Origin of rillettes

Connerré: home of rillettes du Mans and rillettes de la Sarthe

Rillettes of Le Mans - 1. Manufacturing area rillettes du Mans in 19 districts of the Sarthe. <br />
2. Area of supply of raw materials.

Connerré in a few words:

  • District: Montfort le Gesnois
  • Area: Le Mans
    Surface Area: 1660 hectares
  • Population: 2,872 inhabitants in 2007
  • Name: Connerréens
  • Rivers: L’Huisne and Le Dué

Place de l’église at Connerré, at the end of the 19th century, the pigs run at the cattle market after the sales.

"I remember when I was little and uncle Lhuissier came to the farm to slaughter the pig. The next day, we cut up the pieces for rillettes, sausages, pâtés, smoked ham and salted ham. We started making rillettes on the farm and selling them in shops around 1890."
Juliette Prunier, entrepreneur, married to Maurice (Jules), left these handwritten lines:

Lhuissier, Prunier, Coudray, Renard… all these names are part of the history of rillettes du Mans or rillettes de la Sarthe, of which the village of Connerré is the birthplace.

According to historical sources, the ancient roman road between Le Mans and Chartres was used from the end of the Middle Ages by herds of pigs on their way to market in Saint-Germain en Laye, near Paris. There were several livestock markets along the route, in particular in Le Mans, Connerré and Vibraye.

In the 19th Century, Sarthe naturally became an area for pig farming. There were many small farms and each one would kill its own pig and make hams, black pudding, pâtés and sausages.

Everyone would use the scraps of meat to make rillettes.

Known as rilles, risles, rihelles or rillettes, by the 18th century, the homemade preparation became a speciality of the Sarthe countryside.

Rillettes are not only a tasty snack, they represent abundance, stocks for the winter and make a great present for friends and family. The use of stoneware pots became generalised as the way to store and transport rillettes.

Maurice Julien Prunier shaking hands with General de Gaulle in 1965

An early 20th Century postcard of Sarthe, sent in 1904 to M.Lhuissier,
pork butcher in Connerré. Earthenware pots of rillettes convey all the
fun and pleasure of a shared meal. The taste for rillettes is acquired in
childhood. Older generations of Sarthois tell how when they were children (or “queniau” in the local dialect), their mothers or grandmothers would spread a thick layer of rillettes on a hunk of bread as an after-school snack.

Albert and Blanche Lhuissier were no doubt the first to grasp the value of rillettes de la Sarthe and Connerré’s prominent position:

  • - in the middle of a pig-farming area,,
  • - with a vibrant market,
  • - located on the road from Chartres to Le Mans,
  • - on the Paris-Brittany railway line,
  • - on the circuit de la Sarthe (race track, forerunner of the 24 hour race).

In 1900, the couple gave the railwaymen some rillettes to taste. The workers took some back to Paris and shared them with friends. The
Lhuissiers also took advantage of the circuit de la Sarthe to distribute
their fare to spectators Rillettes rapidly became known in Paris..

The couple’s sales genius and their pioneering industrial spirit
established the reputation of rillettes du Mans, which originated
in Connerré.

On a visit to Connerré in 1965, Général de Gaulle declared
the village the capital of rillettes.