Agneau de Pré-salé – The Highly-Prized Salt Marsh Lamb Specialty from Mont-St-Michel:
One of the specialty food in Normandy is Agneau de Pré-salé or Salt Marsh Lamb. Agneau de pré-salé is lamb that graze on salt marshes and the meat from the lamb has a unique flavour and tenderness.
Normandy is one of the four agneau de pré-salé areas in France and its salt marsh lamb comes from livestock grazed on the marshland surrounding Mont-St-Michel. Sheep have been reared in the Mont-St-Michel Bay since the 11th century. An interesting trivia is that during that time, there was a law that dictated that the abbey monks had the right to pick the best ewe from every farm. So we now know that the monks ate the best lamb on the land.
Mont-St-Michel Bay’s extremely strong tides are well known. As a result of of the huge bay tides, the vegetation that grows here has had to adapt to life both above and below sea level. The subtle taste and tenderness of the meat from the lambs comes from the unique plants which thrive in environments with very high salt concentrations. However, contrary to belief, the meat itself does not taste of salt.
As only specific locations in France have the ability to produce the vegetation that give the lamb meat its unique flavour, agneau de pré-salé has been awarded an Appelation d’Origine Controlée (A.O.C.) designation. Similar to French cheeses and champagne, this means that only lamb that are pastured on certain salt marsh areas can be called agneau de pré-salé.
So next time you’re at Mont-St-Michel and you see these lambs wondering around, you’ll know that they are A.O.C. special. And if you’re a lamb eater, then seek out this much-prized agneau de pré-salé at your dining stops.