Chestnuts, specialities of the Cévennes
When talking about the specialities of the Cévennes, it is impossible not to start with the chestnut! Although the presence of chestnut trees has diminished today compared to past centuries, they still cover many Cévennes hills and their historical and cultural importance remains, to the point of appearing as the true symbol of the Cévennes.
Once known as the “breadfruit tree” by the inhabitants, the chestnuts provided them with the flour they needed to feed themselves and to fatten their livestock, especially pigs. The leaves were used as fodder for goats and sheep, while the chestnut wood was used as building material. Thus, the chestnut tree was at the heart of daily life.
After reaching its peak in the middle of the 19th century, chestnut growing declined in the 20th century due to chestnut diseases and the rural exodus that affected the region.
Depending on the variety, the chestnuts are harvested between September and November by the producers.
Chestnuts can be eaten in their natural state, pan-roasted, in the form of chestnut cream or used in many recipes (Cévennes salad, chestnut soup, crêpes, etc.)
Pélardon, specialities of the Cévennes
Considered one of the oldest goat cheeses in Europe, Pélardon was already famous in Rome in the 1st century BC! An essential product of Cévennes gastronomy, this small round cheese measuring 6 or 7 cm in diameter has been protected by an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOP) since 2000, which means that the cheese is produced, manufactured and matured in accordance with precise specifications.
A goat’s cheese made from raw, whole milk, Pélardon can be presented in a variety of forms, depending on individual tastes: fresh, creamy or dry. It is also often used in hot goat cheese salads.
Sweet onion, specialities of the Cévennes
Grown on the many terraces of the Cévennes landscape, the sweet onion is one of the many specialities of the Cévennes and has had an AOC and an AOP since 2008. Harvested by hand in August and September, its exceptional taste qualities make it a sought-after ingredient that can be eaten raw or cooked. When eaten raw, its taste is neither bitter nor pungent, but if you prefer it cooked, you will discover its sweet taste. The production of sweet onions is limited to a well-defined geographical area, i.e. a territory of about thirty communes, all located in the southern Cévennes (Gard department).
Here are some examples of recipes: sweet onion confit, sweet onion soup, oven-roasted sweet onions, etc.
Honey, specialties of the Cevennes
Although the best-known honey from the Cévennes is certainly chestnut honey, many beekeepers offer other types of honey. There are monofloral honeys, i.e. they contain at least 80% nectar from a single flower (e.g. acacia, fir, raspberry) or polyfloral honeys when the product is composed of several floral varieties.
The variety of honeys can be explained by the geography and climate of the Cévennes, a territory that straddles the Mediterranean and mountain climates. The resulting flora offers the bees a wide choice for foraging.
Present in the Cévennes for a very long time, honey was for a long time the only source of sugar for the inhabitants of the region.
Pork in the Cevennes, specialties of the Cevennes
The specialities of the Cévennes also include some typical dishes. A traditional peasant dish in which many local products are used (pig, sweet onions, chestnuts, mushrooms), Cévenol-style pork can be eaten sautéed, in a stew or even in a casserole.
The recipe is relatively simple: the pieces of pork are first browned in olive oil in a frying pan and then simmered (i.e. cooked for a long time over a low heat) in a casserole dish with sweet onions, carrots, mushrooms, chestnuts and herbes de Provence.
Beyond these few specialities, the region offers many other gustatory delights! For example, the Reinettes du Vigan apples, which can be found in a famous crumble, or the veal carbonnade from the Cévennes.
Of course, in addition to the typical products and dishes of the region, there are now all the other specialities of France and elsewhere!
Finally, for wine lovers, the Cévennes vineyards offer all three types of wine: red, white and rosé. The red wines (merlot, cabernet-sauvignon, grenache, cinsault), offer a certain aromatic power, while the whites (grenache, clairette, viognier, sauvignon, chardonnay) and the rosés evoke freshness and sweetness.
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