During my stay in Anjou (France), I discovered the region has amazing troglodyte lodgings. Some have been turned into mushroom farms, others became hotels, gîtes or museums. Like the Pomme Tapée (Tapped Apple) one, an almost forgotten delicacy.
A slice of history
The site, in the sweet village of Turquant, retraces an unexpected slice of history. The village hides 200 km of galleries. They were first used to extract stone, designed to build houses, churches, palaces: the blocks would then be immersed in the nearby Loire for a whole year, to rid them of saltpetre.
Winemakers settled there: an easy, cost-effective way to live close to their land. In the 19th century, sadly, phylloxera decimated vineyards all over the country. Looking for a way to survived, they decided to make a business of Pommes Tapées, apples they, until then, prepared as a treat for winter days.
These apples (the variety is kept a secret) are placed in a “rondeau” (a low, circular basket, soaked in advance in the Loire river) then in an oven where they will stay 5 days. The temperature will remain at 60 degrees C to dehydrate them, not cook them.
Every day, they will be turned over. And every two days, they will be gently “tapped” with a small hammer. Each will be tapped around 60 times. Everyone joins in: children, women, older folks. Flattened, they are easy to stock and keep their flavour up to 10 years.
Rich in vitamins (as they are dehydrated, not cooked), they prove particularly useful to sailors who were looking, in the absence of wine, for alternatives to avoid scurvy. They will be such a hit they are sold internationally and become quite famous!
But when a remedy for phylloxera is finally found, the world has changed. Modernised. Motorised. There is little need for the Pommes Tapées and the production slowly stopped and forgotten completely.
The caves of the site were bought in 1980. Imagine the surprise of the new owner. He had been told a family of 13 once lived there but… 7 ovens seemed excessive. Asking around in the village, he met a couple elderly who had once worked there. Fascinated, he decides to share the story and starts making Pommes Tapées again.
You can try them on site, rehydrated in apple juice or local red wine infused with cinnamon and spices. They are incredibly fragrant and literally melt in the mouth… There is also a troglodyte restaurant there (so nice in summer when temperatures easily go over 30 degrees C), which served a Terroir menu for lunch. Which I tried and thoroughly enjoyed.
A troglodyte restaurant
For starters – stuffed « galipettes ». If you have spent time in France, you will have encountered “Champignons de Paris”, a kind of small, cute mushroom. Despite name after the capital, 80% of the production comes from Anjou, mostly in these underground galleries. Now a galipette (which means somersault) is a Champignon de Paris, left to grow until it tumbles down on its own.
As a main – a « gouline », a savoury tart iconic in the region. Shallots, mushrooms, white wine, mustard, rillauds (pieces of pork belly that are left to soak in salty, herby brine before being cooked in lard), Tomme cheese…
And for dessert – some pomme tapée (of course!), Cointreau infused cake (the spirit is still made in its hometown, Angers) and « crémet », (a type of Greek yogurt, whipped until it reaches a mousse-like texture and usually served with a coulis).
If like me you have a Google Map for every country you want to visit – add this address. This is such a lovely place.
Les Pommes Tapées | 11 Rue des Ducs d’Anjou | 49730 Turquant | France