I am a Yorkshire lass, originally from York, who has lived in France for eleven years now. I used to be a teacher, but started to make walnut oil about four years ago, in the sleepy little spa-town, Salins-Les-Bains. Two imposing forts watch over the town – once a thriving salt, crockery and wine-producing area – looking down on its long, disheveled, windy main-street and its unpredictable river, “La Furieuse”.The town is nestled in a lush forested valley, intertwined with flower-filled meadows, on which the cows who produce the milk for Comté cheese, happily graze.
I previously lived in a village, 15 minutes away, where I had bought a farmhouse with my previous partner. It’s a long story involving a fondue, a sauna and some huskies, but let’s just say certain events left me at a loose end, with hardly a centime to my name and desperate for a way out of the cursed cottage! When I say cottage, ¾ of the house was an immense barn, a burden really, waiting to be renovated. We lived in a tiny wing of the house, already made liveable-in. The bathroom was still, weirdly, in the barn. You had to walk through the cow shed to get there. I consequently frequented the local auberge regularly, which was opposite the house (a pub/inn to us I suppose). This gave me a new lease of life. I savoured the rustic, authentic food, prepared with local producers’ delights and washed down with earthy wines. I ended up falling in love with the beret-clad proprietor of the said “auberge”.
When Jean-Pierres’s restaurant tragically burnt down a couple of years later, we ended up in a drafty flat in Salins-Les-Bains.The garden happened to contain three huge, old walnut trees. This, and the abundance of walnut trees around Salins Les Bains, inspired us to revive the somewhat forgotten tradition of walnut mills, where people come to press their own walnuts, from harvests that were previously wasted. We also rejuvenated some abandoned walnut groves, ourselves. Jean-Pierre lovingly presses these local walnuts in his workshop. Although the word “oil” is synonymous with the word “olive”, or “rapeseed”, in the UK, we make a lesser known, but equally omega-filled version, famous for its properties in reducing cholesterol, among many other things. I would be silly of course not to mention its smooth, nutty taste.
The Jura is a somewhat undiscovered, vast, wild part of France. It is a “département” of Franche-Comté , Raymond Blanc’s native Region , recently featured in his “Hungry Frenchman” series. I am delighted to be able to share gastronomical tales about the trials and tribulations of making the oil; striving to sell it; and, the interesting characters we have met along the way.I also aim to share recipes and tips on how to make the most of fresh,seasonal, locally-sourced and foraged ingredients, to lead a frugal but fulfilled life!