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Monday, August 6, 2018

Provence Profiles: Nougat Silvain – A Family Tradition

They call themselves paysans nougatiers, nougat peasant-farmers. That’s because the Silvain family cultivate the almonds and honey, the two ingredients that go into nougat. Their almond trees grow in the sunny meadows and hills at the foot of Mont Ventoux.

“Nougat in Provence, it’s a part of our heritage. In the families of country people, nougat is made in the home,” says Pierre Silvain, through translation by his daughter Geraldine.

“Our grandmother always made it for the whole family for Christmas.”

They put the emphasis on paysan, to indicate that they are close to the earth, they care about the land.

“We are farmers first. We have been farming for six generations. We couldn’t be nougat makers without being farmers.”

“The work of a farmer, it’s our history, it’s our culture, it’s our roots. It’s a passion linked directly to the earth,” Silvain continues.

Philippe and Pierre Silvain

There are two kinds of nougat, black and white. The black is more traditional, served as part of the treis desserts, the 13 desserts of Christmas Eve.

The honey is caramelized briefly at high heat, and then lots of almonds are added. For white nougat, the caramelization process takes three hours, over low heat, to which egg whites are added to yield a more fluffy texture. They produce 32 tonnes of nougat every year.

Their shop, in the small plane-tree-lined town of Saint-Didier near Pernes-les-Fontaines, is popular among locals and a real destination for visitors.

Their heavy shelves of award-winning nougat are augmented by pots of honey, fruits confits, jams, as well as almonds in their raw state, or coated with salt, goat cheese, chocolate, or even algae.

And it’s definitely a family enterprise. Pierre has been working alongside his brother Philippe, as well as their spouses and children, each with his or her own specialization, for more than two decades.

“It’s a history of our family,” he says, proudly.

Nougat Silvain
4 Chemin Neuf, 84210 Saint-Didier

*This article first appeared in Le Sun Languedoc & Provence

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