Yesterday evening we heard car engines running outside the 'chateau'. It was pitch black outside, pouring with rain, windy - and we had no idea what was going on. We managed to see that both cars looked like 4x4s and one had what looked like a large trailer behind it. After watching them for several minutes, one car then turned and drove off, the other with the trailer reversed into the open gateway towards the empty farm buildings, waited a few more minutes - and then that car drove off into the night too, but without its trailer.
Mark went out with a torch and couldn`t really see what it was.... but the strong smell of alcohol immediately gave it away. The mobile still had arrived!!!
Normandie has wonderful orchards where, in Autumn, the apples are hand picked, some going into making cider and some into making the strong, toxic Calvados apple brandy liqueur. Many farmer store their 'mixtures' in huge wooden barrels.
Usually at a traditional Normandie meal the Monsieurs drink Calvados neat and the Madames are offered a sugar lump in their minute glasses to soften the blow!! At our village fete last year Olivier turned up with a few bottles which had been distilled by his father some 40 years ago - and the next morning a few people were much worse for wear!!
It is said that a small glass of Calvados after a heavy meal will aid digestion and it is usually offered after the coffee.
Early this morning Gaston arrived and fired up the old steam machine to start distilling our farming neighbour's 'mixture' into an even stronger liqueur, called 'calva'. He explained the process to us - but we got lost in translation! Suffice to say the rich, golden-coloured end result of Calva which trickled out into the silver jugs at the side of the machine looked ( and smelt!) alright to us!!
The air was thick with the sweet strong fumes of apples which made us feel heady just standing close by! I don`t think it would have been safe to strike a match!
The process went on until late afternoon and then the still was simply hooked back up to his car and Gaston was on his way to the next farm.
See you next year Gaston, mon ami !!
a la prochaine, mes belles