And so today we cross over from Brittany to Normandy, named for the Viking settlers of the 9th Century. Home of delicious, complex, fragrant Normandy Farmhouse Cider and site of the D-day landings during World War II.
Normandy is dairy cow heaven. Norman cheeses include Camembert, Livarot, Pont l’Évêque, Brillat-Savarin, Neufchâtel, Petit Suisse and Boursin; and their butter and cream is high quality. The cows of Normandy are beautiful beasts, and I’d say that even if they weren’t believed to be descended from Vikings. Their milk is rich and high fat and they are the third most popular dairy cow in France. They also produce fine, marbled meat.
The other product Normandy is well known for is it’s farmhouse Cider (or more properly Cidre). French Cider is a style I particularly enjoy, often yeasty, quite dry and an excellent companion to food. It’s about a thousand miles away from the sweet commercial ciders we know of in Australia, made with apple juice concentrate and industrial yeasts.
In the best French Cider houses (barns is some cases) no additional yeast is added to the ferment, the indigenous yeast from the immediate area is concentrated enough that extra isn’t required. Some of these places have been making cider since the 1400s and they use cider apples, old astringent varieties that you shouldn’t eat – we tried some for a bit of mouth-puckering fun. But the ciders they make are complex, aromatic and delicious with cheese, savoury crepes, cold meats. Don’t get me started on French Perry, or Poire, or we could be here all night… hmm… well actually … we are going to be here for quite a bit of it … non?