La Maison Rose
11 Rue du Chateau, 25330 Nans-sous-Ste.Anne, Franche Comté, France
Telephone: +33 381 865 541
Mobile: +33 668 472 580
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Food and Drink
The Jura region boasts several high quality products, abundantly available in local shops and countless excellent restaurants. Country Life magazine recently did a couple of articles (entitled Where there’s smoke there’s fine food!, parts one and two) on the subject. In case you’d like to try it, let me have a go at making things easier for you by taking you through a sample meal.
The regional cuisine features local trout and game, sauces from morel and other mushrooms, and smoked and cured mountain hams and sausages (made from a range of meats). It is complemented by a range of distinctive cheeses, washed down with our fine wines, and digested with a local liqueur.
As a starter we could choose a salad with local smoked ham or sausage, or with diced local cheese and walnuts. But let's go for a Croute aux Morilles, a 'millefeuilles' stuffed with a rather rich sauce of strong-tasting morel mushrooms. The morilles (morels) are relatively difficult to find. Likely spots tend to be closely guarded family secrets.
smoked ham and morels
For our main course, we might try a local trout or chicken garnished with morels and cooked in 'vin jaune', our thick strong-tasting local 8 year old yellow wine. In season we might have game, whether venison, boar, partridge, pigeon, quail etc in which our surrounding forests abound. Fondues and raclettes of local cheeses are on the menu the year round, but particularly welcome after a day spent in the fresh air in winter.
Morteau Sausage Comte Cheese
Or try our range of smoked sausages and dried meats. The most widely-known is the interestingly-named pork 'Jésu' of Morteau, delicious when cooked like a haggis, then sliced up and served with boiled potatoes and vegetables and adorned with an unusual local runny cheese known as 'cancoillotte'.
The meal is embellished with five distinct local cheeses (Comté, Morbier, Vacherin Mont d’Or, Cancoillotte, and Bleu de Gex). You can read a little about these, too, in Country Life.
The Comté is the most widely known. It is related to Gruyère. Fruity, salty or gritty in its varieties, and with holes if older, it is a firm cheese made in 35kg wheels and exported world-wide. It can be bought young or matured up to 18 months. You can visit fromageries or fruitières (cheese dairies) all over the area. The most convenient is, of course, the fromagerie in our village where, from the viewing platform, if you can get up reasonably early enough (08h00 to 10h00!), you can witness the production of Comté and Morbier cheeses.
And about 40 minutes' drive away you can visit an old fortress whose internal climatic conditions are conducive to the commercial storage and maturing of 65,000 wheels of cheese. An awesome sight!
The mild-tasting semi-firm Morbier cheese comes in a thick disk up to 8 kilos in weight. A distinctive black streak (of harmless soot!) runs horizontally through the middle of each cheese. This comes from the fact that it is traditionally produced in two halves which are then placed together. It is a winter/spring cheese, but is available throughout the year.
The Mont d’Or is a soft creamy cheese, produced from autumn to spring, which comes in a small-ish circular wooden box. We like to dig out a spoonful of the cheese, fill the hole with local white wine, bake it in the oven and then either pour it over jacket potatoes or, with pieces of bread, enjoy a mini-fondue.
Mont d'Or cheese is of ancient origin, but was first mentioned in the 18th century. It is named after the highest point in the Haut-Doubs and is produced from 15th August to 15th March above 700m, but found in the shops from 10th September to 10th May. When cattle were not producing enough milk to make much Comte, Mont d'Or was made instead with milk exclusively from Montbeliard cows. Seven litres of milk is required to produce one kilo of Mont d'Or. Its woody flavors and tang come from the resinous box. It requires a minimum of 21 days to mature. The Mont d'Or has had its own appellation since 1981.
Unique amongst cheeses is Cancoillotte, a fruity-tasting, glutinous white cheese, which comes, natural or flavoured with garlic or white wine, in little pots and is spread, warm, on bread, toast or, as we have seen, on local sausage when served hot.
The Bleu de Gex is a delicious mild, slightly bitter blue summer/autumn cheese from the hills above Geneva. It comes in a disk weighing up to 6 kg and complements nicely our local cheese board.
There are several goat cheeses of which the most notable is perhaps the nutty-flavoured Tomme de Belley from the southern extremity of the region.
My personal Jura favourite is a Tête de Moine (a cousin to our Comté). Not included above because it comes from the Swiss side of the border, it is not difficult to find in French Hypermarkets or in nearby Switzerland. It is a firm, very fruity but spicy-tasting cheese that comes in the form of a circa 1 kilo drum. The Swiss spike it onto a contraption called a Girolle from which they shave it off in exquisite flowerets.
Whilst talking of Switzerland, I might just say that Gruyères, the beautiful old village that is home to the famous cheese, is only about 2 hours’ drive from Nans.
You may wish to wash your meal down with your choices from our wide range of local Arbois, Arbois-Pupillin, Cotes du Jura, Chateau Chalon and Étoile appellation wines in their distinctively shaped bottles. You can read something about them here and, in Country Life, meet a local wine-growing friend of mine.
The Jura’s wines are varied, good, totally original and certainly not as well known as they deserve to be. They come not only in red, white and rosé, but yellow and grey! Furthermore, they keep well.
Our wine region starts at Salins-les-Bains 8 miles away and continues southwards for more than an hour's drive. You can follow a sign-posted Route des Vins through pretty little villages set deeply in their vineyards.
Geographically, the nearest really good Jura wine centre under the 'Arbois' Appellation, is Montigny-les-Arsures, a pretty village, with horse-rides through the vineyards, 25 minutes in the car from Nans. Five minutes’ drive further on is Arbois itself and Pupillin where excellent wines are very convenient to access and to sample. Alas, Nans is just a few miles outside the wine producing region and, alas, the only vine that I have grows up my neighbour’s front wall!.
Produced since time immemorial and mentioned by Pliny the Younger in the first century AD, the wines of the Jura were enjoyed for centuries by the Dukes of Burgundy and were relished particularly by the French kings Charles V and Francis I. They were also the subject of Louis Pasteur’s early research into the process of alcohol fermentation leading to today's system of pasteurisation. In 1936 they were the first in all of France to be officially recognised with an Appellation d'Origine Controlée (AOC). The limestone clay soil on which they are produced gives them a distinctive flavour - an acquired taste for some.
The white wines are produced from the Chardonnay and Savagnin grapes. They are dry, fruity and strong-bodied, the Savagnin being the stronger-tasting of the two, often matured in oak vats for 2 or 3 years. They keep very well and develop a nutty bouquet sometimes reminiscent of grilled almonds. Some of the best come from the village of Pupillin near Arbois.
The most special of them is yellow Vin Jaune, a firm strong white wine from the Savagnin grape, kept casked for a minimum of 6 years to undergo a transformation similar to sherry, and best tasted after 50 years! Other specialities include the naturally sweet Vins de Paille (said to have medicinal properties!), the headier Macvin du Jura (up to 22% proof), and a unique yellow Eau de Vie liqueur.
The region is now becoming well-known for its fine and fruity Crémants du Jura, dry (and demi-sec), white and rosé sparkling wines of good quality, an elegant substitute for Champagne. At between £3.50 - £5 a bottle, you may want to take some back with you!
The grey wine is simply very pale rosé, rather sharp and, served chilled, sometimes extremely appetising. The best rosé, from Arbois and Pupillin, by contrast, is perhaps more like pale red wine, unusually silky.
The red comes from the Poulsard, Trousseau and Pinot Noir grape varieties. Perhaps less 'different' than the whites, and often blended, it can nevertheless be soft, smooth and enjoyable, particularly with the good local game.
There is a museum at the Chateau Pécaud in Arbois which covers the history of the development of the superb local wines that we enjoy today. Visit it on- screen!
But I give the last word on the subject to Louis Pasteur to whose house, laboratory and personal vineyard at Arbois I recommend a visit. He is quoted as saying that there is more philosophy in a glass of Jura wine than in all the books of philosophy in the world. So, if you want to get wise……!
Back to the dining table! The menu of local desserts should offer fruit tarts of whatever is in season. It may offer Galettes (a flat sort of sugar cake, a speciality at Epiphany), and a vacherin glacé, This last is an unforgettable gateau concocted of ice-cream, meringue, cream and fresh fruit.
You may digest your meal with a local liqueur. Pontarlier is renowned for the production of absinthe, a liquor made from aniseed. Indeed, you may visit the distillery. Kirsch from the valley of the Loue has a good reputation, as have other liquors, especially those made from gentian and pine.
Having studied all that, you now need to know that the village restaurant here is good for sampling some of these delights. But they are easily found throughout the area, as is more classical French cooking. Within 30 minutes' driving of Nans are two 4-star restaurants (Chateau de Germigney, at Port Lesney and Jean-Paul Jeunet at Arbois) and at least 6 3-star restaurants (Chalet Bel'air, Relais du Pont d’Héry, Chateau d'Amondans, Le Moulin de la Mère Michelle, Caveau d'Arbois, and La Vallée Heureuse). Furthermore, there are countless perfectly satisfactory possibilities in the 2-star category. For special occasions I go to the 3-star Chalet Bel'air at Mouchard 20 minutes away. Particular favourites of mine for every day are the Auberge du Pont du Diable 5 minutes away up in the next village of Crouzet Migette, the vaulted Le P'tit Blanc in Salins-les-Bains, and the chalet-style La Finette in Arbois.
To complete the picture I should add that honey is produced in almost infinite variety as a cottage industry throughout the region. It is also made in Nans. Furthermore, until Brussels recently put a stop to it, we used to get butter from the village farm and fill our milk-jug there straight from the cow! Ah, those were the days!
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