One chef, one ingredient: fir honey by Jean Sulpice
Jean Sulpice, a rising star in the world of French gastronomy, trained under Marc Veyrat and has earned two Michelin stars at L'Oxalys, his restaurant in the French Alps. With his particular attachment to the evergreen trees of his region, he chose to highlight the culinary merits of fir honey.
What led you to choose this ingredient?
Jean Sulpice: In contrast with flower honeys, fir honey comes from the honeydew that aphids leave behind on the branches of pine and other resinous evergreen trees. This gives it a particular flavor and a different texture. Dark in color, fir honey has a taste that is at once woody and sweet, making it unique in terms of taste. In addition, fir honey is a natural sugar and is healthy.
What is your fondest kitchen memory associated with this ingredient?
J.S: For me, this ingredient is linked with childhood and the pleasure of tasty treats. Hasn't everyone at one time dipped their fingers into a honey pot? At the level of taste, fir honey stirs up our gustatory memories. As a Savoyard, it reminds me of the forest, the undergrowth and the mountains -- this natural landscape that is particularly dear to me.
When is this ingredient in season?
J.S: Fir honey is rather rare. The harvest is sometimes abundant, and sometimes nonexistent. It is typically harvested in the fall, but this may vary: it depends on the honeydew.
What is the best way to prepare it? Can you share one of your recipes?
J.S: Fir honey stores very well and remains liquid over long periods, and its sweetening power is low compared to that of other honeys. It has a number of culinary applications, in sweet as well as savory dishes. I like to prepare a honey-based sauce to serve with shellfish or vegetables: bring one spoonful of lemon juice to a boil. Add a spoonful of honey. Heat and blend in some semi-salted butter.
What other products can be combined with fir honey to delight and surprise the taste buds?
J.S: Thanks to its pine and wood aromas and its balsamic flavor, fir honey goes well with meats such as duck.
What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?
J.S: In order to retain all of the honey's health properties, avoid boiling it; instead use it in a frozen dessert. When this honey is used in savory dishes, add a little tartness with lemon juice or vinegar to ensure a nice balance between sweet and savory.
How do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?
J.S: I currently offer it in a dessert: a meringue shell with fir honey and Antésite licorice flavoring.
What wine (or other alcohol) goes best with this ingredient?
J.S: It is interesting to pair fir honey with the Cuvée Éole from the Domaine Barlet. This wine has the distinction of being vinified like one of the greatest wines. The grapes are dried on straw in an attic to ensure a concentration of sugar while maintaining the natural acidity of the grapes. The result is a nice balance that goes well with fir honey.