Panier of Plenty

Artisanal charcuterie

This weekend has been dedicated to the annual Mas Coste charcuterie ritual. A pig that has been raised especially (on petit-lait or whey from the fromagerie, fresh vegetable scraps and acorns foraged in the forest) has been ‘despatched’ and converted into delicacies to be shared. Nothing is wasted – everything is chopped, sorted and mixed by hand using traditional methods (and sausage machines) – and everyone who participates takes home a supply of artisanal sausages, saucisson sec, boudin noir (black pudding), paté and rillettes, as well as fresh meat cuts and mince.

It is a privilege to be invited to participate, and I was curious to see how everything was made, yet at the same time wondering if I would be squeamish. As giant ‘marmites’ bubbled on the fire (temperature control is either by removing wood or adding cold water), our team worked from morning until evening (with a break for a convivial lunch, which included slices of filet mignon) to prepare simple rustic recipes. Each product was then bagged, or set aside for the next stage: filling preserving jars to be cooked in a huge bath.

‘Popeye’ weighed in at 400-450 kilos (this is estimated by weighing a haunch of jambon – to be cured – which represents 10% of his body weight). I’ve never witnessed ‘butchery’ on such a scale, and was interested to discover how each cut was chosen, as well as how everything was put to good use. However, in spite of my intention ‘to be conscious of where meat comes from’, my stomach evidently thinks otherwise, preferring ‘ignorance is bliss’, and as I write I am absent from the farm today, senses overpowered by the experience…

Canigou, morning view, Mas Coste

Canigou, morning view, Mas Coste

Marmites - bones and meat for rillettes

Marmites – bones and meat for rillettes

Preparing the meat cuts

Cutting the carcass

Sausage meat

Sausage meat

Mixed by  hand for pork sausage

Mixed by hand for pork sausage

Preparing meat cuts

Preparing meat cuts

Cutting fat for boudin (black pudding)

Cutting fat for boudin (black pudding)

Onions for boudin

Onions for boudin

Piping the boudin mix

Piping the boudin mix

Boudin - ready to simmer on fire

Boudin – ready to simmer on fire

The milking shed, our workroom

The milking shed, our workroom

Fat spilling onto the fire

Fat spilling onto the fire

Bones taken from the broth

Bones taken from the broth

Ready to be picked clean for 'rillettes'

Ready to be picked clean for ‘rillettes’

The youngest participant, rillettes

The youngest participant, rillettes

Hopeful Iris

Hopeful Iris

Teamwork, late afternoon

Teamwork, late afternoon

Boudin simmering in stock

Boudin simmering in stock

Liver for paté

Liver for paté

The last batch for rillettes

The last batch for rillettes

Dusk at the bergerie

Dusk at the bergerie

Canigou, night falls

Canigou, night falls

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This entry was published on January 25, 2015 at 11:26 am. It’s filed under Animals, Antipodean, Country Life, Country Living, Cuisine, Europe, Ex Advertising Creative, Expat, Food, France, French Culture, Languedoc Roussillon, Life, Lifestyle, Living in France, Nature, New Zealander in France, Photography, Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Rural Life, Seasons, South of France, Working in France and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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