The story of J. Leblanc nut oils is the sort public relations firms love to invent. But there is nothing invented here. Except for adding electricity, Huilerie J. Leblanc has changed little since 1878, the year it was founded. It is still run by a Leblanc—Jean-Charles, grandson of the founder. It is still located in the southernmost village of Burgundy—Iguerande—and it still manufactures the highest quality, small-batch, handcrafted nut oils in France . . . if not the world.
J. Leblanc starts with the careful selection of the highest quality whole nuts available, grown on many of the same farms that they have been doing business with for generations. For each batch of oil, about fifty-four pounds of nuts are ground into a paste using the huilerie's original granite mill. The paste, resembling the texture of peanut butter, is transferred to a roaster and toasted for about ten minutes while being stirred constantly to assure an even roast.
The roasted paste is transferred to a mechanical press where it is divided in half and separated with filter cloth. The oil is expressed at 22,000 pounds of mechanical pressure. After pressing, the oil rests for seven to fourteen days to allow sediment to settle before bottling. Production is about 300 liters a day. The oils are pure, unadulterated, unfiltered and unrefined.
Made to order
One of the most important facts about Huilerie J. Leblanc's production is not the "how" but the "when". Because the huilerie has no large storage facilities or refining capabilities, production takes place when orders come in—assuring the very freshest nut oils. It's a difference you can taste in their clean, bright, deep flavors, and one you can appreciate in their longevity (Keep the nut oils refrigerated after opening, and they're usually good for a year!).
That je ne sais quois
It has been said that the true contribution of French cuisine was the idea of adding layers of taste and texture to dishes. J. Leblanc's nut oils support this idea fully, adding rich nuance to any dish. Because of their low smoke point, nut oils are not generally used for sautéing or cooking, but rather in finishing dishes. Nonetheless, you will find many a recipe, written by wonderful and knowledgeable chefs, using nut oils for sautéing in order to set a subtle base flavor.
Spruce up your salad
Nut oils enhance salad dressings when blended with quality vinegar such as champagne, Banyuls, sherry or raspberry. The usual ratio is three parts oil to one part vinegar.