French food focus - October 2019
A focus on food in France. This month, we meet garlic producers, discover the Trou du Cru cheese, and boar in sauce
Meet the producers
Francis et Marie Gamot run the ‘Maison de l’Ail’ in Saint-Clar (Gers). “Our family has always grown garlic,” says Francis. “We’ve been working this farm for five generations.”
Most of the land on which the Gamot family – now semi-retired – also grew wheat, barley and sunflowers is now let out to other farmers. They have kept just under a hectare for garlic.
“You need the right soil and climate to grow garlic. It won’t grow just anywhere. You need a sharply-drained sandy loam, not too rich, garlic won’t grow in mud.”
The area is so well-known for growing garlic, that in Saint-Clar the local speciality is a garlic soup called tourin à l’ail.
Francis and Marie plant garlic cloves in mid-October, the plants grow to about 30cms tall, and are harvested the following May or June. The bulbs are then dried out for a month before Marie plaits them onto traditional bunches.
“We sell here at the Maison de l’Ail through the summer months until, by the end of September, we’ve sold everything.”
They have installed a projection room where people can watch a short film (15 minutes) about how the garlic is grown, harvested and plaited. (Pink garlic grows so much faster than white garlic that it can be planted in the spring and harvested the same July.)
They are very keen on informing the public about garlic, and their website includes lots of information about its history and culture. (It originated in Asia and was introduced to France when knights brought it back with them from the First Crusade.)
They also have a little exhibition space in their farm shop. “We don’t sell wholesale, our whole crop is sold direct to the public.” Look out for the large wooden models made by Francis.
They are covered with garlic heads, as well as dried garlic skins and leaves, and change every year. “I make something different every year,” he says. “I just enjoy making them and people are always happy to see them.”
Apart from selling direct from the farm, during the summer Francis also sells at the Sunday morning market in Montcuq (Lot), the Tuesday morning market in Fleurance (Gers), and the local Thursday morning market in Saint-Clar.
“Garlic isn’t just good to eat,” says Francis. “It’s good for the health too. It improves the blood, lowers blood pressure and is also an antiseptic.”
Artisan cheese of the month: Trou du Cru
Orange rind cheeses are popular inclusions on the autumn cheeseboard and this month’s selection is a relative newcomer to the fromage pantheon.
In the 1980s, Côte d’Or (Bourgogne) cheesemaker Robert Berthaut created Trou du Cru using pasteurised milk.
Each small cheese is brightly coloured, in a wrinkled, edible casing (repeatedly washed in local firewater marc de Bourgogne) which lends a distinct whiff and taste.
Slice the pale yellow cylinder to reveal an Epoisses-style cheese within, at once pungent with floral notes.
Mr Berthaut passed away in 2018 but you can buy from Fromagerie Berthaut at Place du Champ-de-Foire, Epoisses.
Local speciality: Civet de sanglier
Civet de sanglier from Corsica is a hearty stew (also known as a ragoût) of wild boar slow cooked in red wine – the perfect meal for a chilly autumn evening and often served with tagliatelle.
A civet can be made with other meats such as rabbit (cive means cooked with onions).
Take the dish to whole new level of refinement and taste with a delicate Grand Veneur sauce, made with redcurrants.
Available from www.bienmanger.com