Bar Le Duc

n the mid 16th century, Mary Queen of Scots (whose mother was born in the castle of Bar), on a journey from Reims with her first husband, the French King François II, tasted the jams and compared them to "a ray of sunshine in a jar". Alfred Hitchcock, that master of suspense, loved this jam. In fact he would only stay at hotels whose breakfast menu included redcurrant jam hand seeded using a feather quill.Rather like jewel setters, currant seeders have to work with tremendous precision. Job requirements: nimble fingers, keen eyesight and the patience of Job! The "épépineuses" pass their skills from mother to daughter. The technique consists of removing the pips, 7 on average in each currant, using a feather quill whilst retaining the shape and consistency of the fruit. Quills are first bevelled then left to soak in water. A small incision is carefully made into the currant and its pips are extracted one by one by sliding them into the hollow shaft of the quill. The cut is then covered with a tiny piece of the currant's skin so as to preserve the crispness and flavour of the fruit.

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