Monday, 15 February 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Sweets, Treats and Bubbles

Oreillettes and Croquants Villaret are popular treats found in the Languedoc Roussillon. Oreillettes are a type of fritter - dry and brittle, deliciously flavoured with orange or lemon blossom and dusted with icing sugar. Croquants Villaret are made in Nimes to a secret recipe, passed down by word of mouth through generations of the Villaret family, since 1775. They are made with a base of almonds, flour, sugar, orange flower water and lemon extract and are glazed and quite crunchy and hard.

Berlingots de Pézenas are boiled sweets – a little like Humbugs and legend has it that the recipe dates back to the time of the Medieval fairs when an African trader passed the secret on to a confectioner. The sweets have different flavours including mint, anise, coffee and lemon.

The Nougat de Limoux is made of whole almonds toasted in their skins covered by a milky-coloured mixture of glucose, honey and eggs. Almonds were easy to come by in the past as there were many almond trees bordering vineyards. The sparkling wines from these vineyards are said to pre-date Champagne.

Blanquette de Limoux is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France, created long before the Champagne region became world renowned for their bubbles.

The first written mention of Blanquette appeared in 1531 in papers written by Benedictine monks at an Abbey in Saint-Hilaire. They detail the production and distribution of Saint-Hilaire's Blanquette in cork-stoppered flasks.

The region's location, north of the Cork Oak forest of Cataluña, gave Limoux producers easy access to the material needed to produce secondary fermentation in the flask, which produces the bubbles necessary for sparkling wine.

Local lore suggests that Dom Pérignon picked up this idea while serving in this Abbey before moving to Champagne!

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