Monday, August 13, 2012

Chouchen the Drink of the Druids. Drinking Like a Druid in Bretagne, Brittany.

Chouchen Originally only drunk at Druid ceremonies.
Chouchen was brought from Britain by the Celts who crossed the Channel and called their new home Bretagne, Brittany.
Chouchen is made with honey, yeast and water and usually has an alcohol content of up to 14%.
from
Behind the French Menu
by
Bryan Newman

A bottle of Chouchen.
Photograph courtesy of Nathanael Hevelone.
  
Chouchen is the source of the original alcoholic mead brought to France by the Celts who had  left Britain to escape, at various times, the invading Angles, Saxons, Romans and Viking or Danes. 
 
These British Celts through their various immigrations went on to found Bretagne, Brittany; so if you want really good British food go to Brittany!  
   
The original Celtic immigrants were Druids and needed chouchen for their ceremonies.  I can imagine that they also enjoyed a glass or two of their holy chouchen to brighten their evenings at the end of a long winter's day. 
  
Today, on your French menu in Brittany Chouchen may also be brightening up the sauce:
                    
Filet de Canard au Chouchen – Duck breast prepared with Chouchen.
                           
Noisette de Filet de Bœuf  Poêlée et sa Réduction au Chouchen A small round cut from the fillet lightly fried in its own cooking juices and flavored with Chouchen.
             
Baba au ChouchenA Bretagne version of Baba au Rhum, instead of the rum you have Chouchen. See my post: What is Rum Baba.
        
   Today the local wine shops offer different varieties of Chouchen; the main difference is explained by the different honeys used; however, some versions arrive at their different tastes by adding fruit flavors.  Chouchen may be on your menu as an apéritif  and then at it best when served chilled with ice. Chouchen may also be in the sauce of your main course or flavoring your dessert. Among the locals Chouchen is no longer as popular as their famous local ciders, possibly because it is more expensive; still, Chouchen will be in many local recipes, old and new, and it will be in all the wine shops. See my post: The Ciders of France. Including France's Fabulous Sparkling Ciders, and All the French you Need to Know to Buy Some.



           
I think this shop offers enough brands and varieties of Chouchen? I can count over 50.
Photograph courtesy of hian vK.
                              
   Chouchen is traditionally served in a small cup will a handle, that cup is called a Bollée; it looks something like a small tea cup.  Today that cup may have been replaced by a regular glass.  If; however, you are visiting a cafe or  restaurant where they keep to the old traditions you may find a small cup, that holds around 200ml of chouchen, placed on your table. That is Chouchen Bollée and you will know what it is for.
   


Photograph courtesy of Michal Sanger.

A glass  of Chouchen and a Chouchen  bollée.

   The good citizens of Bretagne are proud of their Druid heritage and on the 21st of June every year, mid-summers night, the summer solstice, and during the day before, and sometimes for a few days after. many communities will be celebrating their Druid ancestry; visitors welcome. The celebrations include many local variations along with a great deal of food, cider, lambig, their apple brandy, and, of course chouchen. Call the nearest French Government  Tourism Office and you may experience a mid-summer day and night very different to Shakespeare's Mid-Summer Night’s Dream. The English website for the Brittany office is: http://www.brittanytourism.com/

   As you drive around Bretagne you will see many place names and business names that include the words Amor, Amorica, Armorique and similar; this is all part of Bretagne's history. Amor was the ancient name for Bretagne, before Druids came, then came the Romans, under Julius Caesar, and he changed that name to Amorica. The largest national park in Bretagne is called  the Parc Naturel Régional d'Armorique, the natural regional Park of Armorique.

    Amorica has nothing to do with America; America's two continents are  named after Amerigo Vespucci (1454 – February 22, 1512) the Italian explorer who was the first to show that the two American continents were not part of Columbus’s India.  He never made it to North America but his name is still honored on both continents. 

  

Bryan G. Newman
  
Behind the French Menu
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For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman
at
behindthefrenchmenu@gmail.com