Part two of Ferme en Ferme fall: our postprandial yet still gastronomic promenade through the Black Mountains.
Picarel le Haut, run by Catherine Souef near Saissac, has 120 cerfs (deer), biches (does) and daguets (brocket deer–a small species), as well as 30 Arab pure-breed horses. (Saissac is a great day trip from Carcassonne, with ruins of a Cathar castle in a very pretty village perched on a mountainside.)
Tastings included deer pâté and morsels of grilled doe steak. I’ve never been a fan of deer meat, despite having grown up in a family of hunters, but here biche is a classic for Christmas dinner. And now we know where it comes from.
The shy animals were well behind the trees of their large enclosure, and it wasn’t easy to get a picture. Did you know that stags shed their antlers every year?Another stop was at the Ferme du Villemagnol, just west of Saissac, where Nadège and Corine Guinebault raise free-range pigs and sheep.Wine-fueled singing wafted out from the tent for diners; clearly the customers were content. We were keen to pick up some saucisson, or hard sausage. The line stretched around the tent housing the butcher counter, even though the staff worked quickly to slice ham to order and wrap up sausages and other goodies.
Our charcuterie experts decided, upon tasting, that it was worth the wait. “It’s nothing like what you get in the supermarket,” the Carnivore declared. “It’s nice to chew, it has no gristle or lumps of fat.” Yes, food gets analyzed in the same way wine does.We also visited the Chevrerie du Colombier, near Fontiers Carbardès, where Cécile and Thomas Hollard raise goats to produce several kinds of cheese.There were the softest cushions of snowy white fresh cheese to heart-shaped cheeses covered with gray mold to great rounds of hard cheese, with thick crusts. The names include petit colombier, tomme, cabrichon and cabribert. Cabri is a kid–a baby goat.We were disappointed not to happen on any goat-milk ice cream, which is a real treat. I suppose they didn’t expect the weather to be so warm.
By the time we got home, it was clear what we would have for dinner: cheese, sausages and fresh baguettes. Just perfect.