on the menu, then either the full menu will be marked as a Carte de la Chasse, a menu from the hunt or wild game listed on the main menu will carry the suffix sauvage, wild. Many of the animals traditionally associated with hunting are farm-raised in France. On your menu without any other indication, the rabbits, hares, fallow and other deerpheasants, quail, and even wild boar are all farm-raised and will be on menus all year round.      
Griottes à l'Eau-de-vie – A dessert of griotte, morello, cherries made with an eau de vie, a fruit brandy, usually this will be kirsch, itself a cherry liqueur. A dish like this will usually be served with a soft white cheese or ice cream.
Kirsch Guignolet or Kirschwasse - A popular and colorless cherry brandy.  Kirsch, in France, may be in your cheese fondue, in desserts, cakes or served ice cold on its own.    Kirsch from the Fougerolles, the small town in the department of Haute-Saône in the region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is one of the most respected sources for French Kirsch.
Kirsch de Fougerolles AOC/AOP

Apart from Fougerolles so famous for its Kirsch liquor, there are other famous cherry towns in France; a particularly compelling one is the town of Céret in Occitanie.

Céret has a cherry festival in the last week of May or the first week in June. For all French fetes and celebrations check, ahead of time, with one of the French Government Tourist Office in your country.
The cherry festival in the town of Céret in Occitanie.

The Céret cherry season begins in May, and there will be sales of all products made with cherries at stalls and restaurants in and around the town along with bands, traditional Catalan dancing and more.
Cherries in Céret.
Céret menus will also offer a wide range of French and Catalan-influenced dishes.  At almost any time of the year, Céret is a delightful place to visit as there is much more to the town and area than just cherries, Catalan cuisine, and Catalan connections.

The town also strong connection to modern art that began when Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso came here in 1911 and spent a year or two in Céret during Picasso’s cubist period; today Céret considers itself the home of cubism and over the years, many other artists, not just the cubists have also spent time there. Céret’s small but unique Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1948 by some of the artists who visited and loved the town; it holds works, mainly donated by artists who spent time in Céret, and that includes Picasso, Braque, Chagall, Matisse, Miró, Soutine, and others.

Still Life With Banderillas
Georges Braque. Ceret, summer 1911

For the opening times of the museum and days when it is closed see the museum’s French language website that is easily accessed with Bing and Google translate apps.

Getting to Céret.

Céret is in the department of the Pyrénées-Orientales in Occitanie and is just  15 km (9 miles) from some beautiful Mediterranean beaches; it is also just 15  km (9 miles) from Perpignan and 18 km (12 miles) from Spain. 

The only time when I cannot recommend Céret is in mid-July when, unfortunately, Céret, has real bullfights, corridas, the bloody ones. You may schedule your visit for before or after the corridas. Since Catalonia in Spain has banned bullfighting, I am hoping that Céret with its Catalonian history will soon follow suit.

Portrait of the artist Chaim Soutine painted by Modigliani in Céret.
Bigarreau - Sweet cherries  in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - Cirera or guinda), (Dutch - kers), (German - kirsche), (Italian - ciliegi, cerasa) (Spanish- cereza, guinda).

Griotes - Morello sour cherries in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - guinder, cirerer amarg),  (Dutch -  zure kers),  (German –sauerkirsche, weichselkirsche, weichsel), (Italian  - amareno, visciolo, amarasco), (Spanish  -   guindo, cerezo ácido, cerezo de morello).


Bryan G Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019

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


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