Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek (Westhoek potted meat)

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Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek

IGP/BGA Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek is a slightly sour Belgian meat preparation in jelly containing three types of white meat, i.e. chicken, veal and rabbit. At least 60 % of the product is made up of meat and 40 % of jelly. The light-coloured jelly is transparent and contains both large and small pieces of cooked white meat, possibly with bone. The colour of the meat can range from very bright white to greyish white. Slices of lemon can be used as a garnish. The jelly may contain pieces of onion, carrot, leek or celery. The dominant taste of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ is that of the cooked white meat and its stock. The jelly has a slightly sour taste.

Raw materials

‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ is prepared using the following ingredients:

Meat:

chicken (maximum of 70 %)

rabbit (minimum of 15 %)

veal (minimum of 15 %)

Jelly:

— water

— acidic ingredients: lemon and/or white wine and/or vinegar

gelatin: a maximum of 100 g per litre of cooking liquid

Aromatic ingredients:

— the following vegetables are added: onion, carrot, leek and celery

— the following herbs may be added: thyme, bay, parsley, cloves, cardamoms, coriander and curry

pepper and/or cayenne pepper

salt

The preparation does not contain any colouring substances or preservatives.

Specific steps in production that must take place in the defined geographical area

All stages in the preparation of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ are carried out within the defined area:

— the preparation of the stock

— the cooking of the meat

— the preparation of the jelly

— the finishing

Concise definition of the geographical area

The area of production is the ‘Westhoek’ and the neighbouring coastal municipalities in the Belgian province of West Flanders. The area comprises the following municipalities: Koksijde, Nieuwpoort, De Panne, Veurne, Alverin gem, Diksmuide, Koekelare, Poperinge, Vleteren, Lo-Reninge, Houthulst, Kortemark, Heuvelland, Mesen, Ieper, Lan gemark-Poelkapelle, Staden, Hooglede, Zonnebeke and Wervik.

Specificity of the geographical area ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ is inextricably linked to the area. It is based on a local household recipe derived from very old jelly dishes. The knowledge of how to make it, which has been handed down by Westhoek housewives over the centuries, has made ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ a typical home-made dish served at fairs. The use of chicken, rabbit and veal suggests a festive preparation which, from the 19th century until after the Second World War, ordinary people could afford only once or twice a year. It was particularly suitable as a dish for summer fairs as it could be prepared in advance in large quantities, while the addition of acidic ingredients imparted a fresh taste and helped to preserve the product.

The adoption of the recipe after the Second World War by local butchers who offered ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ in their shops allowed the dish to develop from a food served at fairs to a high-quality charcuterie product supplied throughout the year by butchers and meat producers alike, both as a sandwich filling and as a meal in its own right. The Westhoek, near the Belgian coast, is a prime tourist region with a number of strong culinary traditions, including ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’.

Causal link between the geographical area

The link to the geographical area is based on the specific characteristics of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ derived from the local know-how. ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ and its renown are intrinsically linked to the region and its tourism. In their 1995 book ‘De Belgische keuken’ (Belgian cuisine) Dirk De Prins and Nest Mertens drew a link between the household recipe of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ and the Spanish occupation of Belgium in the 16th century. The cold, sour preparations of river fish known as ‘escavèches’ in Wallonia and ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ are both closely related to the Spanish ‘escabeche’.

Specialists have increased awareness of this household recipe, taking ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ to trade competi tions and winning awards at events such as Slavakto in Utrecht (1994) and Meat&Fresh Expo in Belgium (2009). In order to raise the profile of their traditional product still further, the local butchers decided to set up the trade association ‘Orde van het Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ (Order of the Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek) and to file a joint application for recognition of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ as a traditional Flemish regional product. This recogni tion was granted in September 2008.

Although the product is produced on a small scale and is sold mainly in the local area, its specific characteristics and its renown have given ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ an important culinary role in the West Flanders tourist region of the Westhoek. Both Toerisme Vlaanderen, the official Flanders tourism authority, and Westtoer, the Prov ince of West Flanders tourism body, have recognised the significance of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’.

— Through the association Tafelen in Vlaanderen (Eating out in Flanders), Toerisme Vlaanderen included ‘Potjesv lees uit de Westhoek’ in its 2011-2012-2013 action plan for the promotion of food, drink and eating out in Flanders.

— The tourist brochure ‘West Flanders for Dummies’ mentions ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ as a representative product of the Westhoek.

— The provincial site www.streekproductwestvlaanderen.be lists all producers of ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ and jars of the product are included in gift hampers.

In addition, its renown and its significance for tourism are borne out by references in national and international tourist guides. For instance, it is included on a map of regional dishes and products in the 1999 Michelin Tourist Guide ‘Belgium/Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’, in the 1995 Ippa guide to Belgian regional dishes and in the guide to regional products published by De Rouck in 2008.

The product has featured in a number of specialist Flemish publications such as ‘Vlaamse gerechten’ (Flemish dishes) from 1975, ‘De kleine Culinaire encyclopedie van Vlaanderen’ (The short culinary encyclopaedia of Flan ders) from 2009 and recently in the 2010 publication ‘De oude Belgen in de keuken’ (Ancient Belgians in the kitchen).

It has appeared in various programmes on national television: Jeroen Meus, a famous Flemish TV chef, presented the product on the popular late-evening show ‘De laatste show’ and it has featured in travel programmes on the Westhoek. References to ‘Potjesvlees uit de Westhoek’ can also be found on line: on news sites, in recipes, on menus, at fairs, etc. Although the Westhoek shares this tradition with the neighbouring region of French Flanders, which is known as Nord-Pas-de-Calais in France, the French ‘pot’je vleesch’ is very different from the recipe used in the Westhoek. In French Flanders pork is always added to the preparation which is browned, sometimes using caramel.

Reference: The European Commission