The notorious trou Normand – literally translated as ‘Norman hole’ – is a one-shot, down-in-one, mid-meal snifter said to ease digestion and make way for subsequent courses, which will most likely consist of a groaning cheeseboard featuring Camembert and Livarot, and a hefty slice of local speciality pud, such as the upside-down caramelised beauty, tarte Tatin. This small glass of neat Calvados will, of course, have started out several years (up to 45 in some cases!) earlier as a ripened pomme succumbing to gravity in an orchard.
Autumn is a great time to visit Calvados – the administrative department, that is. The apple harvest for earlies typically begins in mid-September and goes on until the end of October – some late growers will run on until early December.
The apples are generally processed within 48 hours into the juice that will be used for Calvados production. Fermentation, turning the juice into cider, and double distillation follow, then the fiery nectar’s ageing process begins.
There are many estates across the region to visit, most offering free tours and the chance to sip (do not swirl!) before buying a few bottles to take home. For details of the cider route and Calvados producers running free tours, visit www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/en
From France Today magazine