Skip to content

An extraordinary tarte Tatin, the one I consider the best in Paris…


A clever ruse, and now that I’ve gotten your attention with something sweet and luscious, I decided I wanted to show how I got to the bottom of something that’s been bugging me all week: the difference between saucisse and saucisson.

So this morning I braved the biting cold and went to my local market with a real Frenchman, aka Romain, hoping to have him explain the difference between the two. And being 100% Parisian, I learned to set a few hours aside if I want something explained.

So bundled up in our wool coats, sweaters, long underwear (me), thermal shirts, gloves (him), a hat (him: I look funny in hats), mitten (me: my hands get cold, I don’t care how funny I look), and scarves (both), we wandered the market, first stopping at the stall with my favorite women from the Savoie, the mountainous region encompassing France and Switzerland, home to many of the finest sausages (and Comté cheese as well.) As we perused the piles of dried and fresh sausages, his explanation was this; Saucisse is any little sausage, fresh or dried. Saucisse seche is the term used when it’s dried. Saucisson is any sausage that’s dried, but big.”

It all seemed a bit confusing, so I decided to ask a Parisian foodie Clotilde what was correct, someone who understands French ingredients but also has a fine understanding of American food as well as an excellent grasp of the English language.

Ok, so I didn’t actually ask her.
But instead checked out her useful Bloxicon of French-to-English food translations.
Her definition:

  • Saucisson: dry sausage.

So I had confirmation that saucisson was dry sausage.
But what about saucisse seche?
What’s the dif?

Still grasping for knowledge (and a glass of Sancerre, which will come later) I checked my trusty Le Robert et Collins dictionnaire. You would think a volume that boasts 120,000 translations would have a bit more information about one of the most important and meatiest items in French cuisine.
Realizing perhaps that they’re treading on extremely thin ice, they offer these rather sketchy and non-committal responses:

  • Saucisson: (slicing) sausage
  • Saucisse: sausage

Patricia Wells, in The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris gets a bit more in-depth, although there’s a touch of confusion:

  • Saucisson: Most often a large air-dried cured sausage, such as salami, eaten sliced as a cold cut; when fresh, usually called saucisson chaud
  • Saucisse: Small fresh sausage

Wait a minute. When ‘fresh’ it’s called saucisson chaud (presumably when cooked), and saucisse if it’s small?
I know the truth is out there, but I needed to find it.

So I turned to a little volume that claims to be “An exhaustive compilation of terms from French gastronomy…”, The A-Z of French Food. I picked up a copy of this book years ago when I was at cooking school at Ecole Lenôtre and struggling with the subtle difference between Suprême de poulet and blanc de poulet and poitrine de poulet
Geez, how many words for chicken breast does one language need?

Very informative, here’s what the The A-Z of French Food had to say:

  • Saucisson: A large variety of sausage preparations of minced or chopped meats and organ meats, which are seasoned, cooked, or dried (often called saucisson sec. Saucisson is eaten sliced , and usually cold, as it is bought.
  • Saucisse: The generic term for sausage (cooked, uncooked, or cured) which is served hot or re-heated, as opposed to saucisson which is generally eaten cold in slices.

So there you have it.
I hope that helps you next time you’re at the market in France and it’s your turn to order and the pressure’s on and everyone’s waiting for you to decide and madame behind you is not-so-gently pressing you forward and all you want to do is turn around and smack her upside the head which you can’t do (but boy, would that make you feel better.)


So now that we all completely and unequivocally understood the difference between the two (right?), I decided to reward myself with a nice Sunday lunch of chipolatas, highly-seasoned, meaty, and slender sausages, along with a few dozen fresh oysters.
(To be honest, by this point I was thoroughly confused and a bit terrified, so I let him do the ordering. But I did offer to stand guard and smack-down any ofles dames that tried to take cuts.)


Our next stop was for the oysters, and since we needed help making up our minds, the vendeuse was more than happy to pry open a few and let us pop them in our mouths. After much discussion (which always happens in France when there’s food involved) we chose 2 dozen No. 2 Huîtres de Normandie with the fresh, briny taste of the sea.


Once home, Romain expertly shucked the oysters while the chipolatas sizzled and the bottle of Sancerre, also chosen at the market (after the obligatory tasting), chilled quickly in the freezer (although with the freezing temperatures in Paris, the rooftop outside would have been faster.) The crusty baguette de pavot was sliced and each piece smeared with salted butter then I mixed up a simple sauce mignonette of white wine vinegar, cracked pepper, and lots of finely-chopped shallots.

And there we had it. A rather excellent Sunday lunch, my only consolation for another unsuccessful attempt at comprehending the nuances of the French language.


And the tarte Tatin?
Dessert from Berthillon, who I think makes the best tarte Tatin in Paris. An enormous wedge of caramelized apples resting on crisp pastry, served with a big, melting scoop of their amazing caramel ice cream alongside.

Now that’s something I have no trouble understanding…

31, rue de St. Louis-en-I’le
Tel: 01 43 54 31 61



    • Diva

    what a lovely Sunday!

    • Diva

    but what flavor is the ice cream..and did you make it!

    • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

    Yeah very good story indeed David! My little hubbie (the English speaker) once got upset when I called him as I was at a butcher’s. I asked him in French whether he wanted “de la saucisse”. He understood “saucisson” and was already looking forward to it for l’apéritif. I came home and what a surprise and disappointment he had!! In my hand I had de la saucisse et not the expected saucisson! So I think that I will pass on the info to him because you see, if I try to tell him, he will not remember (you know, the wife/husband teaching pair never works!!!)

    Thank you for the light you cast on this on his behalf!

    • Ruth

    David what a wonderful story! Although, I’m still not sure I’d know what to order.

    Thanks for sharing – it put a smile on my face, and a growl in my stomach. I guess I’ll have to go shopping for some wonderful sausages here.

    • Alisa

    This is cool!

    • bistro

    This is one of the best food articles I’ve seen you write. Very informative, thanks for the work you put in to find the translations!

    Kudos on the oysters, as well.

    • Julia

    Pretty much every time I read your blog, I feel the need for a glass of wine.

    • Monica

    Such helpful distinctions, so I know how to order next time… by delicately pointing and remaining mute! I am jealous of that tarte Tatin. Mine have never been so lusciously caramelized and delectable-looking!

    • michèle

    That sounds like some kind of lunch! Im very jealous. And your own oyster shucker at hand too? You lucky man you. Thanks for the fab info David, you are going to make a seasoned Parisienne out of me yet!

    • David

    Diva: The only thing better would have been to have you here.

    Carol: I think I’ve had my fill of saucisse vs saucisson…butchers of Paris beware!

    Bea: Here’s hoping maybe you can shed some much-need lumiere on the subject?

    Ruth: To be fair, I don’t think French people are to sure either!

    Alisa: No, the sausages were served warm, the oysters were cool…though…

    Bistro & Monica: Glad you enjoyed it.

    Julia: Funny, everytime I write the blog, I feel the need for a glass of wine too!

    Michèle: I am shucking lucky, indeed.

    • Alisa

    ha ha, hee hee

    Cross commenting here: you have DVD’s???????

    • carolg

    Very important news alert in here-> where to get the best Tarte Tatin in Paris. You just saved us David, from multi-bad-tarte-Tatin experiences big time!The search is over…Start cooking Berthillon!…damn I have to wait till May :(

    • shauna

    Now I’m hungry again.

    Did you really write in one of the comments: I’m shucking lucky? Wow. That deserves highlighting.

    The next time I’m in Paris, will you guide me around the markets? I still think you understand this issue better than I do. (Or maybe I just want to go shopping with you, both of us wearing mittens.)

    • GastroChick

    HI David

    That sounds like a splendid meal. The tarte tartin looks exactly as it should do, I’m sure it tasted pretty good too, it’s amazing the amount of places in London which try and fob you off with something that has no resemblence to the original. I will definately check this place out next time in Paris.

    • David

    GastroChick: There’s plenty of lousy tarte Tatins here as well (although they always seem to escape my ‘field of vision’ and I seem to have the knack for honing in on just the good ones.) And the one at Berthillon is particularly good, especially with a big scoop of their caramel ice cream, the best in the world!

    • Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

    Here is my lumière, hope it is bright enough! ;-)

    Seriously, I have always understood the following:

    Saucisse is meant to be presented cooked or reheated, warm. (Ex: “saucisse de Strasbourg” or “saucisse de Toulouse”).
    Saucisson is always presented as is, sliced thinly and is cold.

    In reality, a saucisson (ex: “salami”, “pepperoni”, “mortadelle”) used to be a saucisse.

    As an example, my grandmother used to make her saucisson after she killed the pig. She would smoke it then (yes yes, she did that on a farm), and let me tell you, I have never tasted a better saucisson than hers!


    • yoony

    now that is what i call a perfect lunch. i am in full hunger mode. i wish i was in paris too!

    • Kung Foodie

    “If not, I’m ready to administer a couple of swift, San Francisco-style spankings.”


    You have such a great sense of humor. You’ve got us folks in Berkeley hooked. Keep it up!

    • estelle

    For your information you can also find some saucissons designed to be cooked, for exemple as “saucisson en brioche”, or the “saucisson à l’ail” you add in the choucroute…:-) And chipolatas, like merguez which are spicier, are better grilled on a barbecue on a nice summer evening, and tucked in a piece of baguette spread with moutarde…


Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!


Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...