Christiane and Michel had a major hike planned for us today. We had breakfast at 7:30am so that we could leave at 8:00am to head into le Parc National du Mercantour in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, which was about a 45-minute drive from the chalet in Beuil. The main objective of the day was to pick enough génépi flowers in order to make the well-known digestif of the same name, Génépi. The génépi flower is found only in the Alpes at an altitude above 2300 meters, and normally only in August. This picture was taken when we got to the top of the Col de Sanguinière at 2601 meters (approx. 8533 feet). Before our génépi-hunting expedition, we reinforced our strength with a pique-nique lunch provided by Christiane and Michel, which included spit-roasted chicken and tabouli, and a cheese course with a local cheese from Beuil called Tome de Nicolas and a fresh goat cheese also from Beuil. Our dessert included juicy white peaches, sweet apricots, and succulent figs. The rocky slopes of the mountain were full of sheep, nearly each one of which wore a heavy bell around its neck, so that it sounded like a bell concert as we climbed to the top. We were actually somewhat worried that the sheep might have eaten all the génépi flowers and that there wouldn’t be any left for us. Fortunately, our fears were unfounded, although, there were not a lot to be found. The génépi flowers are protected by the Parc National du Mercantour, so that each person is permitted to pick 40 flowers, which is just the number required to make one liter of the digestif. They seemed to grow out from under the rocks, and we were able to pick just enough for two one-liter bottles.
A Marmot in the Mercantour
All the way up the mountain, we heard the whistling of marmots. Finally, on the way back down, we caught a good look at one sitting on a large gray stone which it kind of blended into with his coat being the same color. Can you see it in the photo on the rock just over Dave's left shoulder? It was much bigger than I expected – much larger than a big squirrel, and the coat was a different color than I expected – much lighter and mixed with a darker color. We also caught a glimpse of a chamois (fawn) on our hike.
On the way back to Beuil, we stopped into the picturesque village of Guillaume to purchase the rest of the ingredients for our Génépi. We bought a one-liter bottle of 90% (180-proof in American terms) pure grain alcohol from the pharmacy, and a one-liter bottle of 40% fruit alcohol from a small grocery store. We’ll get to try our home-made digestif in 40 days on September 30th.
Recipe for Génépi
40 génépi flowers
40 sugar cubes
40% fruit alcohol
Add the 40 sugar cubes into the fruit alcohol and let them dissolve. Add the 40 flowers with stems. Put the cap back on the bottle, and let it rest on the shelf for 40 days in a cool spot. At the end of 40 days, it will be ready to drink. There is no need to remove the flowers from the bottle.
We actually mixed the 90% pure grain alcohol with the 40% fruit alcohol to produce two one-liter bottles, as per the recipe of Michel and Christiane; but the other recipes that I’ve read used only the 40% fruit alcohol.