1 ladle of pancake batter
some salted butter
1 ladle of pancake batter
1. Peel and core the apple, cut the apple into slices. Put apple slices back into a medium heat on stove hard with a little butter, sprinkle with sugar
2. Put a ladle of pancake batter has in a pan and cook for a few minutes; flip the pancake, put the calvados and flambé. Leave flambé. Add apples.
3. Close pancake and serve immediately.
Some Pommeau de Normandie!
Calvados is an apple and pear brandy produced in the French region of Lower Normandy. Often regarded as the world’s premier style of apple brandy, calvados is one of the few forms of brandy to be granted AOC status in France, alongside cognac and armagnac. Calvados is a spirit that has aroma, flavour and body closer to the complexities of grape brandy rather than a fruit eau-de-vie. AOC calvados production is split into three separate appellations. AOC Pays d'Auge is highly regarded and produced from apples alone; AOC Domfrontais is produced using at least 30% pears; AOC Calvados covers the largest region and produces the majority of calvados from either apples or pears.
Fermenting apples and pears to produce cider arguably dates back to before the 7th century. In the 8th century the hand press was invented, allowing the apples and pears which were being grown in abundance in Normandy to be pressed for their juices effectively. It is at this time that cider production and the first stages of calvados production became widespread. The first known distillation was carried out by Lord de Gouberville in the 1500s.
The name Calvados supposedly originates from a ship that belonged to the Spanish Armada, El Salvador, which was sunk in 1588 off the coast of Normandy. During the French revolution this name was given to the area and in turn was passed on to the area’s local ‘eau-de-vie-de-cidre’.
Calvados as a region was recognized in 1942 and awarded AOC status in 1984, with the calvados aperitif ‘pommeau’ being awarded status in 1991, and finally the pear dominant calvados Domfront appellation in 1997.
Normandy, in the Northwest of France, is the home of calvados. Normandy may be too cold for grapes, but is noted for its superb apple and pear orchards. French AOC regulations act to control the regions and methods of calvados production. There are three appellations of calvados.
Covering the greatest geographically defined area, the AOC calvados appellation accounts for over 70% of total calvados production. Regulations limit the use of apples and pears to defined cider varieties. Also regulated are procedures regarding the pressing of freshly harvested fruit, fermentation, distillation and ageing. Distillation typically takes place in a single column still, ageing is for a minimum period of two years in oak casks.
Reflecting the long tradition of pear orchards in the area, a minimum of 30% of pears from the designated areas must be used in AOC Calvados Domfrontais. Cider is typically distilled in a single column still, followed by a requisite ageing for a minimum of three years in oak casks.
Limited to the use of apples from a designated area, AOC Calvados Pays d'Auge undergoes extensive quality control; more than other appellations of AOC calvados. Cider must be fermented for a minimum of six weeks, double distilled in a Charentais pot still, followed by ageing for a minimum of two years in oak casks.
To make one litre of calvados as 100% pure alcohol, around 27 kg of apples or 20 litres of cider are necessary.
There are 46 varieties of apples permitted for use in calvados, divided into five categories:
- Bitter apples - rich in tannin, they give the body of the cider
- Sweet apples - weak in tannin, their sugar guarantees the alcohol content
- Acid apples - they give the juice its coolness
- Sour apples - they bring some useful tannin
- Sweet and bitter apples - they stabilize the alcohol content of the cider
Each producer selects a different mixture of apples to express the distinctive characteristics of the final product.
Pears used in production must abide by a list of approved varieties specified to meet AOC restrictions.
Once harvested, fruit will be pressed, often by hand, and placed in vats to allow natural yeasts to start fermentation of the fruit into cider. The fermentation process may take up to six weeks to reach the alcohol content required for distillation (4.5% ABV).
Distillation takes place between the beginning of the winter and June 30th of the following year. The method of distillation depends primarily on the AOC appellation.
Calvados AOC Pays d’Auge is double distilled very slowly in a Charentais pot still. The first distillation produces liquid called ‘petites eaux’ or ‘brouillis’ at 28% ABV. This liquid undergoes a second distillation which produces an austere and colourless spirit with a calvados taste at around 72% ABV. This distillation method produces a richer more viscous spirit that will suit longer periods of ageing.
Calvados AOC and AOC Domfrontais may be double distilled, similarly to AOC Pays d’Auge, but may also be distilled once only in a column still. This distillation method produces a lighter spirit with fresh clean apple and pear flavours but with less complexity.
Ageing generally follows standard French brandy practice: a short period in new oak casks to build structure followed by a longer period in used oak casks for slow maturation. Calvados ages better in a slightly damp cellar where the subtle exchanges between wood, air and alcohol give calvados its smooth flavour and bouquet.
Fine or ‘3 stars’ – Aged at least two years in oak casks
Vieux or Reserve – Aged at least three years in oak casks
VO, VSOP or Vieille Reserve – Aged at least four years in oak casks
XO, Extra or Hors d’Age or Napoleon - Aged at least six years in oak casks but often much older
Vintage – Produced from a single year. Generally high quality calvados that is aged for a longer period of time.
Calvados is a spirit that concentrates the sweetness and acidity of apples with spicy vanilla notes of oak. Calvados produced from pears generally has an overall fruitier flavour. Young calvados will be full of fresh apple and pear flavours and aromas. Aged calvados increasingly takes on the flavours introduced by the wood, such as dried apricots, butterscotch, nuts and cacao, making it more closely resemble other aged brandies.
Young calvados will suit being mixed as a long drink or in a variety of cocktails. Aged calvados is best appreciated drunk straight at room temperature, as you would a quality cognac or armagnac.