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Monday, August 13, 2012

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

Chouchen, the Drink of the Druids. Drinking Like a Druid in Bretagne, Brittany.
Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Last updated May 2017

A bottle of Chouchen.
Photograph courtesy of Nathanael Hevelone.
Originally only drunk by the Celtic priests, the Druids, Chouchen is a hydromel, an alcoholic mead.  The recipe was brought from Britain by the Celts who crossed the English Channel with their priests over a period of 400 years. The Celts had left Britain in waves to escape the invading Angles, Saxons, Romans, Vikings and Danes and they called their new home Bretagne.  I can imagine that they also enjoyed a glass or two of their Chouchen to brighten their  first evening in a foreign land. The Celts through their various immigrations founded Bretagne, Brittany; so if you want really good British food and drink go to Brittany! 
Chouchen on French Menus

Baba au Chouchen – A Bretagne version of Baba Au Rhum  with Chouchen replacing the rum.  The original Baba au Rhum was created in the Palace of Stanislas Leszczynski (1677 – 1766) Duke of Lorraine and Bar in Northern France and has quite a story to go with it.

Cuisses de Grenouilles au Chouchen, Pomme Granny Smith et Petites Tranches d’Andouille Frog’s legs cooked in Chouchen and served with Granny Smith apples cooked together with small slices of Andouille sausages.  Andouille sausages are firm, spicy, fatty, traditional, cold-smoked sausage made mostly of pork tripe. Some visitors compare French Andouilles to American chitterlings but assign the French Andouilles a lighter taste
Filet de Canard au Chouchen –  A slice of duck breast prepared with Chouchen.

Kir Celtique –Chouchen and Crème de Cassis. The original Kir is a white Burgundy wine with crème de cassis.  Crème de cassis. Is a 40% alcoholic blackcurrant cordial.

Chouchen and Cider.
Enjoy both in Brittany.
Loup de Mer Rôti, Aromatisé à la Moutarde de Truffe, Crème au Chouchen  - Roasted sea bass, flavored with mustard accented truffles and a Chouchen cream sauce
Onglet de Veau au Pralin de Chouchen à l'Échalotes A veal flank steak prepared with a pralin like preparation made from caramelized almonds or hazelnuts flavored with Chouchen and shallots.
Suprême de Pintade au Miel et Chouchen – Breast of Guinea fowl prepared with honey and chouchen.
The different varieties of Chouchen.

Today Brittany  wine shops offer a wide variety of  flavoured 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 thent it is best when served chilled. 

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. 
I think this shop offers enough brands and varieties of Chouchen?
I can count over 30.
Photograph courtesy of hian vK.
The Bollée
 Chouchen is traditionally served in a small cup with a handle; that cup is called a Bollée and  it looks something like a small tea cup.  Today, in the café or restaurant you visit that cup may have been replaced by a regular glass.  Nevertheless, if 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.

A glass of Chouchen and a Chouchen  bollée.
Photograph courtesy of Michal Sanger.

Mid-Summer Night with the Druids
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 Tourism  office is:

Before Bretagne the area was Amor
and then the Romans came

 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 the name to Amorica. The largest national park in Bretagne is called  the Parc Naturel Régional d'Armorique, the natural regional Park of Armorique.

Amor and Amorica have 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

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