Unveiling the Secrets of the Trou Normand

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Originating from the verdant countryside of Normandy, le Trou Normand (literally, “a Norman hole”) is a delightful custom that embodies the rich cultural heritage and gastronomic pleasures that France is renowned for! This french culinary tradition involves serving a small glass of Calvados, local apple brandy, or Calvados-soaked apple sorbet between courses. More than a refreshing and invigorating pause in the meal, the “trou normand” is an art of living.

Trou normand © Mathilde Boclet
A cherished Normandy tradition where Calvados refreshingly cleanses the palate© Mathilde Boclet

In the midst of the 16th century, Sir Gilles de Gouberville distilled cider for the first time in his castle of Mesnil-au-Val (Manche). This pioneering act gave rise to the creation of a unique apple brandy, which eventually became the cornerstone of the gastronomic custom known as the Trou Normand. Although the origins of this tradition are occasionally the subject of controversy and debate across different countries, with occasional claims of Viking origins, it is the Norman appellation that has firmly asserted itself and provided substantial evidence of its authenticity and heritage!

Over the centuries, the Trou Normand has deeply embedded itself in the habits of the Normans. It has become customary, in the middle of a meal, to raise one’s glass of Calvados, inhale its aroma, and drink it in one gulp! The name “trou” (hole) is a reference to its alleged therapeutic qualities, according to the members of its confraternity La Confrérie du Trou Normand. They claim that the golden elixir graces the palate, its fruity and invigorating qualities cleanse and awaken the taste buds, preparing them for the next delectable dish. Some even suggest that it burns fat, prevents bloating, and helps overcome the feeling of satiety… quite a program! Anyhow, a short interlude during a lavish meal, banquet, or wedding is always welcome! This simple yet powerful tradition holds the key to a truly immersive gastronomic experience.

As per tradition, the Trou Normand is savoured between the fish and meat courses, especially in the context of elaborate menus. It is occasionally enjoyed before the cheese as well, serving the purpose of stimulating one’s appetite and allowing for a seamless continuation of the meal. The Trou Normand is a convivial moment that brings everyone together, as glasses are raised and joyful cheers fill the air!

Nowadays, adding apple sorbet to the Calvados has become a popular practice, bringing a refreshing and fruity twist to this beloved tradition. While visiting Normandy, you might come across the sight of elder folks lifting their glasses high and joyfully singing a traditional song, as they relish the pleasure of drinking it in one smooth gulp!

The Confrérie des Chevaliers du Trou Normand ( or Brotherhood of the Knights of the Trou Normand ) is an association founded in 1986, dedicated to preserving this cultural practice but also promoting local beverage and spirits. In 1999, it became the Grand Order of the Trou Normand, encompassing Calvados, ciders, and pommeaux!

Unmatched Excellence

This tradition has transcended the borders of Normandy, spreading to numerous other regions across France and worldwide, while maintaining its distinctive identity. Despite the emergence of variations such as the “coup du milieu” using alternative spirits like plum or mirabelle brandy, or even cognac, Normandy remains the epitome of excellence in this realm.

Trou normand © Mathilde Boclet
Trou normand © Mathilde Boclet

Our tasting suggestions

To venture beyond the customary Calvados – apple or pear sorbet, you have a multitude of options to explore. Firstly, in terms of ice cream, you can choose from lemon, lime, pineapple, or even sorbets infused with aromatic herbs like basil or mint. And why not elevate the experience further by adding dried fruits soaked in… Calvados!

Now as far as the spirit is concerned, flavored Calvados variations (similar to rum) are now available, boasting infusions of spices, fruits, or diverse blends. These alternatives serve as equally delightful accompaniments to enhance your Trou Normand experience.

You can also dice small pieces of apples, pears, or red fruits and freeze them, then drizzle them with alcohol right before serving. It’s a wonderful alternative to sorbets! To fully enjoy your Trou Normand, remember to place your glasses in the freezer an hour before the meal.

Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to health, drink responsibly.