Friday, October 4, 2013

Bilberries on the Menu in France - In French That's the Bleuets, Myrtilles, and Brimbelles .

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Updated October 2019.

Bluets, Myrtels or Brimbelles.
The native European bilberry is a small bluish-black berry similar to, but smaller than, the American Bilberry and the blueberry.
The small European bilberries grow wild in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, in the old regions of Lorraine and Alsace in the Grand Est, in the department of Ardèche in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and at the lower levels of many of France’s mountainous areas. Wild bilberries will be on local menus between June and August, unfortunately, they rarely reach the markets in the major cities.
Vaccinium myrtilus, the European Bilberry.

Photograph courtesy of BioDivLibrary.
The European bilberry grows on low bushes, in groups, and are easily picked.  Despite their sweet but slightly acidic flavor, they are clearly a favorite in French regional cuisines. For chefs these berries flavor and color equally well.
 European bilberries on French menus:
Carré d'Agneau Rôti au Caramel de Bleuets -  Roasted rack of lamb flavored with caramelized bilberries.



Magret de Canard aux Myrtilles Sauvages Duck breast flavored with wild bilberries.
Nems Croustillants à la Myrtille Sauvage, Glace Bulgare – Crispy spring rolls made with wild bilberries and served with Bulgarian ice-cream. From my experience, France’s Bulgarian ice-cream is locally produced Greek or Bulgarian yogurt made with added ice cream. However, never having been to Bulgaria I do not know how real Bulgarian ice-cream tastes.

Bilberry Fortefrutto

Spring rolls came to France with the Vietnamese with whom the French had a long and bloody relationship. In 18874/5 France had won a war with  China, and in 1887 France created French Indo-China that included Vietnam. The French left Vietnam in 1954 after their disastrous defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The French leaving Vietnam led directly to America’s involvement that was followed by the American Vietnam war.
It was Napoléon III who established French Indo-China, that included much of today’s Vietnam.  From this colony, many thousands of Vietnamese came to France for government services, trade, school, and university.  Not all went home, and some opened restaurants. On the menu listing above the spring rolls have been adopted by a French or Vietnamese chef for a fusion dessert.
On the culinary side of France's quest for Empire, it created thousands of North African, West African, Caribbean, Indian, Indian Ocean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Polynesian.

Even bilberry extract is available.
Photograph courtesy of My Wellness Warehouse.   
Suprême de Pigeon Cuit au Sautoir, Pulpe de Charlotte, Jus de Brimbelles Doux et Fort - Breast and wing of pigeon cooked in a sautoir, a high-walled frying pan and served with mashed charlotte potatoes. The accompanying juice is a sweet and spicy bilberry sauce. In the Lorraine, wild bilberries are generally called brimbles. (Including a description of the kitchenware used in preparing a dish is part of French culinary tradition).

Tarte Streusel aux Poires et Brimbelles  A pear and bilberry tart topped with sweet buttery bread and or flour crumbs from the Lorraine region now including in the super region of  the Grand Est.

Tart-Ô myrtilles, fève tonka

 Myro the aperitif of the Ardeche
In the department of Ardèche in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes for your apéritif, you will traditionally be offered a Myro.  A Myro is made with a very cold Côtes du Rhône Rosé wine and a slight touch of Crème de Myrtille, a bilberry liquor.  A Myro is made similarly to a Kir which is a chilled white wine and Crème de Cassis, a black currant liquor; France has quite a number of similar aperitifs.  At home, a Myro makes an excellent apéritif when made with any good cold and semi-dry rosé. NB. Use only a slight touch of Crème de Myrtille when making a Myro; that’s the voice of experience!

European bilberries are rarely grown commercially in France and  in the Lorraine they have chosen to grow the larger and sweeter American bilberries, and there they are called the Bluets de Vosges. Given the choice I will choose the smaller, wild, stronger tasting European family member.

A confiture, a jam, of wild European Bilebrries and apples.

If you wish to gather wild bilberries while surrounded by breathtaking scenery, then the forests and mountains in the Lorraine would be an enjoyable place to start. Consider making your base the city of Épinal; it is the Prefecture, the capital, of the department of the Vosges in the Lorraine region of the Grande Est. The Moselle river runs through the center of the town, the forests and hills of the Vosges are next door.  If berry picking is not enough exercise, then 40 km ( 25 miles) away is the town of Gérardmer; here every September they hold Triathlon XL de Gerardmer.  In Lac Gérardmer, you swim for 1,900 meters, cycle for 90km  (2kms and then run for 21 km ( 13 miles) around the lake.  Having completed the course, you may then go out for dinner.    (BTW the Lorraine is the home of the Quiche Lorraine).
Bluets, Myrtels or Brimbelles - Bilberries in the languages of France's neighbors:
(Catalan - nabiu, avajó or mirtil), (Dutch - blauwe bosbes),   (German - bickbeere, heidelbeere, blaubeere, schwarzbeere),  (Italian – mirtillo), (Spanish - arándano, ráspano, mirtillo).

Bluets, Myrtels or Brimbelles - Bilberries in other languages:

(Chinese (Mandarin)  -  yuè jú   -  越桔), (Danish - almindelig blåbær),  (Filipino/Tagalog – duhat),  (Greek – mύρτιλο), ), (Hebrew - ochmanit shachora  -  אוכמנית שחורה),  ( Korean -  beullu beli  - 블루 베리),  (Norwegian – blåbær), (Portuguese -  mirtilo eurasiano), (Rumanian – afinul), (Russian - -chernika -  Черни́ка, Черника обыкновенная),  (Swedish – blåbär), (Turkish - yaban mersini), (Ukrainian -   Чорниця, або черниця, борівка). (Latin - vaccinium myrtillus). Some translations come from Google Translate© and some from Wikipaedia Copyright. 


Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2013, 2018, 2019.

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