A year ago, we wrote of how a family cookery tradition or term could possibly indicate the region in France where an ancestor may have originated. So might a liqueur recipe or traditional drink. Some drinks and traditions are nationally popular and universally known, such as elderflower wine, and so can be of no help as a clue. Others really are so tied to a region, either because the ingredients can be found only there or are appreciated only there, that their appearance among a family's traditions really could indicate a link to that region.
If your family has an odd insistence on making a liqueur with citron (Citrus medica) and NEVER with lemon, there could be a link to Corsica, where cédratine is made by every family. The citron is peeled, salted, soaked, boiled, deseeded, sugared and bottled with elderflower or a fruit wine for a couple of months. If this sounds familiar, perhaps your French ancestor came from Ajaccio or Bonifacio.
Vin de noix, wine with nuts and more sugar added, can be found in many parts of France. If, in your family, the nuts must be walnuts, and the walnuts must be green, and the wine a Bordeaux, with a serious quantity of sugar added, there is a good chance your ancestor came from Périgord.
As we wrote before, anything with an excessive emphasis on apples means Normandy. It is the same with the liqueur. Calvados is well-known and is sold everywhere, but those who prefer it at the end of a meal tend to be Norman. Those French ancestors who had their own recipe for it, producing distilled apple cider of about 150 proof, were almost certainly from Normandy.
We are particularly impressed by vin de chèvre, goat wine, which comes from Haute-Savoie and Switzerland. We promise you that, if you have the recipe for this in your family and you drink it, your ancestor came from nowhere else. To make goat wine: fill a small oak cask of extremely thick staves with just-pressed white wine and let it ferment. Where is the goat? When the wine is ready and the tap of the cask opened, a stream of liquid as white and foamy as goat's milk pours out. Perhaps it tastes like it as well for, like goat's milk, it is to be downed in a gulp.
Perhaps, during the holidays, the old recipes and family traditions were brought out and are fresh in the memory. Perhaps one of the above will ring a bell and lead to the correct region of an ancestor's origin. We do hope so.
©2011 Anne Morddel