With so many jams to choose from in France, here’s a quick tour of the French’s top 5 favorites. There are a few unusual flavors, some unique to France, as well as different ways the French enjoy jam.
The Top 5 Jam Flavors the French Love:
- Apricot– my French mother-in-law, makes one of the best I ever tasted: apricot jam with rum and vanilla.
- Fig – very popular on crêpes and waffles or with goat’s cheese
- Prunes: there are hundreds of varieties, but the French favor the Quetsch, Reine-Claude, and Mirabelle varietals for jam
- Rhubarb– the tender red rhubarb, not the green is used to make jam.
Unique (?) French Flavors
I’m not sure if these are unique to France, but I don’t see these flavors a lot elsewhere:
–Reine-Claude: a type of prune from the Eastern regions of France named after Queen (“Reine”) Claude, wife of King François 1er. (In early modern France they often named fruit varietals after the nobility or monarchs.)
–Mirabelle: also a type of prune from the Lorraine region
–Coing(Quince): an ancient fruit resembling a pear which grows in the Mediterranean region of France
–Tomates Vertes: Green Tomatoes
– Châtaigne or Marron: (Chestnut – in jam or purée form):
- both these words indicate the edible sweet chestnut with its spiny outer husk
- not to be confused with the “Marron d’Inde,” the Horse Chestnut, which is not edible and has a smooth husk.
- there are 700 varietals of châtaignes and marrons in France, mainly from the Dordogne and Ardèche regions.
The Sign of a Great Food Artisan:
The French prefer their chestnut confiture or purée as a dessert with “fromage blanc” (literally “white cheese” – but more like a yogurt). I always hated this heavy dessert and thought it could choke a horse.
One day, while putting in an order for my favorite lavender honey, I noticed the bee artisan also had a chestnut purée that he modestly described as “a chestnut product superior to all others. “ I decided to test his claim.
What piqued my interest was that he used only three ingredients: chestnuts, sugar, and vanilla extract. And the ratio of fruit to added sugar was a super high 60: 40!
The verdict? I was surprised by the woody scent and how the vanilla enhanced it. It went well on toasted whole-grain bread with salted butter. It’s more of a fall/winter jam, but now I’m addicted: I’ve just finished my second jar since my order in February, and it’s only June!
That’s the sign of a great food artisan: he can make you love a product you never thought you’d like.
Bread + Butter + Jam: Anything Else?
The French are famous for their bread products like croissants and baguettes. So apart from these obvious ways to use jams and jellies, are there any other ways they enjoy them?
Besides the typical bread + butter + jam trio, the French use jam in 3 other ways:
- With cheese. Here are a few examples of cheese/jam marriages made in heaven:
– Fig or green tomato jam with goat’s cheese
– Black cherry jam with ewe’s cheese from the Basque region (like “Ossau Iraty” cheese).
– Pear confiture with Roquefort cheese
– Apple jelly (gelée) with Camembert cheese from Normandy
- With France’s large variety of yogurts or yogurt-like products:
– on “fromage blanc” (a fermented milk product)
– on plain yogurt (instead of buying the yogurts with the fruit already added at the bottom)
– on “faisselle” ( another fermented milk product)
- With crepes and waffles as a snack or dessert. They’re very popular with children.
Their favorite flavors to add on top? Raspberry, strawberry, apricot jams – and Chocolate Nutella!
And now you:
Have you already heard about some of these unusual jams? Ever tried any? What did you think? Let me know!
Photo: courtesy of Unsplash.com