I made my mint/lemon zest sirop last week, using lemons from our trees, which have been dragged out of their winter seclusion. Which got me thinking, the way these things do, about Anduze pots. I have been wanting to acquire one or two of these for years, but have never gotten around to it, because every time I look at the price tags I regretfully change my mind.
As we live within driving distance of Anduze, I have had a chance to get a good luck at these imposing pots with a long history. Just looking at one makes you think of chateaux, glassed in arboretums--and the south of France. This is with good reason: from the sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries, they were in fact only to be found on the properties of the very wealthiest. And at Versailles.
In the nineteenth century, the rather nouveau wealthy silk merchants in the Anduze region (purveyors to the Lyon textile industry) began planning their own private parcs. The merchants demonstrated their wealth by acquiring the most exotic possible plants and trees, such as sequoias, shipped in from California, and bamboos brought back from China. As a true measure of having arrived, the orange tree, previously only to be found at Versailles, became quite the thing to have. The orange trees were planted in large (and heavy!) glazed Anduze vases, as they had to winter indoors.
Sidenote: if the horticultural side of things intrigues you, then a visit to the Bambouseraie just outside of Anduze is certainly in order. 150 years old, it boasts the largest collection of bamboo in all of Europe, and while it is a Monument Historique, its programs continue to change and develop, incorporating contemporary art and other cultures to beautiful effect. You will certainly see an Anduze pot or two there, as well.
One of the family operations in Anduze is called Les Enfants de Boisset; Boisset being the name of the man who, legend has it, saw Medici vases at a fair in Beaucaire, then returned to Anduze, where he made his own version. You can find their pots on the route leading to St. Jean-du-Gard, in Anduze (tel. : +33 (0)4 66 61 80 86).Another two well-regarded names that I like are Poterie de la Madeleine, and Poterie Le Chene Vert, which are just outside of Anduze. (All photos courtesy of online sellers, because, yes, you too can order these by internet. I'd strongly recommend seeing and touching one first, however.)
But if you can't really afford these pots either--as remarkable as they might look on a terrace--then perhaps you should just pour yourself a glass of mint lemonade and daydream about them, and what you might put in one.
Sirop à la Menthe Citronnée (Mint Lemon Syrup)
Makes 2.5 cups, or enough to fill an old glass bottle.
3 cups packed fresh mint sprigs
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 3 lemons
A good squeeze of lemon or lime
Bring water, sugar and lemon zest to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, then add the mint, stirring to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least an hour. Squeeze some lemon or lime juice in, then strain the syrup through a sieve, pressing hard on and then discarding the solids. The syrup will keep, covered and chilled, for at least a week.
To serve, fill a glass with ice. Fill it halfway with the syrup, and the rest with either still or sparkling water.
Refresh yourself. Relax.