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Friday, October 4, 2013

Billberries on the Menu in France - Cooking with Billberries in France; the Bleuets, Myrtilles, and Brimbelles .

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
     Updated March 2017

Bluets, Myrtels and Brimbelles.
The native European bilberry is a small bluish-black berry similar to, but smaller than, the American Bilberry and the blueberry.
Photograph courtesy of  Guillaume Brialon
The small European bilberries grow wild in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, in the Lorraine and Alsace, in the département of Ardèche in the 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 only occasionally reaching the markets in the major cities.
Vaccinium myrtilus , the European Bilberry.
Photograph courtesy of BioDivLibrary.
The European bilberries grow 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 your menu:
Carré d'Agneau Rôti au Caramel de Bleuets -  Roasted rack of lamb  flavored with caramelized bilberries.
Wild bilberries.
Photograph courtesy of R G Daigle.
 La Confiture de Bleuets – Billbery Jam.
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 yoghurt made with added  ice cream. However, I admit that I have never been to Bulgaria and so I do not know how Bulgarian ice-cream is made there.
Home made confiture de bleuets, bilberry jam.

Photograph courtesy of Guillaume Brialon.
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 a 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 adapted 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 restaurants that you will find all over France.
Muffins aux myrtlles.
Photograph courtesy of LJ42.
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 sauce is a sweet and spicy bilberry sauce. In the Lorraine, wild bilberries are generally called brimbles
Tarte Streusel aux Poires et Brimbelles – A pear and bilberry tart topped with sweet buttery bread and or flour crumbs from the Lorraine.
Tarte amandes et myrtilles, almond and bilberry tart,
. Photograph courtesy of ALaure.

 Myro the aperitif of the Ardeche
In the département of Ardèche in the Rhône-Alpes for your apéritif, you will traditionally be offered a Myro(Since 1-1-2015 the Rhône-Alpes is part of the super region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps).  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 in a similar manner 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!
Creme de Myrtille.
Photograph courtesy of .chiara.mente.
In France,  European bilberries are rarely grown commercially.  In the Lorraine they have chosen the larger and sweeter American bilberries to grow commercially  and there they are called the Bluets de Vosges. Given the choice I will choose the smaller, wild, stronger tasting European family member.
Bilberries ready for picking.
Photograph courtesy of ressaure.
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 département of the Vosges in the Lorraine. 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 kms away is the town of Gérardmer; here every September they hold Triathlon XL de Gerardmer. Around the lake, Lac Gérardmer, you swim for 1,900 meters, cycle for 90 kms and then run for 21 kms around the lake.  Having completed the course you may then go out for dinner. (The reggioion of the Lorraine is now joinedm since 1-1-2015 with the Alsace  and the Champagne-Ardenne in the new super region of The Grande Est, The Great East of France).
Picking bilberries in the Glières Plateau
 in the department of Haute-Savoie.
Photograph courtesy of Martin.Menu

Bilberries in the languages of France's neighbors:
(Dutch - blauwe bosbes),   (German - bickbeere, heidelbeere, blaubeere, schwarzbeere),  (Italian – mirtillo),(Spanish - arándano, ráspano, mirtillo).

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,

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Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
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