The Saucisson Lives On!

It's still there. Since April. Hanging from a hook in the ceiling by our fridge. It's called a "Jésus" - yes, a "Jésus", and appropriately is a remaining Christmas present from the Frenchies. What is it? Well, brace yourselves, it is in fact nothing more than a sausage.  

However, any of you reading this with any real French blood in you, or the pretence to be a Francophile, should by now be screaming "What? A real Jésus - fantastic!!" If you like your food, then this is, I am told, one of the best types of dried saucisson to be found in France. The real thing heralds from Lyon.

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This one hangs, quite a large object, quite lumpy and almost oval in shape, hanging silently, continuing to dry, also silently, lurking, waiting to be eaten and thus add 50 times its own body weight to my own. It is nice though. 

Anyway, I sense I'm losing the plot somewhat here. Basically, the saucisson is a dried sausage made in many ways but fundamentally containing marinated raw pork meat, some fat, herbs and spices, garlic, too much salt for the healthy, forced into a natural sausage skin and left to hang for 4 weeks or more. Some types are steamed a little first I understand.

As you'd expect, different regions of France produce different types. The connoisseur can tell a Rosette de Lyon from a Montagne from a Myrtille. Complicated isn't it? And why the name "Jésus"? Well, the shape of this particular sausage is claimed to resemble the baby Jesus wrapped in his "swaddling" clothes (a phrase anyone under 40 might not understand these days). (Incidentally, from my own school days, I didn't understand it either when I was 8.)  

Anyway, this swaddled object hanging up there prompted me to recall my first introduction to saucisson through my very own French Connection. In Brittany there is a lovely town called St Renan, and there each Saturday the whole hill of the High Street is swamped with stalls and people. This was my first real introduction to a market like this. Here, you can buy cheese, wine, cider, flowers, honey, hot food, chickens (dead or alive), ducks (dead or alive), other various living creatures, furniture, antiques, clothes, shoes and key-rings. We visited a particular saucisson stall (all saucisson seemed to be dead) and proceeded to queue up - a long queue of around 25 people perhaps. This was all fine for me, until I slowly became aware that we were moving, or not at all actually, at an incredibly slow rate.   

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Why? Well, I made it my business to look ahead and I saw that the man standing high-up on his caravan-like stall was indulging in the most lengthy process of purchasing I have since become quite accustomed to. "Good morning Madam."

"Good morning Sir."

"What a lovely morning."

"Yes, indeed it is."

"How may I help you?"

"Well, I'd like some saucisson please."

"Well, you have certainly come to the right place as we have over 23 different varieties here as you see before you, drawn from the finest saucisson makers in all of France. Do you have a particular type or flavour in mind? Is it for a special occasion? Do you like strong flavours or not?"

"Well, that's an interesting question. May I try a little slice of a medium flavour one to gauge the various range of flavours you describe?" "Certainly Madam. I'll just go over there to fetch my knife, which is amazingly sharp for its age, and return immediately to cut it for you."

You get the picture? So all this chat, slicing, tasting, takes hours. But  everyone seems perfectly patient. It would be a terrible thing to hurry a fellow French countryman in the delicate and complex procedure of purchasing the right saucisson. 

Once home, there then followed my introduction to the ritual of the apéritif, including the saucisson. Finely slicing the sausage prompts discussion of the best type of knife to do this, and further discussion regarding personal preferences of dryness.  

What do we have here in team GB land? The nearest to naming sausages is perhaps the "Cumberland". That's not a raw dried sausage anyway so does it count at all? Furthermore, I can't imagine the sausage manufacturers of, say, Yorkshire, wanting to call a sausage "Jesus", can you?  How about a "Manchester St Michael" or the famous "Penzance St Peter". No. Doesn't work.