02 April 2011

Strange ‘cheeses’ from Meusnes

Thursday morning we had several errands to do. The first was a trip to the vet's to get some products and pills for Bertie and Callie. The second was to buy some wine. Since the vet's office is across the river in Noyers-sur-Cher, I told Walt that, for a change, we should go to the Domaine Michaud winery over there to have our wine jugs filled with Gamay and Cabernet red wines. I'd only been to Michaud's once before.

it turns out that there's a whole world over there — okay, just a village — that we hadn't discovered until recently. It's called Les Martinières, and it's a neighborhood — a hamlet, or hameau, sort of like the one we live in. It's five miles due east of our house, and it's very picturesque, with roads and streets winding among traditional-style local houses and buildings. Les Martinières is a wine village surrounded by vineyards, with three or four wineries in operation. It's a little off the beaten path. Monsieur Michaud's wine is excellent.

Bernard Chiquet prepares and sells "naturally good"
hams and sausages in Meusnes, near Saint-Aignan.
Notice the address: "the street of sighs."

Across the Cher River from Les Martinières, via the bridge at Châtillon-sur-Cher, is the village of Meusnes. (I'm getting to the point.) It's a pretty drive that takes you over bridges across the Canal du Berry, the Cher River, the Fouzon River, and the wide, flat river valley. In Meusnes, there's a good bakery, a beautiful old church, and a fine butcher/delicatessen shop — une boucherie/charcuterie — that I first heard of about five years ago.

Standard French sausages: clockwise from the
top — merguez (spicy lamb sausages); saucisses de
Toulouse
(fresh pork, not ground but chopped with a knife);
boudins noirs (blood sausages, a.k.a. black pudding);
and saucisses fumées (smoked pork sausages).


I'd only been to Bernard Chiquet's shop once before, years ago. But I was curious to visit again, especially since good weather was predicted for a weekend, and it seemed this would be a good opportunity to do some barbecuing. What to cook on the grill? Sausages, that's what. The good, standard French sausages, de préférence.

Strange "cheeses" in a pork butcher's shop...

After I had picked out some sausages — some to cook, others to put in the freezer for cooking later — I noticed some unusual looking products on the top of the display counter. Were they cheeses? I was examining them with great puzzlement when Madame Chiquet finished weighing and wrapping the sausages I had selected.

The first one that caught my eye was something called
« Le Palet-Côt », which looked for all the world like a local Selles-sur-Cher goat cheese. « Qu'est-ce que c'est ? », I asked.

...are not cheeses at all, but hard dry sausages.

« En fait, c'est du saucisson sec, Monsieur. » , Madame Chiquet told me. « Et vous savez ce que c'est que le côt, n'est-ce pas ? » Yes, I know the word Côt — it's the local name for the grape that elsewhere is called Malbec. She proceeded to show and describe to me all the different hard, dry sausages — salamis — that she and her husband make. Most looked like your standard saucissons secs.

A close-up of the Palet-Côt saucisson, a hard salami
made with pork, beef, hazelnuts, and red wine


Another one, however, looked like a Valençay-style goat cheese — the truncated pyramid of a cheese that is coated with black wood ash. Only this "cheese" was called « Le Cananard », and the coating was a layer of coarsely crushed black peppercorns. The meat turns out to be a mixture of pork and duck — canard in French. I should have asked for more information about the made-up word « cananard ».

Saint-Aignan, Noyers, Châtillon, and Meusnes

These were too funny not to buy, and they are very good with a glass of wine at apéritif time. Hard sausage is something you often get served with apéritifs — pre-dinner drinks — in France, but not this kind.

11 comments:

  1. No wonder you couldn't resist buying those odd looking sausages. I would have done the same!
    Btw: in Belgian French slang 'chiquet' means 'ostentatious'. Quelq'un qui a beaucoup de 'chiquet', is someone flashy, showy. I think in France they use the word 'chichi':)

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  2. funny cheese shaped sausages....were they in any kind of casing? Trader Joes sells some pretty good saucisson sec made with red or white wine.......I am a sausageholic.....

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  3. I always remember that beautiful small church in Meusnes with great pleasure.

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  4. These look so intriguing. I couldn't have resisted buying them to try, especially the one with hazelnuts.

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  5. CHM, I have never posted pictures of that church. I will do so. It is very pretty. I found the pictures this morning — July 1, 2004.

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  6. How wonderful to still be discovering treasures close to you!

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  7. Oh boy, I'm looking forward to the photos of the church you and chm have mentioned, in Meusnes :))

    Ken, when I read this kind of post from you, it just underscores for me how much knowledge of local cheese, wine, grapes, sausage, etc. you have acquired, and how much that knowledge makes you an informed browser in these wonderful charcuteries and fromageries you visit. You are like a fine wine that has become more complex and more developed with the years. I love how learning about one thing can open up doors to understanding more about another thing, and so on and so on. You really are getting the most out of your life in France!

    Judy

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  8. That's one of the things I love the most about our area of France, there are always littl surprises to discover.

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  9. The Palet-Côt saucisson ingredients are so unexpected in a saucisson. I'll bet it's super delicious.

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  10. Ken,
    Is it difficult to cut it into managable slices to eat?
    Certainly looks interesting. Is this some sort of traditional shape for the area, or was it designed to be an eye-play sort of joke?
    Coq au vin has been in the oven for an hour as we speak. Ken I saw your comment after it has been in for just a little, whipped it out and added vin cotto which we buy from an Italian supplier. As you probably know, it is cooked grape must. Thick, sweetish and delicious in dressings etc.
    Everyone in the house is salivating at the delicious smells from the oven.
    Coq au vin was a common dinner party dish in the pretentious Aussie 70's and one I made often, but your recipe is much, much easier and less time consuming.
    Feeling hungry..will let you know how it goes.
    Sue

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  11. These are just gorgeous. A friend sent me here asking if I knew anything about these. Please do let us know if there was some kind of casing on them. I really want to make them. Thanks, Ken

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