When you think of Christmas in Alsace, you inevitably think of the invention of the Christmas tree at Sélestat in 1521, glorious bottles of wine sampled along the Alsace Wine Route and of course, foie gras. All good Alsatians will naturally tell you about their grandmother’s special recipe, and how it was handed down to their mother but how they personally don’t know how to make it any more.
That’s when you need the address of a good small-volume producer. And you have to try out several before you find the right one. Well, we’ve done it for you.
Twenty minutes out of Strasbourg, at Soultz-Les-Bains, Lucien Doriath’s Foies Gras is one of those places that you discover by accident or through a friend. We discovered their products this summer in a shop on the Alsace Wine Route, which offered you the opportunity of trying the foie gras from this producer as well as several other duck-related products.
We then selected a Presskopf de Canard (pressed duck), which is a delicious Alsatian recipe that made my day, gourmand that I am. This trip to La Pommeraie made us want to find out more.
It’s a long story
So where did the foie gras tradition come from and Alsatian foie gras in particular?
Did you know, for example, that foie gras was originally an Egyptian repast, which then became popular among the Greeks. Later, Pliny the Elder was to describe the feeding of geese with figs. We’re still a long way from Alsace but at least it’s an interesting topic of conversation during dinners on special occasions.
The foie gras of Alsace owes its pedigree to a recipe from Jean-Pierre Clause, the Marquis of Contades’s cook, who invented it especially for the gourmet evenings of his master of the time. And even James Bond seduces one of his Bond girls by offering her “foie gras – Strasbourg” in the film Never Say Never Again.
Maison de Foie Gras
We return to Soultz-Les-Bains, not far from Strasbourg, to discover a maison de foie gras. This is a family-run business which produces its own foie gras. Having won an award at the Concours Général Agricole (Paris Agriculture Fair), they are experienced in welcoming you, giving you advice and sharing recipes.
I cracked this time for the raw foie gras – and I was able to test a lovely pan-seared recipe – and for a beautiful slab of whole foie gras. Served on a beautiful, deliciously decorated platter, it will be accompanied by a damson, mirabelle plum or mango chutney and will delight my guests! Why not think about it for yours ;-)?
2 tips from a friend
– During the Strasbourg Christmas market, you can find Lucien Doriath Foies Gras and other small-volume producers between the Cathedral and the Palais des Rohan (Rohan Palace), Place du Marché aux Poissons (The Old Fishmarket Square).
– If you’ve already discovered Alsatian foie gras, it may be of interest to you to discover that a Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives (late harvest Gewürztraminer wine) is the perfect accompaniment for your foie gras.
Memories of Alsace: Discover and appreciate the Climont jams
Are you travelling through Alsace as a tourist or a foodie? Discovering the jams produced in this lovely region is an absolute must. Not just any old jam, mind: we are talking Climont jams, which can be found, in December, at the Marché des Irréductibles Petits Producteurs d’Alsace in Petite France, or, at any time of the year, at La Salcée Confiturerie (Jam Factory) itself. Definitely a place worth a virtual visit!
Certified a Living Heritage Company, the small enterprise is first and foremost a family business where you feel instantly at home and which is well worth paying a visit. You will discover the Haute Vallée de la Bruche, the Climont, the stunning landscape of Alsace … And then you will go to La Salcée! The way there is certainly worth the detour.
The place itself is worth it, too. This is where Fabrice Krencker, the “best jam maker in France – 2010”, has created the enterprise which is now run by daughter, Perrine, and her husband, Fabrice. The latter is always to be found in the kitchens …
A Christmas jam
Here, the jam is cooked from fruit, water and sugar … with nothing added, which certainly distinguishes it from other “brands”.
The quality of the fruit does the rest, and it is the imagination of the master himself which creates the recipes. How, for example, can one possibly forego mentioning the Christmas jam consisting of organic clementine, fine slivers of angelica and the sap of the fir tree?
Imagine starting your day by spreading some of it onto a wholesome crust of French bread … or, rather more sensuously, relishing it by the spoonful? The various flavours pay homage to the natural fruits inside, but let us go for the exception with the Codignat of Nostradamus, one of the oldest jam recipes, and which still bears the name of its inventor. I personally admit to having fallen hard for this banana jam with Schnapps. At the moment of writing, my 350 gr pot has just yielded up its last spoonful.
If you are not able to go and discover the Climont Jam Factory for yourself, the good news is that the jams will come to you at the most authentic Christmas Market in Strasbourg, where only true craftsmen and local producers gather. The venue is the Place des Meuniers and each craftsman has his own speciality: beer, mustard and Alsatian horse radish, special spiced wines …
You will be enjoying a completely different kind of Christmas Market experience … and you will be right to!
Marché des Irréductibles Petits Producteurs d’Alsace
Address: Place des Meuniers
Date and time:
From 25/11/2016 to 24/12/2016
Friday 25/11 from 14:00 till 21:00, from Saturday 26/11 to Friday 23/12 from 11:00 till 20:00 (until 21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays) and Sunday 24/12 from 11:00 till 18:00
Les Confitures du Climont
14 route du Climont – La Salcée
Telephone: +33 (0)3 88 97 72 01
Two bits of friendly advice
– Make the most of discovering the Climont Jam Factory, by visiting the Bruche Valley while you are there.
– While visiting Petite France, also try Mireille Oster’s gingerbread, another wonderful discovery to sink your teeth into.