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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fumé – Smoked. Smoked Foods in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

Smoking is one of the oldest methods of cooking and of preserving foods and there are two very different processes. The first method is hot smoking that quickly cooks while adding a smoky flavor and then there is cold smoking that cures and preserves and also adds flavor but takes anywhere from a few hours to a month.

Hot smoking

Hot smoking cooks with a smoked flavor and is speedily done. Marinating the food beforehand will also affect the taste.  In hot smoking, the food is cooked indirectly by allowing the wood or different flavors to flavor the hot smoke which cooks the food. Hot smoking is fast, and while dishes such as smoked trout may be allowed to cool before serving most hot smoked foods will be served immediately after they are cooked. (Even I can hot smoke chicken, fish, and vegetables using wood chips and other additions for flavor; one of the tastiest I made was tea flavored whole smoked chicken).

Artisanal sausage and meat smoking.
Cold smoking
Cold smoking is the method used for many foodstuffs that may be stored without refrigeration; that includes France's popular Andouille and Andouillette sausages.  Cold-smoking requires a great deal more determination and equipment than that used for hot smoking. Food that is to be cold smoked is completely separated from slowly burning wood chips, and no charcoal is used. In the UK one of the most famous and pleasurable cold smoked products, are kippers, kippered herrings. Cold smoking would already have been used when troglodytes, cave dwellers, hung meat up to dry out of the way of pests. They would have immediately realized that foods stored in smoky areas acquired a unique flavor, and was better preserved than meat that was allowed to dry in the wind.

Smoking fish.

Historically we can see how smoking developed in French cuisine. Boucaner is a 17th-century French word that means "to cure meat." From this came one of the words used for pirates, Buccaneers. Boucanes, buccaneers, were pirates who smoked and dried the meat in the summer to preserve it for long voyages.
Smoked products on French menus:

Agata Farci au Chèvre, Écume de Lard Fume – A baked agata potato stuffed with goat’s cheese and flavored with a foam made from smoked bacon. Bacon was cold smoked though that is not always the case today. Smoked bacon will have been brined, prepared with salt before smoking.  (The French words lard and bacon both mean bacon and are used interchangeably).

Carré d'Agneau et Son Jus à l'Ail Fumé et Thym - A rack of lamb served with the natural cooking juices flavored with smoked garlic and thyme.  Smoked garlic adds a unique flavor, and the most well-known is the peat smoked garlic from around the village of Arleux in the department of Nord bordering Belgium. If you are visiting the area in September, you need not worry about vampires as nearly every house in Arleux is decorated with braids of garlic. Arleux has a garlic fair, the Foire à l’Ail d'Arleux, on the first Saturday and Sunday in September. The website is in French, but it is easily understood with the Bing and Google translate apps.

Smoked garlic from Arleux.

Carpaccio de Magret d'Oie Fumé Mariné au Porto – A Carpaccio of smoked goose breast marinated in Port wine.
Fromage Gruyère Fumé – Smoked gruyere cheese. Among the smoked products you may see in French supermarkets are smoked cheeses.  The dairies who do this will cold smoke whole cheeses; the process takes anywhere from one week to one month. 

Jambon Fumé - Smoked ham. The words jambon fumé are rarely seen on French menu listings. Smoked ham will generally be on the menu as jambon cru, cured ham.  If your French – English travel dictionary has the word cru translated as raw do not worry, jambon cru is not raw. Cured hams are been cured by salting, flavoring and air-drying. Some of these hams are smoked, and that is jambon fume.

Velouté de Cresson et Grillons de Lard Fumé – A velvety soup of watercress served with small, but chunky pieces of braised smoked bacon.   Grillons translates as crickets, the ones that chirp.  Maybe I am disappointing some of the readers; however, when grillons are on French menus these will not be deep-fried grasshoppers. Rather, these will be small braised or grilled food items that may, at a stretch, be considered to look like a cricket.  That’s all they are, no wings, no legs, not even a chirp.

Smoked bacon on sale.

Saumon d'Ecosse Fumé au Sel de Guérande – Smoked Scotch salmon, prepared with the salt from Guérande. The French acknowledge that the best Atlantic salmon comes from Scotland. Scottish salmon was the first food product from outside France to receive France’s Label Rouge, red label, a quality rating for excellence.  Guérande is in the department of the Loire-Atlantique in the Pays-du-Loire and is one of France’s most highly rated sources for sea salt, especially its fleur de sel.  Here the smoked salmon has been brined, marinated, in Guérande salt before cold smoking.

Truite Fumée par Nos Soins au Bois de Hêtre Trout smoked over beech wood by ourselves.  This house-smoked trout will have been hot smoked and may be served hot or cold.  Smoked trout is often served with sauce raifort, a horseradish sauce.  French horseradish sauce is creamy and not too spicy. The French want to lightly flavor the food not to anesthetize their mouths!      
Terrine de Campagne au Magret d'Oie Fumé – A country pate made with smoked goose breast.  A country pate is rarely a smooth pate.

Many of today’s commercial products sold as smoked meats, smoked sausages, and others, outside the European Union, are no longer genuinely smoked. France has excellent laws that control labeling but at home look carefully at the list of contents.  With the additions, you may realize that the smoked taste often only comes from additives and not smoking.  When you have a properly cold-smoked sausage, fish or piece of meat you can taste the difference. 

There are produce, food products, and wines that are not smoked but have the word fumé in their name, Pouilly-Fumé is an example. Pouilly-Fumé is one of France’s terrific dry white wines; it is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.  The word fume in the name indicates the smoky, flinty taste of the wine as it meets your tongue.


If you have trouble with French pronunciation just click on this free program that I use:

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2018.

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