Brittany is a country of heritage, scenic beauties and gastronomy. With 10 million tourists annually, three times its population, tourism became a key industry for this region. Agriculture and fishery being the major industries, lots of specialities are produced in this lush fertile land.
10% of farmers in the whole country work in Brittany, making this sector that is the biggest agricultural region in terms of volume, representing 15% of the national production. An original food culture has been established around their typical food - buckwheat flour and apple products - that differs from other French regions known for their wheat flour and wine. Buckwheat galette, cider from fermented apples and traditional whiskies are characteristic local products of Brittany.
Life with apple culture - Cider and other apple products
All Brittany farms plant cider apple which is a special variety to make cider. The beautiful form of an apple tree would be seen as a symbol of the precious gift from the earth in the middle of a lush fertile land scenery. Bretons had homemade cider, even more often than water, for its refreshing bitterness, acidity and bubbles to quench their thirst.
On the other hand, Eau-de-vie, a distilled liquor also made from apples, was a drink for pleasure. Once the pressed apple juice turned into cider after several months in oak barrels, the entire village wait for the "bouillote" (means hot water bottle in French) to arrive. Ciders from all farms are gathered and distilled in a huge copper "lambig" (alembic, distiller in Breton). The liquid obtained is quickly collected by professional distillers and put into oak barrels for aging. It is then kept for over 10 years in a cellar, the location of which is only known by the family master. This is the traditional process of homemade Eau-de-vie, that is now mostly produced and sold industrially. The Eau-de-vie made in Brittany is called "Fine de Bretagne" to differ from the other famous eau-de-vie, Calvados of Normandy.
The apple provides a series of drinks from "Pommeau" for aperitif to start with, cider, and the Eau-de-vie as liqueur (digestif) to finish. Moreover, we can now find non-alcoholic sparkling juices for adults.
Eating apples are also loved as garnish for pork dishes, baked apples for dessert and many more recipes for each part of Brittany, the region that has made apples an indispensable part of its life.
As popular as cider, another light sparkling drink made from pears is also produced, called Poiré. If you visit Brittany and Maine, you will find green rustic landscapes with enclosures, where traditional farming is a success. As the terroir enables to grow the best apples and pears, genuine cider and poiré, unlike industrial products, are made with artisanal knowledge and the latest technologies.
Whisky - the Celtic heritage
In Brittany, whisky has also been made through the ages like other famous production areas of Celtic roots, such as Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The iconic single malt whisky should be made only using malted barley, and distilled in traditional copper alembic. The special flavours of blended whiskies matured in bourbon or sherry cask are also nice to discover.
As a buckwheat region, you can find a very original whisky made from 100% buckwheat named "EDDU", which means buckwheat in Breton. A drink full of flavour, made from an ecological cereal grown without any fertilizers or chemicals, it can be considered a luxury product that would be an excellent gift for special occasions.
Naturally fermented drinks and Agriproducts
Since Brittany offer many types of beer - bodied and flavourful dry lager, Blanche (white) with herbal clear taste and the buckwheat beer from the buckwheat region - you have a wide range of choice. Moreover, you can also find Chouchen, a honey liqueur, said to come from the druid ritual of mystagogy, that was invented before wine. According to the original recipe, adding some drops of fresh apple juice in honey will start the natural leavening action.
These fermented beverages can be served not only for aperitif, but also used for cooking or to bring flavour to desserts. Nowadays, more and more people are discovering the fruit of this gift from nature.
Breitz Cola with "Le Phare Ouest" (the west lighthouse) on its label is the first locally made colas in France. This local drink is getting popular among young generations as a symbol against the globalisation of food consumption.
Farm products in Brittany have a high reputation, vegetables such as cauliflowers that represent 92% of the national production, the famous artichokes, and pork products. Well-known "Pré-salé" (salt-marsh) premium lamb, naturally salted by eating grass by the seaside, is also one of the common ingredients in French cuisine.
Traditional farming appears to be reviving, cultivating forage in meadow, for example - although other countries like Japan import a large amount of forage from equal-sized planting area to its land. Creation of local brands, labels made in Bretagne, and actions for local production and local consumption are on the rise too.
Dairy and Speciality Salt
(Salted butter, salted butter caramels and salted butter biscuits)
Brittany has also the perfect climate to make it the land of quality dairy products. Cattles of selected breeds fed with abundant grass, generously provide milk for various typical products of the terroir.
On the coastline of this region, the width of tidal range made it suitable for the salt culture; this is where the well-known Guérande Salt used by world-famous chefs is produced. The characteristic salted butter of Brittany is made with this salt unlike other French regions or most of Europe where butter is generally unsalted. That salted butter has been the key to flavour food, desserts and sweets. After salted butter caramel (caramel au beurre salé) and Kouign-amann were introduced, salted sweets became popular in Japan. Quality salted butter biscuits have a rich butter flavour, and you will not forget the iconic taste of the Brittany region.
Fishing industry, seafood processing and seaweed products
With around 8000 workers and 140,000 tons of fish caught annually, Brittany is the biggest region of France in the fishing industry. Located where the English Channel meets the Atlantic sea, a wealth of seafood resources is available. You will find oysters, mussels, scallops that are consumed nationally and exported worldwide, and also the famous lobsters symbol of the gastronomic French cuisine. Renowned oysters from Cancale, said to be Napoléon's favourite, and AOC* premium mussels are highly valued; the environment of shoaling tideland with high tidal range increases the quantity of plankton that feeds the shellfish generously. (*AOC = Appellation d'origine contrôlée/ controlled designation of origin)
Coastal cities are coloured by a range of canned seafood products from local factories, that vary from cooked sardines and mackerels, fish terrines, scallop pate, fish pate, there is also surimi, a popular Japanese crab flavoured sticks. The appearance of the canneries where sardines are carefully and tidily packed is one of the symbols of factory-port towns like Quiberon or Belle-île.
Canned seafood will be a good souvenir for tourists to take a taste of France back home. For example, marinated sardines are flavoured in many ways - simply in fresh olive oil, in aromatic butter, or in refreshing marinade - they are all ready to be served straight to the table. There is more to choose from; sardines seasoned with chili, with garlic, in tomato sauce, lemon flavoured, all with pretty labels, and so on.
Other than as food, seaweed is added in skin-care products such as shampoos and bath salt for their virtue for the body and skin. Thalassotherapy is a type of relaxing treatment method developed in this region.
Moreover, the innovation of plastic and other industrial products from algae's recently originated from Brittany and this may accelerate the growth of weeds to purify the water and become an effective way to control CO2 level in the atmosphere. Further future technologies are expected for better use of the natural aquatic resources and for the environment which is now under development in this region.