La Cuisine – In the Kitchen
The French kitchen is the soul of the home. It’s here that pâtés and terrines are made, cures and rubs are created, and, of course, where the cooking is accomplished. Herbs, garlic and onions are close at hand, and the pantry is kept full. It’s also around the kitchen table that simple meals are shared. I remember sitting with my neighbor and her family at lunch in Provence. Her husband, a farmer, would bring up a cured ham from the cave and slice off pieces for us to eat with chunks of fresh baguette slathered with butter before the rest of meal – vegetables sautéed with thyme and rosemary, rabbit or chicken braised with tomatoes and garlic – cheese, and fresh fruit were common fare. Sara Remington’s photo above, from the book Paris to Provence, by Sara Remington and Ethel Brennan, just before we all sat down to eat dinner, speaks of the essence of the French kitchen. Here, in the kitchen section of La Vie Rustic, we offer some products to help you create the essence of that French kitchen, with charcuterie sets, rubs, and herbs.’
NEW HANDMADE GRATIN DISHES JUST ARRIVED
I find dishes to be a part of the charm of the French kitchen. Well-used, sometimes chipped, I have a much-loved collection of baking dishes, platters, and bowls that give me great pleasure everyday.
Gratin dishes are among my favorites. Because gratins are typically served at the table right from the baking dish, it’s especially nice to have attractive ones.Of course they can be used to roast chickens and other meats as well. I could not be more thrilled to have my own brand of gratin dishes made exclusively for La Vie Rustic. The dishes are hand-made by California ceramicist, cookbook author and culinary journalist, Elaine Corn.
Elaine brings her deep knowledge of food and cooking to the creation of these very special gratin dishes, knowing what works in the oven as well as looks gorgeous on the table. Each dish, is slightly different, just as every time I make the same gratin, it’s a little bit different, and that is part of the distinctive charm both of the dishes and of cooking.
Her latest style here is rectangular, 8 !/2 Inches by 6 1/2 inches, and just under 2 inches deep. I find it a perfect size to serve 3 to 4 as a side dish or 2 to 3 as a main course. There are two versions – one with a bright blue interior border he other with muted blue brown interior borders. The rectangles that decorate both the inside and the outside of the dish are in hues of deep red, sand brown, blue and white. The dish is both fanciful and elegant.
NOTE: Bright blue border Sold Out.
MY CULINARY JOURNEY – THE FOOD AND FETES OF PROVENCE WITH RECIPES
For the food lover, dreamer, and romantic on your list? Or for you? “My Culinary Journey – The Food and Fetes of Provence” by Georgeanne Brennan.
The book, just published last fall, has already been hailed as an ” evocatively entwined memoir.. rich in detail about the food, people and festivals of Provence, France.”
Sample such recipes from the book as Beef Daube with Cepes, Honey and Lavender Glazed Chicken, Warm Fig and Goat Cheese Bread Pudding, Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Herbes de Provence. Read the stories of the fetes, or festivals, that celebrate lavender, black truffles, bouillabaisse, and more, and the community meals that are the centerpiece of the fetes.
As the author, I can say that if you liked my book, A Pig in Provence, you will like this book, with lush photos of goats and pigs, family, food, and landscape from the days when I raised goats and pigs in Provence – plus 40 recipes and tales of fetes.
You can purchase here a signed copy of “My Culinary Journey – Food and Fetes of Provence“, with a personalized inscription, if requested.
The author, who is the founder and owner of La Vie Rustic, will also include a jar of La Vie Rustic’s Herbes de Provence with your order to make it even more fun to get started cooking the recipes and enjoying the scent of Provence.
My Culinary Journey Price……….. $27. 50 (includes complimentary jar of La Vie Rustic Herbes de Provence
190 pages, author Georgeanne Brennan, publisher Yellow Pear Press, 2016.
Also available as part of the Holiday Special Provence Gift Set.
Salt Jar – Gros Sel
Since I started La Vie Rustic two years ago, I’ve been looking for a potter who would recreate my treasured French salt jar. At last I found one, Rebecca Holmes. Now La Vie Rustic can offer salt jars, hand-thrown on a potter’s wheel, just like mine, labeled Gros Sel, with a natural cork stopper. My salt jar has a permanent place of honor in my kitchen and not only do I use it daily, but it also gives me pleasure just to look at it. Inside it I keep large–crystal grey sea salt from Guerande in France.. The opening is large enough for me to easily reach my hand in to scoop up salt for seasoning large pots of water for vegetable or pasta, soups and stews. For smaller crystals, I take a handful of the large salt and grind the crystals in a mortar and pestle.
The jar is made with one-half porcelain clay and one-half stoneware clay, and glazed inside and out. It is food safe and dishwasher safe.
Of course, you can your jar for anything – to hold bouquets of roses or bread sticks or to store spices or garlic – whatever you fancy.
4 /12 inches tall, with natural cork stopper, 3-inch diameter opening
La Vie Rustic’s Cranberry and Herbes de Provence Soup Set
In La Vie Rustic’s Cranberry Bean and Herbes de Provence Soup Set, you’ll find the essentials for making this soup from scratch. If you’ve never cooked with dry beans, this is an easy, step by step way to begin. And, if you are a dry bean fan, you’ll discover one more way to enjoy them. Take good quality cranberry beans like these from Rancho Gordo, known as Coco Rouge in France, season them with sweet true bay, Herbes de Provence, and Sel de Thyme, and you’ll have an exceptionally satisfying soup, one in which the rich broth is as good as the beans. The distinctly earthy flavor and creamy texture of cranberry beans are enhanced by Herbes de Provence and Sel de Thyme, thyme-laden sea salt. By cooking the optional sausages on their own rather than with the beans, the character of the beans and the savory broth is preserved, and the sausage, added at the end, serves as an additional seasoning.
1 pound Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans, jar of La Vie Rustic Herbes de Provence, jar of La Vie Rustic Sel de Thyme, fresh sweet bay laurel leaves, full color recipe card, and information card about sweet bay laurel
La Vie Rustic’s White Bean and Winter Savory Soup Set
In La Vie Rustic’s White Bean and Winter Savory Soup Set, which we introduced last holiday season, you’ll find the essentials for making this white bean soup from scratch. If you’ve never cooked with dry beans, this is an easy, step by step way to begin. And, if you are a dry bean fan, you’ll discover one more way to enjoy them. Take good quality beans, like the giant Royal Coronas here from Rancho Gordo, season them with La Vie Rustic’s sweet true bay, winter savory sea salt, and Herbes de Provence, and and you’ll have an exceptionally satisfying soup, one in which the rich broth is as good as the beans. Winter savory, which grows wild in Provence, is reminiscent of both thyme and rosemary, but earthier. It is an essential ingredient in Herbes de Provence, is used to season goat cheese, and it is a favorite for seasoning beans. By cooking the optional ham hocks on their own rather than with the beans, the character of the beans and the savory broth is preserved, and the meat, added at the end, serves as an additional seasoning.
1 pound Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans, jar of La Vie Rustic, jar of La Vie Rustic Sel de Sarriette (winter savory), jar of Herbes de Provence, fresh sweet bay laurel leaves, full color recipe card, and information card about sweet bay laurel
CHARCUTERIE TO MAKE AT HOME
I made my first jambon cru, France’s version of prosciutto, one bitter January with a farmer in Provence in 1973. Marcel, my neighbor at the time, had a special wooden box that he used. He filled it half full with coarse salt, then laid the fresh pork leg on top, then covered it all in salt and kept it in a cool place – namely a heavily vaulted stone room that would one day be transformed into the kitchen of my French house.
We checked on the ham every few days, turning it a few times, and captured the brine that accrued as the salt drew the moisture from the meat. After about 20 days, I helped him clean the ham and then rub it deep and thick with pepper, wild thyme and rosemary. He wrapped it in a clean pillowcase and hung it back in the stone room to air cure.
About 6 months later, he started bringing the ham up to the stairs at lunch and dinner, putting it on the table and cutting slices from it to fill a platter. We ate the slices, fat and all, on top of thick slices of bread, before digging into whatever dish Marcel’s wife, Marie, had prepared. Braised rabbit, stuffed cabbage, tripe stew (one of my favorites) and always some kind of pasta.Marie is Italian, from Calabria, and pasta is an indelible part of her life.
I took my memories of making for jambon cru with me when I moved back to California from France not long after the first jambon cru adventure, but only in the last five or six years has making it become a winter ritual. Soft and buttery, with a nice rim of fat, I slice it for a charcuterie platter, to stuff into figs, or to top pizzas and I cut it into small dice for pastas, salads, and ravioli.
LA VIE RUSTIC DIY JAMBON CRU (FRENCH-STYLE PROSCIUTTO) SET
From the wooden salt curing box and finishing rub down to the red and white butchers’ string, this set contains what you need for making your own French-style prosciutto. Cure your jambon cru in the cold weather, and it will be ready to slice and serve with fresh figs in early summer. You will need to purchase your own fresh pork leg and bulk coarse crystal salt. Order the pork from your favorite market. The salt is readily available in 40 pound bags at hardware and home improvement stores. Fresh pork leg not included and salt not included.
Contents 17 1/2 -inch X 23 1/2-inch X 3 1/2 Inch wooden salting box, 3 ounces La Vie Rustic Finishing Rub which includes Tellicherry pepper, sage, thyme, and rosemary, fine-mesh cheesecloth, butchers string, and complete instructions.
LA VIE RUSTIC ROULADE (FRENCH STYLE PANCETTA) SET
In Provence, if you go into a butcher shop and ask for roulade you will get pork belly that has been salt cured with herbs and spices, snugly rolled and tied and dried for at least a few weeks. You can buy a thick slice, or have the butcher thinly slice it for you. Cut roulade into 1/2 -inch pieces and fry them and you have your own lardons, essential for frisée and goat cheese salads, to garnish creamy soups, and it’s perfect to use in Spaghetti Carbonara and other pasta dishes.
It is easy to make your own roulade home with our set, and our step-by-step instructions. All you need to buy is the pork belly. You can order it from your favorite market or butcher shop.Our set contains everything else you need to produce about 8 pounds of tasty roulade. Fresh pork belly not included.
Contents: 2 curing bags, La Vie Rustic curing mixture which includes Mediterranean sea salt, handcrafted tropical cane sugar, Tellicherry pepper, sage, rosemary, juniper berries, coriander seeds, and fresh bay leaves, plus fine-mesh cheesecloth, butchers’ string and complete instructions
HERBS AND ARTISAN FRUIT SALTS
The always present scent of the French kitchen is herbs, and nowhere is it more evocative than in Provence. Rosemary, thyme, sarriette (winter savory), sage, lavender, and marjoram all grow wild on the hillsides and forest edges, where locals gather them and bring them home. Sometimes the fresh herbs are tied in bunches and hung from a nail in the rafters to dry, sometimes they are simply kept in an open basket where they gradually dry as well. First they are used fresh, and as time passes, dried.
La Vie Rustic Herbes de Provence
There are as many mixtures of Herbes de Provence as there are ways to use it. Ours is a purist mixture, incorporating only the woody herbs that can be wild-gathered in Provence and it is the mixture I learned from my neighbors there. Use this mixture to sprinkle over fresh goat cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, to rub densely over a leg of lamb or pork chops, and to season vegetables of all kinds. In fact, use it anytime you want a taste of Provence.
Contents: Thyme, winter savory, sage, rosemary and lavender, 24 grams
La Vie Rustic Sel de Lavande
Take some lavender in your hand and crush it. You’ll notice that it exudes a spicy, almost peppery fragrance, akin to rosemary. It’s not surprising then, that lavender is a component in Herbes de Provence, but it is perhaps surprising that it brings its savory flavor to soups, meats, cheeses, vegetable dishes, and desserts, like flan, (pictured left, photograph by Thomas Kuoh), ice cream, and chocolate of all kinds. La Vie Rustic has taken lavender’s savory character a bit further and combined it with grey sea salt from the Guèrande salt ponds of Brittany. Use this salt as you would any other, for seasoning, but when you want an added bit of something mysterious. Add it to a chilled melon soup, for example, or inside the cavity and on the skin of a plump chicken. For a finer grind, grind it down in a mortar with a pestle. Contents: Coarse Sel de Guèrande and French lavender, 90 grams. ORIGIN: France and California
La Vie Rustic Sel de Sarriette
Sarriette, or winter savory, is a perennial herb that grows wild in Provence. It is an essential ingredient in Herbes de Provence, and fresh sprigs are used to top fresh, artisinal goat cheese, the kind that La Vie Rustic’s owner used to make. (See her book, My Culinary Journey for the story). Sarriette, along with bay leaves are the classic seasoning for dried beans, like the Royal Corona beans from Rancho Gordo, pictured at left. When your bean recipe calls for salt, use Sel de Sarriette. It is also an excellent seasoning for grilled or roasted vegetables.
LA VIE RUSTIC SWEET BAY LAUREL, FRESH
Our fresh sweet bay laurel, Lauris nobilis, on branches 6- 8 inches long, is cut to order, gathered into a bunch and wrapped with twine, is shipped within 24 hours or less of cutting. Once you receive it, you can hang it or keep it in a basket in your kitchen or pantry. The leaves will gradually dry. When a recipe calls for 1 bay leaf, double the amount if using a fresh bay leaf. Best of all, use fresh bay leaves in quantity on skewers with pork or lamb or to make an aromatic bed for a potato and onion gratins, or 2 leaves per pot of dried beans.
Contents: Six 6- 8 inch long branches of fresh sweet bay laurel and an information and care card.
Les Sels de Fruits – artisan fruit salts
La Vie Rustic has created several mixtures of California-grown fruits combined with the inimitable grey sea salt from the ancient salt ponds of of Guèrande in Brittany, France. The dried fruits infuse the salt providing a ready-to use seasoning form everything from salad dressings to rubs and even cocktails.
LA VIE RUSTIC SEL D’AGRUME
Our Sel d’Agrume, Citrus Salt, is made using the zest of the intensely aromatic Blood oranges or Navel oranges and Meyer Lemons. The trees grow on my small farm here in Northern California (see blog piece on this site, The Season of Citrus) and are in full season in winter, when the fruit is harvested.The salt is from the ancient salt ponds of Guèrande in Brittany, and together, create a citrus flavored salt that is ideal to use in making vinaigrette, to use in baking, and to season poultry. If you’d like to use it to rim a drink, say a Margarita, crush it up a little first using a mortar and pestle.
Contents: Coarse Sel de Guèrande and Dried Blood Orange or Navel Orange and Meyer Lemon Zest
90 grams, ORIGIN: France and California
LA VIE RUSTIC SEL DE FIGUE
There’s something about the ability of figs to go both sweet and savory – think fresh figs stuffed with jambon cru (French style-prosciutto) or a fresh fig and arugula salad with feta cheese and honey –that makes this fig and sea salt combination a handy pantry item. Use it as a rub or to season duck, wild game, or pork. Instead of regular salt use Sel de Figue in making vinaigrette. Sprinkle a smidgen of it over freshly baked brownies or chocolate ice cream. Stuff a pork loin with figs and season the roast with Sel de Figue. The uses are many. The salt is from the ancient salt ponds of Guèrande in Brittany, France and the figs are California Mission figs, grown on a neighboring farm.Contents: Coarse Sel de Guerande and Dried Mission Figs, 90 grams
ORIGIN: France and California
LA VIE RUSTIC SEL D’ABRICOT
Apricots, whose origins are in China, are notable for their tart, sweet flavor. They are at their tastiest when they are absolutely ripe. The finest of all apricots is the Blenheim, sometimes called Royal Blenheim. It is only moderately-sized, with deep orange flesh, and soft golden orange skin, sometimes freckled or lightly blushed pink. In northern California in the early part of the 20th century and on into the 50s, Vaca Valley was noted for its apricot production, as was the city of Winters, to the north.
Freight cars loaded with fruit left the train stations headed east. Up into the 1970s the end of school was scheduled to coincide with the apricot harvest so that all the children would be available to cut ‘cots.
Many people of a certain age have fond memories of working in the drying yards with their friends, seeing who could go the fastest. The town of Winters was surrounded with orchards of Blenheim apricots, because those were the best. Times change, and breeders developed larger apricots that would ripen before the Blenheim. These newer apricots took over the market. The orchards of Blenheim’s were pulled out and planted to prune plums and walnuts. However, you will often see a lone apricot tree or two in the middle or edge of a walnut orchard that the farmer kept for himself and his family.
La Vie Rustic’s Sel d’Abricot (pictured above, photograph by Thomas Kuoh) is made with dried Blenheim apricots grown on in California’s Great Central Valley and Sel de Guèrande, sea salt from Brittany. (see Sel de Guèrande blog on this site). Use it when ever you want a hint of that tart-sweet apricot flavor. I like to stuff a pork loin with dried apricots and then rub the roast all over with a little sage and Sel d’Abricot. Use it on pork ribs, on duck, to add to a salad dressing, to add to an apricot pie or crumble, fresh or dried, and experiment with it in cocktails.
Contents: Coarse Sel de Guèrande and Dried Blenheim Apricots, 90 grams
ORIGIN: France and California