Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black harp black wheat black beer for the Black Month



A quick break from croppings for beer. This is dedicated to Rouchswalwe, the expert. 

Telenn du is a beer dark in colour but light in texture, like a feathery Guinness.  It is made with organic buckwheat, known here as blé noir, black wheat, because it is much darker and coarser than ordinary wheat flour.  It's also called sarrasin, because originally it came from somewhere far away, they knew not where.  Sarrasin comes from Saracen; there are still myths that it was brought back to Brittany by the Crusaders, but really I think it came out of Central Europe.  It's just that the Saracens were the archetype of the foreign and mysterious, hence the sarsen stones at Stonehenge, the blue stones which form the central circle so much older than the rest, so no one could work out where they came from, therefore they must have been saracen.  In fact they came from Wales.  The words Guinea, Muscovy and Turkey also came to mean anywhere exotic and fabulous, and were applied vaguely to anything of uncertain non-indigenous origin, like turkeys, and guinea-fowl, and Muscovy ducks.  Funny it was always poultry.

I'm quite a fan of buckwheat.  It's full of goodness and free of gluten. I like it cooked as a grain like rice, and I also like galettes, buckwheat pancakes, wrapped round sausages, or filled with all kinds of stuff: ham, bacon, eggs, cheese, onions, mushrooms, cooked tomatoes, even trout or salmon and spinach and creme fraiche, though my neighbours have been known to pull faces at this idea.  You can make them as carnivorous or vegetarian or even vegan, since they're made without egg, as you choose.  We don't eat them often enough as Tom doesn't really like them.  One of my students makes them from scratch, most people buy them, and hers are like fairy food.  I have never eaten kig ar farz, the buckwheat dumpling cooked in a bag with what is pretty much a standard pot au feu of meat and veg.  It is so local to one area of western Finistere that it is unobtainable here, and I am told you really need exactly the right kind of bag to cook it in.  I can't find a decent link to it in English, of much in French either.  It is one of my ambitions, hopefully a more easily realisable one, to partake of it, either by travelling to the right neck of the woods or by cooking it myself, but I'd need to get a few people round to make it worthwhile.

Buckwheat has an earthy, slightly mushroomy flavour.  I imagine I can taste this in the beer, or perhaps I really can.
Telenn du means black harp in Breton.  I wonder if this is a reference to Guinness or just a coincidence.  The Breton for buckwheat is gwinizh du, apparently, black wheat again.  We are also in maes du, the Black Month, which is how November is regarded in Breton, it seems.

But where the grain and the beer is concerned, black is beautiful.  It's light silky bitterness would nicely offset the roasted turkey, and even candied sweet potatoes... 

Happy Thanksgiving !

~~~

Postscript - Please take the time to read Setu's wonderful crêpe lore and related matters in the comments.  Delicious!

11 comments:

Zhoen said...

Oooooooo......

Dale said...

Oh. Now that's what we need today!

Setu said...

Hello Lucy, I can see you have grown really deep roots in the « Pays gallo » (Eastern Brittany) now! So, I shall start with you that battle of words and recipes that is classically fought– in a friendly way, I promise- between Eastern Bretons and Western Bretons ;-) YOU have the thick “galettes”, WE have the thin “krampouz” (or “krampouezh” as the so-called purists would write). Nowadays, you can find almost anything used as a filling for a crêpe but, not so long ago in Western Brittany, salted butter was the only thing you would spread on a “krampouz ed du” (the term “gwiniz du” belongs rather to a geographically limited area); for a “krampouz gwiniz”, you were allowed to have jam instead of butter, as a dessert. I can tell you because my grandmother was a “crêpière” by trade (and her crêpes, of course, were the BEST ones in the world). I remember seeing people going to a crêperie haunted by locals on Friday in the early seventies. Friday was traditionally a day without meat, due to the importance of Catholic tradition, so it was the “crêpes” day. Those people brought a plate from home, on the edge of which they placed bits of butter. They gave the plate to the “crêpière” when they entered the restaurant. She knew exactly the number of “crêpes” the client was going to eat by the number of pieces of butter on the plate; each one was to be used for one pancake… So, no “crêpes saucisse” or rather “galettes saucisse” in W Brittany at that time, they were and still are a shibboleth for E Brittany. Do you know that, several times a week, I walk to the “halles” of Quimper during my midday break? There, I generally order 2 buckwheat crêpes: one with roasted bacon and one with cooked apple cuts. Yummy… Kig HA farz (I know they mispell it in E Brittany ;-), i.e. “meat and filling” is a typical recipe from Bro Leon, NW Finistère. Being from Cornouaille, I have ignored it until I was over 40. I mention it because you placed your post under the black/du colour: the first time I ate “kig ha farz” was when our former black councilor Kofi Yamgnane (deputy president of the Conseil general in charge of water issues) invited people that had been working with him to a huge kig ha farz party… So, Mr Sarkozy, what is French identity?

Granny J said...

This I must link to my Sson, who has been involved with home brewing for several years. That sounds like a beer that I would enjoy!

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Setu, I love you! I'm so glad you stopped by for this one. I knew about Kofi Yamgnane, funnily enough he came up in an Independent article when I was looking for an English link for kig ha farz, and my friend Charles Davies also writes about him in 'Bumping about Brittany'. Your crepe lore is all wonderful. Another of my students was a girl from Lorraine originally but is quite an expert on kig ha farz as she married a Finisterian. When I expressed an interest I was plied with recipes and anecdotes but so far no one has furnished me with a bag. I'm told a clean linen tea towel simply will not do...

some friends have a cat called Maes Gwenn, which sounds like Miss Gwen...

Rouchswalwe said...

Cheers, Lucy! This is fascinating. A feathery beer with a hint of bitterness sounds perfect for a heavy Thanksgiving meal. And buckwheat is a fine thing indeed. In southern Japan, there is a noodle dish called Zaru-soba made of buckwheat flour. It was always a favorite of mine and I can only imagine how good it would taste with that black beer. There's still so much to discover and learn about the world of beer that I don't feel like an expert yet.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Sounds like my kind of beer....

Dick said...

It's been a tough few weeks and I reckon a bottle or two of Telenn Du would really hit the spot. I shall seek it out - there must be a UK outlet somewhere.

I've not been around the blogs for a while. Preparing the house, health issues and the implosion and subsequent rebuilding of the Patteran Pages have taken up time. I've managed to post fairly regularly but not visit. Back on schedule now.

Barrett Bonden said...

In a recent comment to my blog you apologised - with appropriate rhodomontade - for teaching me to suck eggs. After reading this I intend to draw a permanent veil over my visits to our kitchen, often a fruitful source of posts. Anything I glean there is clearly otiose. There, two five-dollar words for the price of one.

Irishbrewer said...

Telenn Du is one of the nicest beers I have tasted. And I love galettes sweet or savoury

Lucy said...

Hello Irishbrewer, thanks for dropping by!