One of the joys in France in early summer is the arrival of the Cherry Harvest and whilst Cherries can be found in many parts of France, there are some areas where the Cherry is celebrated as a local delicacy:
- Itxassou (64 Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle Aquitaine) in the Basque country south of Bayonne in the foothills of the Pyrenees and celebrate with a Cherry Festival on 2 June 2019
- Fougerolles (70 Haut-Saône, ARA) is situated at the north of the Haute-Saône, at the foot of the “balloon” of the Vosges southwest of Alsace, reserves for itself the title of Pays de la Cerise – mainly for the production of Kirsch, which is a clear pure brandy made from cherries – not to be confused with Cherry Brandy which is a sweetened, flavoured version of simple grape brandy. Foire aux Beignets de Cerises) 14 – 15 September 2019
Kirsch is made from pressing the fruit, adding the ground cherry stones and allowing it all to ferment. The stones add a characteristically bitter note to the spirit, and also contain minute quantities of cyanide! The liquid is then heated in a still to distill the alcoholic spirit and then aged for a short time in glass “bonbons” or steel or earthenware vats so that the spirit remains colourless.
Often used as to provide an additional punch to desserts, it can also be taken lightly chilled as a refreshing after-dinner tipple – but preferably in small quantities.
This is one of those lesser-known parts of France – not really on any of the main routes to anywhere, and the proximity of the Vosges mountains limits a speedy transit of the region. But it may well be worth visiting in early July for the annual Fete des Cerises which celebrates the beginning of the harvest – or in September there is an annual fair of Cherry Dougnuts (Foire aux Beignets de Cerises) 14 – 15 September 2019 and Kirsch tastings which sounds like fun. For more info see http://www.otsi-fougerolles.net
Production of Cherries in France is concentrated in the regions of Provence (35%), Rhone-Alpes (33%), Languedoc (13%), Midi-Pyrenees (8%) and Loire Valley (5%) www.franceagroalimentaire.com