The Saffron Fair in Preuilly sur Claise

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It’s our second day in Blois and Susan and Simon from Days on the Claise have invited us to their local saffron fair. I know next to nothing about saffron except that it comes from the pistils ofcrocuses. Even that’s not right – it actually comes from the stigmas which are a part of the pistils.

Fields under water on the way to Preuilly sur Claise

Fields under water on the way to Preuilly sur Claise

The day’s not brilliant but at least it’s not raining. We’re amazed at the high water level in the fields as we get closer to Preuilly which is about an hour and a half from Blois through Montrichard and not far from Loches.

Saffron fair in the local gymnasium in Preuilly

Saffron fair in the local gymnasium in Preuilly

After inspecting Simon’s recent staircase varnishing job, we walk down to the gymnasium. Inside it’s all hustle and bustle with lots of gaily decorated stalls, not all selling saffron, I’m surprised to see, but then, there’s only so much saffron you can use in a year, isn’t there?

Saffron-flavoured verrines

Saffron-flavoured verrines

We pay for our saffron-themed lunch (18.50 euro) – Susan has already booked our table – and start sampling some little verrines but we can only remember one of them now:  queen’s scallop in pumpkin soup flavoured with saffron.

Wrought-iron lamp stand

Wrought-iron lamp stand

There are all sorts of goods on sale. The first stop is a wrought-iron craftsman. I wouldn’t mind having a lamp post like this one but it’s a little expensive …

Crocus plants

Crocus plants

The next stand has some crocus plants on display. Although saffron crocuses have been cultivated in Touraine since the Middle Ages, no one really knows where they come from. Some think Tibet. You need 150 to 200 flowers to obtain 1 gram of saffron which explains why you should never buy powdered saffron – it’s probably something else altogether!

Pain d'épices

Pain d’épices

Several stands are selling pain d’épices flavoured with saffron. I learn that you always infuse the stigmas in a liquid such as water, milk, cream and wine and add them at the end of the cooking time. Too high a heat destroys the aromatic molecules.

Unusual fruit and vegetable stand

Unusual fruit and vegetable stand

Another lady is selling unusual fruit and vegetable seeds so I buy some tubers called mashua (tropaeolum tuberosum) that were already being served up 5500 years in South America. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Lots of little saffron-flavoured goodies

Lots of little saffron-flavoured goodies

Next stop is a stand selling little bottles of saffron-flavoured vinegar, honey, jam, etc. I buy  a few to keep as gifts and am given a neat little jute carry bag.

The basket-making pensioner

The basket-making pensioner

We are intrigued by a man selling baskets that he makes using local rushes and brambles. They start out green and gradually become brown. The basket-maker explains that it’s a pensioner’s hobby and that he only sells the baskets to make room for more. At 10 euro a basket, it’s a bargain. They are all beautifully finished. I choose one that turns out to be exactly the right size for our local pain aux céréales.

Nutcracker man

Nutcracker man

Another man is selling the same type of nutcracker we have at home that I think is perfectly useless so I get him to demonstrate. Obviously I’ve been using the wrong technique. I can’t wait to get back to Paris to see if I can crack perfect nuts without putting the shells all over the kitchen.

Saffron prawns

Saffron prawns

By now it’s lunchtime and my feet are killing me so we make our way to the dining area. We have a prawn-based entrée with saffron (which is often used to accompany mussels, scallops and fish), followed by guinea-fowl and saffron cream sauce.

Dessert is a local saffron-flavoured version of tiramisu which is one of my very favourite desserts.  We choose a local crémant followed by a local sauvignon.

Saffron mortar and pestle with container

Saffron mortar and pestle with container

We don’t buy any saffron at the fair because Susan gives me a special little saffron container with a mortar and pestle on top made by friends in Preuilly. Jean Michel has picked up various brochures along the way, many of which contain saffron recipes. Since tomorrow is a fast day, I’m going to try an omelette au saffran.

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7 Responses to The Saffron Fair in Preuilly sur Claise

  1. Susan Walter says:

    It was our pleasure to share the saffron fair with you and we are so pleased you enjoyed it.

    We were up at Chenonceau yesterday and have never seen the water in the Cher so high or flowing so fast.

    I’m amused that in photo 2 you have captured Gérard Hérault, the president of the communauté des communes here. He clearly knew he was being photographed and I bet had no idea you had no idea who he was 🙂 He is know by the local wags as Partoutix, and he does indeed manage a presence at just about everything in the district. We like him very much and he works very hard for the benefit of the local area.

    The other verrine was citrus and saffron, then there were some more seafood and veggie ones.

    A great overview of the fair. I am kicking myself that I didn’t buy a basket. I really like them and they are beautifully made. I hope he’ll be there next year.

    • Rosemary Kneipp says:

      Gérard Hérault is certainly posing. When he saw I was taking the photo, he immediately adopted a satisfactory pose. I love Partoutix!

      Citrus and saffron, now I remember.

      The lady helping on the basket stand should be able to tell you where to find the basket maker in Preuilly. I’m sure he’d sell you one any time.

  2. Susan Walter says:

    That’s true — I can ask Mme Coulon. I never thought of that — doh!

  3. Linda Bibb says:

    Hi, I’m guessing it’s an annual event … When is the saffron fair held?

  4. Pingback: Outwitting the Cat | Aussie in France

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