The Auvergne region produces 25% of the entire French production of AOP (Appellation d’origine protégée quality label) cheeses. Saint-Nectaire is one of these cheeses and it has been produced in the region since the 17th century. After being made, the cheese is left to mature for a minimum of 28 days, turned over frequently to achieve the specific colour of the Saint-Nectaire rind.
Truffade is a local dish that you’ll spot everywhere in the Auvergne. It is comprised of potatoes, thinly sliced, mixed with fresh tomme cheese from Cantal. The mix is tenderised until it almost resembles a chunky paste and then adorned with fresh parsley. Truffade is often served alongside a cut of meat and a salad or seasonal vegetables.
A lot of the traditional dishes of the Auvergne have pork as one of the main ingredients and soupe au chou is just one of those dishes. A combination of cabbage, pork, potatoes and lard, it is another hearty dish that takes all its ingredients from the land. The soup simmers away for a couple of hours once all the ingredients are added, making for a pretty tasty and tender plat.
Get ready to eat a lot of sausage in the Auvergne. With pork aplenty, saucisse will be on every menu from little cafes to the city’s restaurants. There will be the option to eat it alongside other traditional dishes, like aligot or as part of a Potée Auvergnate (described below), and they’ll probably be the most deliciously fresh, flavoursome sausages you’ve ever tasted.
Potée Auvergnate is a hotpot dish, combining Auvergne’s trusty vegetable, the cabbage, with potatoes, pork, carrots, leeks and turnips. A little heavy for the warmer months, granted, but if you’re visiting this region of France when there’s a nip in the air, combine this hearty traditional dish with a glass of local Vin de pays du Bourbonnais red wine and you’ll want for nothing. If you’re in a group, this stew will be served in one large pot for you to share, how convivial.
A cheese lover’s dream, aligot is simply melted cheese blended into mashed potatoes. Sometimes, it’ll be seasoned with some garlic and sometimes, it’ll be left plain. So, if you’re presented with a bowl of something cheesy-smelling with your main course, then it’s aligot.
Cured meats are part of the daily life of the Auvergne. The fresh, mountainous air is perfecting for curing meats and sausages and the result is that there are baskets filled to the brim with meaty goodness in supermarkets and markets throughout the region. These dried hams follow age-old traditions and the best hams have been curing for around a year. These meats can’t be beaten with some local cheese and wine.
Lentils from Le Puy in the Auvergne are a firm favourite and served with lots of things. Grown on volcanic soil, these lentils, compared to others, have quite a distinctive flavour and because of their protected state, only lentils grown near Le Puy-en-Velay that follow certain regulations can be labelled as Puy lentils. From salads to main courses, try and have a taste at some point during your stay – they’re delicious.
The Auvergne isn’t known for its cakes and pastries, but for something sweet, its tarte aux myrtilles during the summer months is a real treat. Local blueberries are easy to come by in the warmer months and so this pie is a real staple of the region for at least half of the year.
Cantal had to make the list as it is another one of the traditional cheeses of the Auvergne that you’ll see in every market and on every menu. Its name dates back to as early as the 1300s and history is hazy as to when its first production dates back to. With Cantal, there are three types of ripening times: Young Cantal has ripened for 30 to 60 days; Cantal in between 90 to 210 days and then, Old Cantal has to be ripened for a minimum of 240 days. It’s something to inquire about at the cheese stall!