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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miel de Sapin (Pine tree honey), Scherwiller, France

We spent a brief visit in Alsace, France this summer, and although not long enough to really explore the region, I had enough time to look for local honey in a small, convenience store in the village of Scherwiller (just north of Colmar and west of Selestat). That is where I found this 'miel de sapin' (pine tree honey). Miel de sapin is one of the specialties of the region. It is used, in fact, to make a traditional gingerbread cake that is eaten at Christmas.

But before I get into the honey, let me tell you how beautiful the region is. We drove down the 'route des vins' (wine road) from Mount St. Odile (a mountain top monastery with incredible views of the surrounding landscape) to Scherwiller (a small town in the verdant wine growing valley). We passed through many small villages along the way, each with the status of 'villages fleuri' (flowered village) and it was easy to see why. Each had timber exposed buildings lining the road with flower boxes full of colorful flowers, mostly geraniums in pinks and reds.

Scherwiller, as mentioned, is in wine country and the small village has a number of 'caves' to visit. It is especially known for its Reisling wine. From Scherwiller you can see the ruins of two medieval castles on the hills above it (Ramstein and the Ortenbourg). They can only be accessed on foot and although I would have loved to hike up to them, we didn't have enough time (my excuse to return to the area!). From what I could see, the vineyards occupied the gentle rolling hills adjacent to the Voges mountains (with some vineyards in town) and the flatter valley plains. The mountains themselves were covered in forests and in these forests were, among other trees, pine trees.

The miel de sapin that I have was produced in the Scherwiller area by Mr. Jean-Luc Schueller. It is a very dark brown honey that is rather thick. It has a subtle malted flavor, is only slightly sweet, and has a brief smoky/herby after taste. Very unusual. I can see how it might be very tasty in gingerbread. I think it would also be quite good in yogurt, tea or just on buttered toast. Eating it right out of the jar works too. Next time I'm back in Alsace, apart from hiking to Ramstein and the Ortenbourg, I know I'll be picking up another jar of this honey (maybe a very large jar).

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