Friday 13 July 2012

The Nougat Maker of Sault

The village of Sault set at the foot of the Mont Ventoux is situated at 800m on the Plateau d’Albion. Until recently this plateau was famed for its missile launching facilities, as it was from here that a large part of France’s nuclear response in case of an attack would have been launched by our cold war enemies.
Now the missiles have gone, the enemies are our friends, and the only military presence that remains is a base occupied by the French Foreign Legion at St Christol.

A view of Lavender fields with the Mont Ventoux
ever present in the background

So now the Plateau has regained its former place as the primary location to find fields of Lavande Fine or True Lavender with the ever present backdrop of the majestic Mont Ventoux. But the Lavender, beautiful as it may be is not the subject of this article. The village of Sault has another claim to fame, and one that I have driven past numerous times, promising myself that one day I will stop and investigate, the Maison André Boyer, master Nougat maker. So on Monday I phoned them up, and arranged a rendez-vous, and today I set off to find out all about Nougat.
The Village of Sault
The Maison André Boyer was established in 1887 by Ernest Boyer, originally a patissier, he started making Nougat Blanc and Nougat Noir which were two of the 13 desserts of a Provençale Christmas. (I’ll tell you about the others in December) he then went on to make Provence Almond Macaroons and biscuits using Petite Epautre flour which is a type of wheat commonly grown in Provence. His reputation grew, and soon Nougat de Sault became very sought after. The business remained in the family passing from generation to generation as did the recipes and their little secrets which make this Nougat so special.  Today the business is still run in the exact same way as before, but no longer belongs to the family.

The façade of the Maison André Boyer 

All the Nougat is made in the back of the shop, using wonderful looking machines from a bygone era. The process is simple, or at least when explained it seems so. For the soft white nougat, first you mix egg whites with honey in a bain-marie for 2 hours, then slowly add a sugar syrup and continue mixing for another hour. Meanwhile take fresh almonds and roast them to bring out their flavour, then let them cool and add to the sugar, honey and egg white mixture, pour onto a tray, and let it set for a day.  The next day using a specially designed circular saw, cut it all up, wrap well in cellophane to keep the moisture out and there you have it. For the Black nougat, mix honey, sugar and almonds in a copper pan stirring constantly, until it caramelises, and pour out to cool, but this one is cut before it gets too hard.

One of the many Nougat making devices
In the summer there is a free guided tour on Tuesdays and Fridays at 3pm, but only in French, it’s a short tour, showing the workshop and there is also a 7 minute video which is well worth watching even if you can’t understand it. It shows the different stages of Nougat making and is presented by André Boyer whose wonderful Provençale accent, and the background music, a sort of medieval medley, give it a very homemade feel.

Bags of flavoured Marshmallows waiting to be eaten
The visit finishes in the shop of course, where as well as the Nougats macaroons and biscuits there is also marshmallows flavoured with lavender strawberry and rose water, callisons, chocolate covered almonds and even a house made Pastis. There is also an ice cream section which boasts tens of flavours including lavender, nougat and macaroon, all of which I was offered and thoroughly enjoyed!
So if you decide to go on a trip to discover the Lavender fields of the Plateau d’Albion, or go to visit the Mont Ventoux (I’ll tell you about that tomorrow) plan a stop in the village of Sault and take home some of the famed Nougat from the House of André Boyer.

Private visits are available with Unique Provence, for more information contact us here.

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