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Bouchot mussels The essential delight of the West

Bouchot mussels

Eating mussels and chips as you contemplate the sea is THE best thing for a summer dinner in Brittany! This holiday dish par excellence suits every appetite. Children love it too, as they can eat with their fingers! A happy moment that belongs to summer holidays.

All about bouchot mussels

How to recognise them

These little molluscs have a bluish-black shell and yellow-orange meat. Low in calories and rich in iodine, mussels are the ideal dish for filling up on protein, calcium and iron. Bouchot mussels are one of many types of mussel. Brittany is known for its “bouchots”, which have an inimitable taste and recognised quality.

Where are they produced?

In Brittany, the production zones for bouchot mussels are mainly in the Breton part of Mont Saint-Michel bay, Saint-Brieuc bay, Brest bay and in the Vilaine estuary near Pénestin.

When to eat them?

The season for mussels is from July to January. Brittany is the second largest mussel farming region, behind Normandy.

 

How are they farmed?

Mussel farmers catch larval mussels naturally on ropes made of natural and biodegradable fibre. They are then wound around wooden stakes, also called bouchots. This way, the mussels are out of reach of crabs and other predators. Each bouchot stake can hold up to 80 kg of mussels. The shell of the bouchot mussel is at least 12mm thick and no more than 8 cm long. It does not contain sand or parasites.

How do you cook them?

In a creamy sauce, on a plancha, stuffed, cold, with escabèche sauce: there are so many ways, it’s entirely up to you!  Use around 500 g per person for a main course. When purchasing, choose shells that are closed or that respond to finger pressure. You need to clean them to remove the byssus (a filament that allows the mussel to attach itself to hard surfaces) and any small shellfish that might have taken up residence on their shell.  They can also be bought already cleaned, in this case they are “ready-to-cook”. Then, put them in a saucepan with an onion, parsley and white wine for the “marinière” version. The mussels open within 5 minutes. Just eat with your fingers or a shell!

 

How to keep them?

Uncooked mussels can be kept for 48 hours in the refrigerator. Already-cooked mussels can be enjoyed as tapas the following day.

 

Tip

To be sure of their freshness, one tip is to put them in water for 10 minutes. Any that float up to the surface must not be eaten.

Producers

 Bouchot mussels from Mont Saint-Michel bay

This is the only Protected Designation of Origin for seafood obtained since 2011.  Production, which is spread over 248 kilometres in Mont-Saint-Michel bay, is assured by around 40 mussel farmers (FR). These mussels have the AOP label and a health label.

Tours and tasting

  • At Maison de la Baie, you can visit bouchot mussel production sites. On board the “mytili-mobile”, all the secrets of farming AOP Bouchot mussels from Mont Saint-Michel bay (FR) will be revealed, along with the work of the mussel farmers with Maison de la Baie (FR).
  • For over 20 years the Moule Morisseau® (FR) has been an essential mussel from Mont-Saint-Michel bay. It appears in the most famous restaurants and is used by chefs with the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” qualification
  • Dégustation Tonneau (FR) in Vivier-sur-Mer is the ideal place for tasting AOP bouchot mussels from Mont-Saint-Michel bay and Pacific oysters, with a view of the bay.

Bouchot mussels from Pénestin

La Pénestin (FR)” has a Red Label, which guarantees the traditional know-how of its producers. This bouchot mussel from Southern Brittany is farmed by around 30 producers around the Vilaine estuary. Pénestin has received the “Site Remarquable du Goût” quality label thanks to this bouchot mussel and its Confrérie des Bouchoteurs (FR).

Tours and tasting:

In the old lighthouse in Tréhiguier port, the Maison de la Mytiliculture (FR) will tell you everything about mussel farming in the Vilaine estuary.

The company Breizh coquillages (FR) organises tours of its site and also proposes tasting sessions

Bouchot mussels from Brest bay

In Plougastel-Daoulas, Nicolas Le Moal has been producing Moules de Bouchot de l’Iroise® since 2006 on over 20,000 stakes in Brest bay, sold by Keraliou (FR). They are known for their taste and size and can be eaten from August to December.

Bouchot mussels from Saint Brieuc bay

Around 20 mussel farmers work on nearly 200,000 bouchots (stakes) in Saint-Brieuc bay, opposite the Hillion peninsula.

 Tours and tasting:

  • In Hillion, come and visit the mussel farm (FR) of Jean-Marie Hurtaud who welcomes you in his farm and explains the mussel circuit, from the stake to the plate. Chef Gilles Jamme from the ‘Cascade (FR)” in Hillion  prepares a tasting session for every visit that enhances the flavour of this shellfish.
  • On the Jospinet slipway, discover the secrets of St Brieuc bay and its bouchots at Panier iodée (FR) on the producer’s site. A shop and a tasting area invite you to enjoy mussels, as well as other shellfish and crustaceans.
  • In the Bon Abri mussel farming area in Hillion, the Cabane de Mytilus (FR) proposes mussels and chips every day in the summer, at midday and in the evening, direct from Saint-Brieuc bay.

Addresses for eating mussels

Le Petit Bouchot (FR) in Fréhel proposes fresh and local cuisine, and as soon as the season arrives mussels are its star product! A little extra: mussels in Roquefort on a sunny terrace close to Cap Fréhel

• Le Café de l’Ouest (FR) in Saint-Malo with its marine-themed decoration in the middle of the city, its waiters in uniform (red braces of course!), its quality and fresh products. Its little extras: thoughtful touches like fish rillette as soon as you are settled, sun hats loaned to customers who want shade from the sun, quality products selected with care (semi-salted churned butter, for example).

La Marinière (FR) : is the only restaurant on Boulevard de la Mer in Saint-Cast-le-Guildo, in front of the large beach, and makes it a point of honour to work with local producers, in season.

Au P’tit Bouchot (FR) in Pénestin proposes a fish and seafood menu where you can eat local mussels in Tréhiguier port .

• In Brest, you have to go to the Tour du Monde (FR), the restaurant of Olivier de Kersauzon, where you can taste Moules de Bouchot de l’Iroise® in a relaxed atmosphere with a panoramic terrace above the marina.

Events around mussels

Did you know?

How did Bouchot mussels come about?

This form of farming is down to the Irish man, Patrick Walton, who in 1235 noticed that poles planted in the sea were spontaneously covered with mussels. The poles were arranged to form a wooden fence, which he called “bout” and “choat”. The bouchots get their name from this invention.

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