Tales from

the Loir

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 November 8, 2000 - Pousse d'Epine

Pousse means push in French and it is the word used to describe young branches that appear on plants in the spring. For the last two years I have been hearing my neighbors talk about making pousse d'épine in the month of May. The words always went a little too quickly to follow. I could follow the 10 liters of cabernet sauvignon but I had no idea what 2 liters gout meant or what an épine was. I later learned that gout was eau-de-vie. and that pousse d'épine was the young shoots of a bush called an épine. My friends, Jean Montambaux and his daughter Christine, agreed to include me in the annual ritual of making pousse d'épine. Jean said it was very simple. All we need is wine, gout, powdered sugar and d'épine.

We visited the vineyard of Dominique Norguet and bought the ten liters of cabernet sauvignon. Then we searchi for the tender young shoots of the épine tree.When I was harvesting the shoots, it looked like an ordinary bush on the side of the road. I later learned that this is really a kind wild plum tree. Later in the fall, I saw it bearing fruit. The épine pushes new shoots or branches in May and August and these are the months that you can make pousse d'épine.

Jean, Christine and I load baskets and clippers in Jean's Citroën. He engages the hydraulic lifting system that elevates the car and we take off. Only the French could build a car like this. Jean says that it has to be the right height to find the épine. We drive down a deserted gravel road near the commune of Paradis and find the épine bushes along side the road. Jean shows me the irregular pattern of leaves on the young shoots and tells me that this is what we need. We fill our baskets with the young shoots and head to St. Rimay where Jean negotiates the purchase of two liters of eau-de-vie. He calls it the gout and says that it is eight years old. We head to Christine's fermette to do the mixing. Jean borrowed a small barrel from André (P'tit Jules) Desneux so that I could mix my batch. We haul all of the ingredients into one of Christine's four caves for mixing and aging. The rest is quite simple. First I put the branches of the épine in the barrel. Then add the ten liters of cabernet sauvignon and two liters of eau-de-vie. The last ingredient is seven grams of powdered sugar. The mixture must be stirred twice a day for about two weeks. After that, it rests tranquil until the middle of July when it is filtered and corked in old champagne or vin mousseux bottles. The corked bottles should be stored standing up. It should be served cold or even with an ice cube but it should not be stored in a refrigerator. I left a bottle in my refrigerator and the mixture separated. I have been told that the refrigerator is also bad for wine and will cause it to break down too. Pousse d'épine can be stored for years in a 12º C cave and will get better with age. It has the taste of a very fine port and is usually drunk as an aperitif. It is also excellent poured into a half of cantaloupe or melon.

Ingredients:
10 Liters of Cabernet Sauvignon
2 Liters of Eau-De-Vie
700 Grams of Sugar
Shoots from the épine noir in May or August.

Cheers

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November 1, 2000 - Col de Vence: A day on the Moon
October 25, 2000 Cult of the Black Virgin
October 18, 2000 Harvesting Grapes by Hand
October 4, 2000 Provence: All Good Things

 

 

       

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