Ark of taste
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Potjesvlees (literally "meat in a small jar") is a slightly acidic meat preparation in gelatin. The traditional preparation involves three types of white meat: chicken (max. 70%), rabbit (min. 15%) and veal (min. 15%). The meats are cut in small pieces and boiled in a broth that was flavored with carrots, celery, leek, onions, aromatic herbs, spices, lemon, vinegar and white wine. The original preparation calls for the meat to be cooked in the broth with the bones, in order to create a natural jelly. Now many butchers boil the pieces of meat in the broth without the bones, and add some gelatin afterwards to create the jelly. The pieces of meat are put in a jar and covered with the gelatin; the ratio meat-gelatin is 60% to 40%. Potjeslvees is eaten cold, and its acidity combines well with sharp mustard and sweet jam.

Potjesvlees is a typical product from the Westhoek and French-Flanders, a unique example of a dish that was to found in both Dutch and French cookbooks dating back to the Middle. It used to be made by farmer’s wives living in the Westhoek. They used exclusively the meat from animals that they could breed in their garden or find in nature. The chickens were usually homegrown, while the rabbits used to be caught in the dunes. The veal was only added on special occasions, as it added a sense of prestige. Only the noble cuts of meat were used, not the fatty or inferior parts as many people think.

Today only a handful of butchers still make this traditional, artisanal product. They now grouped together in a specific “Order of the Potjesvlees,” to keep the traditional recipe alive and to respect the artisanal production. There is little interest from the young public, which represents a risk for the maintenance of production in the near future.

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