Don’t all sweet and savory foods taste better with stories? In Florida we await the arrival of delicious ears of newly-picked corn…or the sweet scent of orange blossoms; as groves move toward producing plump, textured oranges filled with juice. This is the one month of the year in France – from mid-August to mid-September – when gourmands salivate, at the onset of harvesting of the year’s crop of delectable Mirabelle plums. The sweet plums are the pride and profit of the Lorraine region of northeast France, where over 70% of the world’s entire production centers.
While we can only enjoy the fresh mirabelles during the harvest season, we savor delightful jams and desserts throughout the year. Under the esteemed “Confitures a l’Ancienne” brand, Mirabelle Plum French Jams are produced in “Grandmother’s” old fashioned way. Plums at the peak of ripeness combine with pure cane sugar and pectin to be cooked in large copper cauldrons.
Beyond the few plums eaten fresh in season, the remainder of the fruit is made into jams, pastries and ‘eau de vie’. And if you don’t happen to be in France, you still can enjoy the confiture (and many other imported delicacies) from French Food Market. You’ve no excuse, then, so spread that lovely jam on your baguette or croissant and settle in to learn more about this fabulous fruit!
Now a revered French food staple, the mirabelle enjoyed a renaissance some thirty years ago, when producers expanded and launched the replanting of 1,500 hectares (nearly 4,000 acres) of new orchards.
Fifteen years ago, Mirabelles from Lorraine became the first fruit to be awarded the European IGP quality label. Such an esteemed designation signifies adherence to strict standards – traditional, primarily organic methods, natural fertilizers and special steps for aerating, collection and packaging in Lorraine and guaranteed minimal sugar content. Not only do the French strive for and achieve quality, but they make sure that excellence is recognized.
The “Champagne” of Lorraine? Just as Champagne is strictly designated for the magnificent sparkling wines only from France, The Association Mirabelles de Lorraine assures the authenticity of fruit and confitures (jams).
Naturally any ‘heaven-sent’ delicacy must have an alluring legend. They say there was once a princess named Mira who was equally generous and pretty. She lived in a grand castle around the Nied river, and one day she extended hospitality to an old woman. In thanks, the lady (who, of course, was really a fairy) waved her magic wand over the sterile trees surrounding the castle. Voila! The barren landscape transformed into a lovely orchard filled with golden fruits. She told the princess, “As your name is Mira and as you are as generous as pretty, these fruits will be named Mira-belles plums!”
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