Saturday, June 21, 2014

French Olives on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated January 2020.


France does not compete with the tonnage of other European countries, but its olives do compete on quality. 
The French are proud of their olives, and they have a right to be.
French olive production does not get close to the quantities produced in Spain, Italy, Greece or Tunisia; however, the south of France produces excellent olives, as well as fine olive oils.  Walk around supermarkets or open-air markets, and you will find an exemplary assortment of fabulous French olives with AOP  ratings. You may also enjoy other first-rate French olives without those unique AOP  initials at far lower prices; however, those you need to taste when buying.
Buying olives for a picnic
A picnic while traveling France is, of course, a fantastic way to taste local breads, wines, pates and cheeses, and great French olives.  Walk through the markets in town and ask at a stall to taste one of their olives, you will usually get an OK and a smile.  Taste that one and then at the next stall, ask to taste and eat another. Soon, you will have found two or three olives that you really like, and for a picnic for three or four, buy 100 grams of each. If the olives' names are not marked, ask, and write them down for future use.  At the picnic, enjoy the sensations that these French olives can bring when they compliment the cheeses and pates.

Picnic in the Jardin du Luxembourg in the center of Paris.

Farmer's markets.
If you are traveling through France and want an instant picnic stop at one of the many tourist offices, and ask where the nearest farmers' market is.  In small towns and villages, farmer's markets are usually held twice a week in the mornings. The next town or village may be less than 3 km (2 miles) away, and they may have their farmers' market that day. The tourist information office will give you a list of farmer's markets for the next week or month, all within a ten or 15 km (6  or 9 miles) range.  French farmers' markets will offer nearly everything you need for a picnic; however, make sure the white wines are cold. Large cities also have farmer's markets in different quarters, ask in your hotel or at a tourist information office.

A few of the words that may assist you in identifying the tastes of  the olives on sale:

Olives a l'Ail - Olives pickled with added garlic.

Olives Cassées – Olives that have intentionally been lightly crushed before pickling; this produces a spicier taste.

Olive de Mer or Telline – Not an olive; this is a small and tasty clam!

Olives Ėclatées – Broken olives; crushed would be olives écrasées. These are the olives most often used for pizzas and similar dishes.

Olives Dénoyautée - Pitted olives. For salads, I prefer these; I know I will not break a tooth. Still taste them before buying as some can be very salty.

 Olives Farcie á l'Anchois – Olives stuffed with anchovies. 

Olivette – On your menu this will describe the olive shape that some vegetables will be cut into.  It may well be that there are no olives in the dish in question.
A few of France's olives.

France has over a hundred varieties of wild olive trees, but only 15 are farmed with their fruit considered good enough for sale. These cultivated olives will be on the supermarket shelves and on sale in the markets though farmer’s markets sometimes offer the fruit from old groves.

Aglandau; Aglandaou or Berruguette  – These are eating olives and mostly seen in the markets when pickled in brine. Some are sold as a crushed eating olive under the name Berruguete Cassées with their spicier taste. The same olives, when sold to make olive oil, are very much appreciated, and their bottles or will note the origin. These olives are grown around the department of Bouches du Rhône in the Alpes de Haute Provence. If you are in traveling in the area where these olives are grown, try the local Bouche de Rhone IGP table wines. We really enjoyed a local white wine that we bought in a supermarket and cooled it in our rented apartment's refrigerator. A big plus is that many of these wines are really inexpensive as they do not carry the AOP rating.

Olives in the market in Béziers, France. 
Olive de Nice AOP, Olives Noire Niçoises AOP, or Olive Cailleter The AOP graded Olive Niçoise. This is probably the most appreciated and the most expensive black table olive in France; it is an absolute must in a real Salade Niçoise.  and many other recipes from in and around the City of Nice on the Côte d'Azur.
An ancient olive press

Olive de Nice AOP, may also be on your menu:

Raviolis de Veau à la Ricotta; Courgettes Trompette et Olives de Nice – Ravioli made with veal and ricotta cheese and served with regular courgettes (the USA Zuchnnis) where a single flower grows at one end; that flower at the end is the trompette, trumpet; the dish is served along with the Olives de Nice.

Tapenade d'Olives de Nice AOP – A tapenade made with the Nice olives. A tapenade is a take on the Provençal anchoyade or anchoïad, see below. To make a tapenade into an anchoyade, all that needs to be done is to add câpres, capers.

Anchoyade,Anchoïade, or Anchouiado - The anchovy based spread created in Provence. If you like anchovies, olives, garlic, and olive oil, this is for you. Spread your anchoyade thickly on French country bread, sliced baguette or toast, and order a glass of cold, dry, white wine. Then sit back and close your eyes and take a bite; you may find yourself in anchovy, olive, and garlic heaven. Anchoyades will also be used as a base in sauces that accompany other dishes, usually fish.

Salade de Langoustines à l'Huile d'Olive de Nice AOP -  A salad of Dublin Bay Prawns, (the real scampi), with the Olive Oil de Nice AOP.
Lucques du Roussillon or Lucques de Languedoc This is a green olive mostly sold as a table olive though some do make it to the olive press Languedoc-Roussillon is an old region of France that since 1-1-2016 is included in the new super region of Occitanie.
Olives Cassées de la Vallée des Baux AOP – Only two types of olives carry this name, the salonenque and the aglandau from the Vallée des Baux a community in the Alpilles of Provence that was rich in Bauxite, an aluminum ore. That ore was heavily exploited until about 100 years ago; however, the connections between the Baux communities remain. The growers of these olives intentionally lightly crush these olives and preserve them in brine for the table. 

Menu listings with the olives or olive oil from Cassées de la Vallée des Baux may include
Ragoût d'Agneau aux Olives Cassées AOP de la Vallée des Baux-de-Provence  - A lamb stew made with the lightly crushed olives of  la Vallée des Baux AOP

Saumon Mariné à Aneth à l'Huile d'Olive AOP de la Vallée des Baux de Provence  - Atlantic Salmon marinated  with dill and the AOP olive oil from the Vallée des Baux de Provence.
The village of Les Baux de Provence is set on the highest promontory in this part of Provence’s rocky Alpilles, and the view from here should not be missed. Even if the village itself is very touristy, the view of the valley below is unique. A famous hotel and two Michelin starred restaurants are also set here, but for a table there book ahead.

The nearby town of Saint Remy de Provence is famous for its history, its beauty, its excellent Provençal cuisine, and, of course,  the convent that treated the painter Vincent Van Gogh when he was considered insane.  Saint Remy de Provence was also the birthplace of Nostradamus, a strange philosopher and physician, and I have written more about him later in this post.
A view from the heights of Les Baux de Provence
Olive de Nyons AOP or Tanches de Nyons AOP – The black to violet-colored Provençal olive with a round shape and a large pit. With its own AOP, the Olive de Nyons AOP is a very special olive. The word tanches in one of its names just means olive in the Provençal language. The oil from these olives is the Huile d'Olive de Nyons AOP.

These Olives de Nyons come, rather obviously, from around the small town of Nyons in the department of Drome in the Rhône-Alpes that is part of the super region of Rhône Alpes – Auvergne; Nyons is about 70 km (44 miles) from Avignon. The Nyon's olives are picked in a very different fashion tp most others; they are allowed to ripen on the tree until they begin to shrivel, and then hand-picked between November and January. Some of these olives are sold to become a very costly extra virgin olive oil, while the others will be pickled in brine and sold, also expensively, for the table.

 When the Olive de Nyons is on the menu:

Merlan de Limousine Grillé à la Fleur de Sel, Polenta Crémeuse à l'Olive Noire de Nyons - A merlan is a very special steak cut from the rump, here it comes from Limousine beef, and there is no similar North American or UK cut. Here the steak is grilled atop fleur de sel, the hand-picked salts crystals from sea salt,  and served with creamy polenta and the black olives from Nyon. A merlan de rumsteck can be confusing if you are using a French-English pocket dictionary as the fish called whiting is called a Merlan in French!  Maybe the shape of the cut looked similar to the butcher who named it; so be careful when you are ordering? The old region of Limousin's three departments, Corrèz, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne are green and forested with hills, rivers, and lakes set close to the center of France and since 1-1-2016 part of the new super region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Tapenade à Vase d' Olives Noir de Nyons AOP - A tapenade is a take on the Provençal anchoyade or anchoïad. To make a tapenade into an anchoyade, all that is done is to add câpres, capers

The wrinkled Olive de Nyons AOP
Olive de Nice or Cailleter – See Cailleter.

Olive de Nîmes AOP  - This is the picholine olive, easily recognized as it is a green pointed olive, long and narrow. The Olive de Nîmes AOP is grown in specific parts of the départements of Gard and Hérault, in the région of Occitanie.

The Olive de Nîmes AOP produces olives that are harvested early in the season, in the fall. At that time, the olive is considered to be low in oil; however, its curing process makes this an outstanding table olive. 
Salonenque  This green olive comes from the commune of Salon-de-Provence. Here they raise the salonenque mostly as a green crushed table olive. Salon-de-Provence is a charming town, and that brings it added fame. This commune that includes the town is in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The distance from Salon-de-Provence to Avignon is 50km (31 miles).
  The town of Salon de Provence

Apart from being a pretty town there are other reasons to stop and look around Salon de Provence   I will begin with the museum of soap.  Once the town was famous for soap and its factories competed  with the Marseilles soap factories; all  the soap was made with local olives. Then  WWI and  the 1929 great depression saw the  end of most of the soap factories and so today just one factory with a museum and shop remains:  Visit the Marius Fabre soap factory and  shop, it is  definitely worth it as a different and interesting and educational stop, even if you do not buy any soap and only spend 20 minutes, it is a view into times, and soaps, gone by.
Soap from Marius Fabre, Salon de Provence.  
Photograph courtesy of Daniel70mi Falciola
The next reason to visit Salon de Provence requires at least a few days of preparation; unless you already know about Nostradamus (1503 – 1566)?

Nostradamus was a weird and mysterious philosopher, physician, clairvoyant, prophet, lunatic, and more. Salon-de-Provence has a Maison de Nostradamus, the house of Nostradamus; he spent the last nineteen years of his life here. By the way, just 40 km (25 miles) away is the town of  Saint-Remy de Provence, which also claims Nostradamus as their own; Nostradamus was born there, and so they have their own Nostradamus museum. The competition over the most important site of Nostradamus's home is fierce.

Nostradamus's fame comes mostly from his weird and opaque prophesies. The prophecies are inside verses of four and six lines, called quatrains and sixains.  It is through these verses that his admirers credit him with predicting wars, anti-Christ's, including Napoléon I and Hitler. Innumerable additional prophesies are to be found, if you believe, including predicting the horror of 9/11.   
   Statue of Nostradamus
This statue of Nostradamus is in the Museum of Tabriz, Iran,
Did you wonder what the Iranians are up to?
Before you read some of Nostradamus's verses (most are on the internet) and see what strange happenings he sets in our futures, be aware that like many other of his predictions, his date for the end of the world was wrong. If he were right, I would not be updating this post!

I have read a few of Nostradamus's verses and many interpretations. I own Nostradamus's complete verses along with other strange books that I have picked up in second-hand book shops. Most often, the interpretations of Nostradamus's verses are even weirder and more convoluted than what Nostradamus himself wrote. See:

The answer, when I have questioned those who interpret Nostradamus's verses, is that all religious writings are written in code, and they have the code while I do not. In the meantime, go back to enjoying the olives in the market or on the menu.

Olives Noire Provençal – Black olives from Provence.

Provençal Olive Grove
Photograph courtesy of verseguru

Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010,  2014, 2019

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


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