Back from a break in Normandy where cold, windy weather and an excruciatingly painful knee somewhat curtailed activities. However a stop-off at a Calvados distillery refreshed the senses and taste buds, if not the knee.
My neighbour first introduced me to Calvados, surreptitiously adding it to my coffee one night after the village fete. I wasn’t looking and sipped the coffee quite happily. An hour later I had great difficulty finding my own front door despite the fact that I live opposite, just a mere handful of metres away. Since then, whenever he visits Normandy he has brought me a bottle back “straight off the farm”…er…that is to say… made privately for the makers own personal consumption.
Calvados is distilled from cider made from specially grown and selected apples. The fruit is harvested and pressed into a juice and then fermented into a dry cider. After that it is distilled into eau de vie. It can only be sold as Calvados after spending two years maturing in oak casks. The longer it is left, the smoother it becomes.
It’s a versatile spirit – an aperitif, a digestif, useful in cooking (particularly to pep up pork) and in coffee.
There are a number of traditions that surround Calva. One I was told of was le trou Normand, or “the Norman hole”. This is a small drink of Calvados that you take between courses during a very long meal, supposedly to resuscitate the appetite.
But I really like the sound of an old ritual that the Norman farmers followed at the end of a meal. It is called the seven rounds of Calvados and it goes thus:
Round 1. Le Café Calva (a tot poured into the coffee)
Round 2 La Rincette (a little nip)
Round 3 La Sur-rincette (another little nip)
Round 4 Le Gloria (yet another)
Round 5 L’Alléluia (and another)
Round 6 Le Coup de pied au cul (the kick up the backside)
Round 7 Le Coup de l’étrier (the kick in the stirrup – that is the kick out of the door and onto the horse)
It was a ritual for men only and said to leave the ladies free and happy for the evening. I can bear witness to that last point!