I've known for some time that the configure de groseilles that comes from Bar-le-duc is famous. I've known for some time that Alfred Hitchcock wouldn't stay in a hotel that wouldn't serve it to him for breakfast. Up until a week ago, I'd never tried it so I went to a special effort to procure some to try out on my vacation.
Keep in mind that this is a kind of red currant jam (or preserves). A currant is a berry that's about the size of a large pea. Someone at some time or other got the bright idea of removing each individual seed from each individual currant with a goose quill and making jam out the intact, seeded fruit. The ladies who perform this task are known as Epipineuses.
My curiosity was revived because I was toying with the idea of sending some to one of my LJ friends as an unusual gift, but I realized, I don't know what it's like, I've never had it myself. So, I trapse into a boutique here in the area and ask about it. Sure enough, they stock it. It comes in a jar about the size of a typical jar of salmon eggs (fish bait). The volume, about two espresso cups full (what, 4oz. maybe?). The intact fruit look something like fish eggs and that's not the only reason why it's sometimes referred to as 'French caviar'. I expected it to be expensive, maybe double what a typical jar of quality jam would cost. When I first saw the size of the jar, I was taken aback. When I learned of the price, my pride was the only thing that kept my jaw from dropping. Granted, I paid boutique price for it, maybe I could get some cheaper if I made a day trip to Bar, but that little jar set me back 15 Euros (what's that $20?). I went for it anyway, you only live once right?
So, I packed it down to the Med for my vacation, painstakingly picked out some choice multi-grain bread for toast and waited for an appropriate morning to sit down with my MSU, a bowl of cafe au lait, and my gourmet bread and jam.
So, what do I think? Well, first off, I may be simply boorish, but It's probably not worth what it costs. That's to say, for what they put into making it, I totally understand why it costs so much, it's just that flavor-wise, it's not really better than the jelly that the MSU and I make from the currants in the garden by removing the seeds with a juice extractor. The only thing it has going for it is the texture and aesthetics of the whole, preserved fruit. Well, there's always the snob factor if you're into that kind of thing. It's a work of art, visually speaking. Taste-wise, it's a little too sweet in my opinion. It's 60% white sugar where most jams and jellies are made with no more than half.
So, in short, if you have the means, pick some up (once) but don't expect to be overwhelmed by the ambrosia of the gods. Unless, that is, that I'm simply wrong, which happens more often than it should.
x-posted to girl_bait ljgourmet francophiles