It's that time of year again. Down on the farm, the preservation of meat products is a major priority.
When I first moved to France, the preservation of Pork and Duck products started around mid-October. These days farmyards are empty, so we all buy from either local butchers or supermarkets.
The fattening (force-feeding) of Ducks does not only lead to foie gras, although it is that particular product that usually attracts the most attention.
Of the other products, our favourites are fresh magret (breast), and tinned confit (either upper thighs or legs preserved in fat).
During the foie gras season, once the livers have been removed, the rest of the complete fattened carcasses are often sold either for preserving or roasting. Stripped carcasses can also be bought in most shops; these are also roasted, picked over, and used for the making of stock.
Tubs of pure Duck fat are sold, as are grattons de canard, which are France's answer to Pork scratchings. Long thin strips of tender aiguiettes (think Pork tenderloin; but from a Duck) are also sold separately at a hefty price.
Every bit of the Duck has its use, the necks are sold for stuffing as cou farci, and the gizzards and hearts are sold by the kilo to be made into 'snacks'.
I know that the preparation of the birds is controversial, and is often seen as cruel. In fact most birds form queues to receive their daily doses of feeding, and show no signs of distress.
We eat all these products; they are traditional delicacies from the South West of France where we live. They are not everyday foods; more for High days, Birthdays, Christmas, etc.
I have eaten (non-fattened) Gressingham Duck breast in the UK which was very good; possibly even more tender than our local ones here. The one above we ate last night, and it was excellent.