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Myrtle

The aromatic berry that characterises the Maquis.

Myrtle ou murta, mortula holds a great significance in Corsica where its berries and leaves are used as a base for liqueurs or as a condiment.

Myrtle berries are packed with essential oils and can be used in a wide variety of ways. The most common use is in the production of liqueur. In the olden days, women would also collect the berries to make jam, jelly or syrup.  Nowadays it is used as a condiment in the production of charcuterie and to add flavour to pâté.  

The myrtle berries that are eaten by the cows and wild boar of the island also give a wonderful flavour to the meat.

The wood of the myrtle – hard yet supple – is used to make the lobster pots employed by the fishermen of Balagne and Saint Florent. 

Omnipresent throughout the Maquis, myrtle berries are harvested from December to February, and the producers of the liqueurs know just where to gather them. Once the berries become wrinkly, they are ready to be used.

Myrtle is also a bush that is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant. It has adapted to live in the diverse microclimates of the island and can thrive in full sun as well as in the shade.  

Recipe: Farmed pigeon in myrtle wine.

Recipe from the Grand Hotel Cala Rossa in Porto-Vecchio

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 pigeons of 500g
  • 100g of fine corn flour (polenta)
  • 4 Roseval potatoes.
  • 1l of myrtle wine.
  • 1/2  l of crème fraiche
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pear
  • 1 onion
  • Oil, salt and pepper

Preparation:

Clean and bone the pigeons. Put the thighs, wings and breasts (skin on) in the crème fraiche to marinade.

Crush the carcasses and fry them in a pan until they brown. Add the chopped carrot, onion and pear and deglaze the pan with the myrtle wine.

Let this liquid reduce to ¾ of its volume and then top it up again with water. Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.

Pass everything through a sieve and then reduce the jus even further until you obtain a sauce that is the consistency of syrup. Set aside.

Remove the pigeons from the crème fraiche. Set aside. 

In a saucepan, bring the crème fraiche to the boil and sprinkle in the corn flour. Stir until you get a firm paste that no longer sticks to the side of the pan. Then add the pitted olives, cut in half. Mix together. Set aside the polenta.

Peel and cut the potatoes into slices. Place the slices in the base of 4 small, round ramekins to create a rosette. Cook in a pre-heated oven (240°c, Gas Mark 7) for about 5 minutes.

Season the pigeons and cook under a grill for 3 minutes on each side.

Slice the breasts and thighs in two and place them on a plate. Garnish each plate with a quenelle of polenta and a potato rosette. Pour over the sauce made from the myrtle wine.

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