Monday, 16 November 2009

Huilerie Lépine

Since1810 the Lépine family have made walnut oil at Availles-en-Châtellerault, perpetuating an ancient tradition and a unique taste. Yesterday was open day at the huilerie, so even though it was raining slightly (and Simon still has the world's runniest nose) we went on a small excursion.

The nuts are shelled, then ground under an enormous millstone to obtain a thick paste. This paste goes into a pot where it is cooked just enough to go brown – a delicate stage because the art of obtaining a tasty oil depends on the cooking. The resulting gunge is then tipped into the hydraulic press, and out runs a wonderful golden coloured liquid.

The nut cracking and shelling machines.

The kernels being ground

The nuts are cooked in what looks like laundry coppers,
then taken to the press

The oil press. You can just about see the
oil running into the silver pot

What is left - the compact nut fibre after being pressed.
Two kilograms of shelled nuts give on average a litre of oil. The oil is very aromatic and with its sweet, pleasant taste can be used with all kinds of salads, asparagus or artichokes in vinaigrette. It goes equally well with mogettes (the local, Poitevin, name for green beans).

Susan

4 comments:

Jean said...

Fasinating. I had no idea the nuts had to be cooked first.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I didn't know that either, that the walnuts etc. needed to be cooked before pressed for oil. I guess that cooking gives the oil its toasty taste.

Mogettes is a name I know for white beans -- haricots blancs -- and another name for the same thing is lingots (from the Southwest, the beans used to make cassoulet). But then white beans are just mature green beans or haricots verts. We grew our runner beans and wax beans to maturity this summer, and we cooked a batch of them (dried beans) today to make a poultry-sausage chili con carne.

Simon said...

I was surprised too - I guess it's all to do with heat releasing the oils. I must admit I thought nut oil was all cold pressed (as much as I HAD thought about it, anyway)

Susan said...

Ken: yes, mogettes are what are sold at Preuilly market as lingots ie white dried beans.