Foie gras is certainly one of the greatest symbols of French gastronomy and one of French people’s favorite luxurious dishes.”Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France” according to the French rural code. Comparing it with a simple pâté would be criminal. Concretely, foie gras is the liver of a duck or a goose that has been fattened. As a commodity, it isn’t eaten every day but for special occasions. Most of French people savor foie gras especially for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
This delicacy is tough to find even though France is the largest producer and consumer in the world. Served as an appetizer for a fancy dinner, you are going to impress your friends without a doubt and make them feel like French gastronomes. It can be relished by several ways : paned with an apple compote or cold, cut in slices on grilled toasts. The Parisian Flair traveled to the South-West of France to bring you a foretaste of this culinary speciality. In Le Gers, the French department precursor for foie gras, we met with the Pérès family who has been producing it with passion for four decades in their farm “La Ferme de le Patte d’Oie”. What are the origins of foie gras? Georgette Pérès explained that around 2500 BC, Egyptians discovered the natural process of force-feeding by observing migratory birds. Before migration those birds absorbed high quantity of food that they kept in their liver to feed themselves during their long trips. Egyptians noticed that the geese which were about to migrate were tastier than the others. That’s why they started to force-feed geese . This practice then spread to the Mediterranean where birds were force-fed with figs. The technique appeared in the South-West of France and Alsace during the 17th and 18th centuries when French farmers discovered corn.
How is foie gras made ? Foie gras is made from duck or goose liver but geese represent only 10% of the production. The Pérès farmers explained to us how they make foie gras : the duckling is bred until it turns three and a half month. From this age, it is then ready to be fattened for 13 and a half days. This precision is highly important since it will determine the weight of the liver and therefore the foie gras’ quality. The duck’s health is family Pérès’s priority. The farmers also underline that the way the ducks are force-fed can’t hurt them. After the ducks fattening, the farmers pick out the best livers, those weighing between 450 g and 600 g (0,90 lb and 1,2 lb). They then prepare them in their cannery taking off the veins, adding salt and pepper and putting the livers into a additive-free and sterilized preserving jars. This is a mark of quality.
Family Pérès uses a traditional technique of force-feeding. The ducks are bred in the open air and are fattened one by one by the farmers themselves rather than by using a machine. The food used to fed the ducks comes from Family Pérès’ own production : whole white flour yellow corn. Using whole corn is a way to keep the ducks under their natural dietary rhythm. The corn quality is much important because it gives to the foie gras its perfect taste. How to choose a high quality foie gras ? According to Philippe Pérès, Georgette and Robert’s son who is now running the farm with his brother and sister, in order to select high quality foie gras, you have to look at its color and its texture : a good product features a color that is something between rosé and nut and its texture is pretty floppy. What are the different kinds of foie gras? Foie gras can be put into jar as a whole or if the liver is too big, too small or full of veins, it can be prepared into a mousse, parfait, or pâté.
What is the best way to eat it ? According to Georgette Pérès, the best way to get the whole taste of foie gras is to savor it simply cut in slices on French bread, grilled or not. To taste foie gras semi-cooked she recommends to let it warm in our mouth before eating it. It’s necessary to take foie gras out of the refrigerator before consuming. You can also eat foie gras on bread made with nuts or figs along with a fig or onion jam. Both white and red wines can be served with foie gras. Robert Pérès recommends a sweet white wine such as floc blanc, Pacherenc or Jurançon.
Bon Appétit !
Thank you to the Famille Pérès of la “Ferme de la Patte d’Oie” : http://www.fermedelapattedoie.fr/
By Manon Lemoine, flair contributor
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