La potée bretonne (Breton hotpot)
Using local products, potée bretonne is a complete, hearty meal that will go down well with your guests in the winter months. The recipe for potée bretonne differs depending on which of the nine historic ‘pays’ of Brittany you’re in.
For six people, you’ll need:
- 1 cured pork knuckle (hind leg)
- 6 fresh Breton sausages
- 1 small garlic sausage
- 12 potatoes
- 12 carrots
- 3 leeks
- 1 cabbage
- 4 onions
- Peel the vegetables.
- Blanch the cabbage in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to refresh, then set aside.
- Put the pork knuckle in a casserole dish and add the cabbage, the onions cut into four and the leeks and carrots cut into 5cm rounds. Cover with water and cook for two hours, checking occasionally to make sure the vegetables are not getting overcooked.
- After 45 minutes over a medium heat, add the garlic sausage and cook for another 45 minutes.
- Add the potatoes to cook through for the last 30 minutes.
- Brown the sausages in a frying pan and add to the pot for another 15 minutes.
Arrange the vegetables in a dish and place the sausages and sliced pork knuckle on top. Serve piping hot.
The end of St. Brieuc bay and its historic market gardening activity
Market gardening, i.e. cultivating vegetables, has long been part of the economy of the ‘Golden Belt’ – the name given to a particular section of the coastal area in the north of Brittany, incorporating the Côtes- d’Armor and Finistère where the bay of St. Brieuc is located.
The climate and soil in this region are favourable to market gardening.
The secret of St. Brieuc’s productiveness lies in the sea advancing and receding and the temperate climate in all seasons, which has created an exceptionally fertile land known as ‘marl’ suitable for the cultivation of vegetables – onions, carrots, cabbages, etc. This produce has always formed the basis of the buoyant economy. However, competition, evolving urbanisation, difficulties associated with mechanising production, the small size of plots and the way they are spread out have gradually seen the number of market gardening operations dwindle. Consequently, the market gardening landscape has had to evolve.
The yellow onion, a traditional St. Brieuc product
The municipalities of Langueux, Yffiniac and part of Hillion are associated with the cultivation of onions, the traditional variety of which is the ‘oignon jaune paille des vertus’. The variety has a subtle flavour. It is sold at all the markets around the region and a few onion stalls still survive along the old Paris-Brest road.
Jardin des Salines: Hillion’s organic market garden
The Jardin des Salines has been an organic concern since 1993.
Their fruit and vegetables are produced using farming techniques that respect the environment and seek a balance between plants, animals, the soil and the climate.
There are 8 – 12 people involved in cultivating and harvesting the produce. As well as selling at the local markets, vegetable hampers can be ordered online from the Jardin des Salines website and collected direct from the farm on Saturday mornings.
Served hot or cold and either roasted, grilled, fried, sautéed or cooked in a stew or casserole, pork is always full of flavour. It’s easy to cook and goes well with all kinds of vegetables. Breton sausage is made traditionally from only pork leg and shoulder, 75-80% Breton pork to 20-25% fat. That means it’s made from the finest cuts in a natural casing, low in fat and seasoned with Guérande salt and black pepper. It can be cooked in 3 different ways: on the barbecue, in a bain-marie then reheated on the grill, or in the frying pan.
The administrative district of Brittany produces the equivalent of 1.2 million tonnes of carcasses, accounting for more than half the overall production in France (2018 figures). The pork sector is therefore a major provider of jobs with roots in the local territory. Around 31,000 direct jobs are generated by the sector, which numbers almost 6,000 breeding establishments. Over 90% of these establishments are recognised by quality standards (Le Porc Français, Label Rouge, Agriculture biologique Agriconfiance, Agriculture raisonnée, etc.).
Ferme de la Mare and the Guernion brothers
La Ferme de la Mare at Lamballe in the Pays de St. Brieuc has been breeding pigs since 1987, and selling them direct since 1995. They use only family and local recipes. No antibiotics are used, the pigs are fed a non-GMO diet produced on the farm, and animal welfare standards are observed. As a result of all these factors, the farm has been recognised by the ‘Cohérence’ mark since 2005, which certifies establishment as producing Sustainable Pork. It was the first farm to obtain this certification. Find their products on the farm’s own website or at Voisins de Paniers.
Also in Pays de Saint-Brieuc, in 1991 the Frères Guernion in Hillion set themselves the challenge of breeding pigs from birth to slaughter without antibiotics or GMOs. It involved a great deal of work with scientists to perfect the breeding techniques before the first direct sales took place in 2003, to individual customers and restaurants. Updates from the shop are now posted on their Facebook page. There’s also a meat-cutting plant at the farm where they process their own products for a regular clientele of around 3,000.