Apr 5, 2009

La Perle des Dieux au fromage de chèvre et aux herbes de Provence

Hello dear sardine lovers,
I can talk about sardines for hours and I'm glad to know that here are friendly ears! But, most of all, what I prefer is to taste them !
One of my favorite french ones this year : La Perle des Dieux au fromage de chèvre et aux herbes de Provence. (2008)
Found them on the net. Had a nice chat with the factory lady glad to meet Docsardino, the "man from the sardine museum" !
She's inventing new recipes for her sardines all the time and she's a real passionaria…

First of all, these are real sardines (sardina pilchardus walbaum), the only ones that really deserve the name of sardines. They're coming from Vendée, so they are different from the Britanians. Why? would you say, as Vendée is only a few miles distant from Britany ? They are sardines captured south of the Loire estuary. So they're feeding southly in the sands, when britanians are feeding northly in the rocks. Northern sardines have a more pronounced taste of seaweeds and are more muscular, southerns are younger (the place is cool for babies), a bit more fatty and smoother. There is an ancestral hate between Vendeans and Britons, may be it's because of the sardines they eat !
There is only one sardine factory in Vendée, the cans are sold under different names but always bear The FR 85- factory code when most of Britanians bears the FR 29, FR 22 or FR 56 codes. FR 13 is the only mediterranean factory.

I must say the label on the can is not that nice… I suppose this is still a test lot not worth yet to get a printed can…
Even if the sardines are disposed in the white way, opening the can doesn't give the nice shot I was waiting for. The sardine bellies are a little skinned, il could be better.
But first of all it means that these sardines were fried and not steam cooked, and that's for the best.
Looking at the way the head is cut, it also shows that it has been handcut. (Looking at a headless sardine is an experience that you can compare to the art of cutting flowers in ancient Japan, the strike of the scisors is like a sword shot on a stalk ! As they are stretched and then retract, machine cut sardines always let a few extra milimeters of spinebone going out of the body, not giving a neat headcut. And you know headcutting is another real french skill !!!)
Vendean sardines are canned only when they are very young. So you won't find a two sardines can as it is often the case with spanish, portuguese ou morrocan cans… Young sardines are better when they are let olding in the can. The flesh smoothes and becomes "confite" alowing the synthesis between the calcium of the bone and the different minerals of the olive oil to be transfered in the flesh. Remember olive oil is a natural fruit juice. Sardines are transsubstantied in this mystical process…

So only one star for the label,
three stars for the display,
but five on five for the handcraft,
and most of all five on five for the super taste.

There is a real surprising match between goat cheese, herbes de Provence and sardine. A must discovery !

This was fine with a glass of red Burgandy wine, a 2006 Savigny-les-Beaune to be precise, even if it would have been better with a white average dry Muscadet grown on the Loire banks.

It is also to be noticed that once in a plate these sardines still look fine and appetizing.
Next time, I'll test the smoked chorizo sardine can.
And as I will be for a week vacation on the island of Noirmoutier in Vendée, I'll meet the lady, visit the factory and will probably bring back a whole truck of novelties !
Enjoy !

Reviewed by Philippe ANGINOT


Sashimi said...

Wow, thanks for dropping some serious sardine knowledge on us, Phillipe!

Those do look delicious. It is frustrating that French sardines are so difficult, nigh impossible, to find in the U.S.

So the French actually "fry" the sardines in oil prior to packaging? That's quite interesting.

One other thing that you brought up that I've been wondering about for some time is this idea that seems to be popular in France that canned sardines in oil taste better with time. I was curious whether this idea really had merit and whether anyone on this blog had tested this theory.

Jonny Hamachi said...

One tin with goat cheese and herb de Provence the other with chorizo!!


Old Nevermore said...

Wow, Philippe.

Thank you for this incredible review.

oldschooly said...

Bravo, Philippe. You know your tinned fish. Nice review.


La Sardine Eblouie said...

Yes,it's too bad that it seems there is no word in english for the french term of "confiserie". When Nicolas Appert invented the sardine can in 1810 (check for the bicentenial ceremonies in France !, no kidding), he was known as a "confiseur", one of his well known ancestor in the job was Nostradamus the fortune teller who was working on the way to preserve goods in sugar.
Why shoud you wait until time change the savor of sardines preserved in oil ? First of all, you have to wait until the calcium of the bone is dissolved and sprayed in the sardine flesh. It takes about 4 years. Then the bone is not crunchy anymore. Another reason is that when tins were made out of real tinned iron, some of the minerals interfered with the taste of food and people appreciated that…
The other reason is that a good canned sardine mustn't be too dry and only time can softened it.
As a proof for all this, taste a filetted sardine in oil : it's absolutely tasteless : no bone = no taste. That's why it's often sold in sauce,just as mackerels ! So no good sardines before they're overaged, at least 4 years after it has been canned. Best with 8 years of cave, if you remember to turn them upside down every 6 months.

Old Nevermore said...

I f I were to begin cellaring sardines, which would be a good tin to begin with?

La Sardine Eblouie said...

Hello A23,
Only one rule for cellaring :
choose boned sardines in olive oil, prefer lying sardines in bedlike cans better than standing sardines in cylindrical barrels ! And fried sardines to boiled ones and no sauced sardines. In other words, take only french, portuguese, spanish or morrocan sardines, and if you are an epicurian aesthet prefer Connetable, Belle isloise, Perle des Dieux or Mouettes d'arvor, they are the best of the french market ! And try to cellar also common average sardines, just to make sure that it's no use to keep them a long time…
Best regards from "the" sardinologist !


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