CUBERDONS OR GENTSE NEUS (GHENT NOSE) ARE A VERY POPULAR GHENT SWEET:
On our recent trip to Ghent, we were introduced to the Cuberdon a very popular Belgian sweet. Cuberdon is also known as neuzeke (little nose) or Gentse neus (Ghent nose) because it is shaped like a nose. Little did we know that this nose-shaped sugary treat has quite a story to tell, especially in the city of Ghent where it is believed the original recipe was founded.
In Ghent Groentenmarkt I saw these two street carts selling cuberdons. I liked the cart which was beautifully decorated with trays of violet flowers, but the vendor, the man with the red bowler hat, seemed a little distracted. The younger vendor at the other cart however was pulling in all the sales. He spoke English and was calling out to passers-by to come to his stall to buy “the only real Ghent nose” and so I bought some of these traditional Flemish candies from him.
The cuberdon has a thin layer of outer shell which is supposed to melt in the mouth and release its soft jelly or liquid core. To get the best of its flavour, it should be eaten within eight weeks of itsmanufacture. Past this period, the sugar inside begins to crystallize, resulting in a harder sweet. I brought some home and after weeks on the road, they did become quite hard.
Cuberdons are traditionally made with raspberry flavouring, which also gives its pretty crimson colour. The stall I bought from had black ones as well – these were liquorice flavoured and they were quite nice too.
The Cuberdon Legends
A sweet in the shape of a nose is rather bizarre and begs the question about the origin of this famous candy. It would seem that no one really knows for sure and we are left with legends to explain how the cuberdon was created … and there are several legends.
According to one legend, the recipe of the cuberdon was discovered by chance by a Ghent pharmacist in 1873. It seems that in an effort to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy.
Another widespread legend about the origin of the cuberdon maintains that the candy was first made in the 19th century by the clergy in Flanders near Bruges. As the story goes, it was from here that the ‘bon bon’ gained its ‘priest’s bonnet’ nickname.
But nothing’s straightforward in Belgium, with the Flemish and Walloons disputing the origin of the word cuberdon. But one thing that they will all agree on is that cuberdon is a unique Belgium delight.
Today, the cuberdon’s recipe is regarded as the best-kept secret in Belgium and is known to only very few craftsmen. If you’re in Ghent and have a sweet tooth, look out for these Ghent noses. Be warned that they are sweet! These days there are even cuberdon jams, spreads, ice-ecream, biscuits, etc.