Wow, time sure flies when you are writing a book! But it's done, at the printer and soon to be on your shelves (March).
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Recipes are often treasured heirlooms, passed on from generation to generation, tweaked here and there to current family tastes. The aperitif of choice in the Dordogne is this sweet dark wine made from green walnuts picked between La Fete de St. Jean (June 24) and Bastille Day (July 14). Green walnuts are not a different variety, but rather immature walnuts whose hard shells have not yet formed. It’s the smooth green skin and soft interior gives the elixir its unique flavor. There are hundreds of family recipes in the Dordogne (each claiming to be the very best, of course) but most agree the longer it sits in the cupboard the better…and it’s worth the wait! Here is the typical recipe, but we’ve added some suggestions so you can start your own family tradition. Sante!
40 young green walnuts, quartered
5 quarts (4.74 liters) dry red wine
2 pounds (1 kg) Sugar
1 quart (1 liter) brandy
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Vanilla bean, split in half
Zest of one small mandarin
Place the quartered walnuts in a large glass container. Add the red wine and sugar. If using nutmeg, clove, vanilla bean, and zest, add them here. Be careful not to add too much spice as you don’t want to overpower the wine’s flavor. Cover the container tightly and store in a cool dark room or cellar. After six weeks, strain the mixture and add the brandy. Pour into bottles and seal tightly. Let the wine rest for at least six months. Serve in small aperitif glasses before your Dordogne feast.
Be it in honor of the harvest or the ancient traditions of the Occitan language, there is always a reason to celebrate in the Dordogne. When you live in a fairy tale, why not?! On June 24, la fete de St Jean heralds the arrival of Summer and one of the sweetest traditions of the Perigord is the making of crosses out of wild flowers to adorn entree doors or barns (to protect the livestock it is said).
THis photo was taken by our friend Roland Manouvrier who made his own cross out of wild flowers. He was a bit miffed at his fellow St Leon neighbors who had not taken such care as he had. "Many of them just made them from their garden flowers" he complained.
I asked him if it really mattered, what kind of flowers, and wasn't the sentiment the same, maybe people don't have time these days to search for wildflowers? "NO!" "You must frolic in the hills and appreciate the liberty and freedom of finding the wild flowers".
Ah, life in a fairy tale.
February 2 is a religious holiday called La Chandeleur (Candlemas). But as it is France, and the stomach ordains many habits, February 2 is also referred to as Crêpe Day. The tradition is to hold a coin in one hand and a crêpe pan in the other, and flip the first crêpe into the air. If the crêpe lands back in the pan, luck and prosperity will follow. Our friend Roland warmly recalls his grandmother’s crêpes and her ritual of asking him to take one to the chickens, to bring them health and lots of eggs throughout the year. “ You know the chickens would only eat half the crêpe,” he revealed to us. Seeking a deeper understanding of these Périgourdine poules, we leaned in and asked why. “Because I ate the other half on the way to the chicken coop.”
Share our dressed up crêpe recipe with friends, family and, if you wish, your chickens.
Chef Laura, my partner in crime in the Dordogne, has started a new concept in her home town of Tampa, FL. Chefs On The Loose, is a done in a day, party/cooking/event space where you roll up your sleeves and enjoy a 'party in the kitchen'. Here is a recent article on Laura and her molecular gastronomy class. Click here for full article.
Photo By Daniel Wallace, St. Pete Times