They may look familiar, you've seen them somewhere before, but where? And what are they?
They are a major component of one of the most famous paintings of the 19th Century. Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers are held in a confit pot. Back in1889 Provence, they were easy to find, pretty to look at and when not being used for their original intended use, made for beautiful decorative pieces, especially a vase for sunflowers.
However, they had a more important role in southern French cooking. Confit is a French word for "preserve". Naturally, during this time, there was no refrigeration, food was stored in ingenious ways to keep it fresh. Enter the confit pot, in which duck was slowly cooked in its own fat until tender. A thick layer of duck fat covered the meat and the confit pot was covered with cloth. The unglazed half of the pot would then be buried in a larder or storage cellar up to the glazed top. They were made in all sizes: very large for a whole family's meal and smaller ones for just a few servings.
If you see chipped glaze, that is simply because the pot was buried deeper. To find a true original pot, look for hand made details in the clay such as handles that are not uniform in size, and non-perfect rounds. There are many reproductions on the market today and you can spot them a mile away. When you see a real, Provencal confit pot, you see ages of cooking, storing and the signs of the French matron's spoons that cooked and served from them on their beautiful yellow (and sometimes green) bodies and edges.
Should you not be in the mood to slow cook duck fat in your confit pot today, sunflowers are in bloom right now - take your lead from Vincent.
Silver Creek Antique and Estate currently has three original confit pots, two filled with this season's lavender. For more information, please contact us.