French food focus - June 2018

A focus on food in France

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Meet the producers

Sébastien and Olivier Royer produce organic snails, not just for the table, but also for the bathroom! “We started our cosmetic range about five years ago, because we both noticed that as a result of handling snails all the time our hands were so smooth,” explains Sébastien. “So we investigated and found that the mucus from snails actually contains collagen, elastin and all sorts of other elements which regenerate the skin.”

Maison Royer snail farm, in Saint-Paul-en-Pareds in Vendée, originally established by Sébastien and Olivier’s father, now produces 12 tonnes of organic escargots per year, supplying 150 restaurants, as well as their cosmetic range.

They sell products via their website as well as through their own farm shop. “People love to visit the farm and see the snails, especially children. Who didn’t play with snails as a child?”

The farm is open all year round for visits. The baby snails, a million of them, are born in January and live outside in 4,200 square metres of netted fields, eating leafy greens until August when they are ready to be eaten.

Edible products include potatoes stuffed with snails and herbs, wafers stuffed with snails, snail eggs, snail tarts, snail terrine, snails in stock, classic escargots in their shells as well as snail sauce. The organic cosmetics range includes various creams for the face, body, hands and feet, soap, shampoo, and make-up remover.

“It took us some time, more than a year, to develop our own method of collecting the snail mucus,” says Sébastien. “We use a kind of rolling carpet which tickles the snails for about 30 seconds at a time making them produce mucus which we can then collect from the carpet. It’s a very gentle method which doesn’t harm the snails.”

The Royer range of snail cosmetics is now available in pharmacies and organic health food stores all over France, and Sébastien says it is selling well, as interest in natural products is increasing all the time. “The website also works well, and people can buy both escargots and cosmetics online.”

Working in a family business is great. As brothers we obviously get on well together; we complement each other. We plan to extend our buildings so that we can expand the business and we’re partners with the Puy de Fou theme park, which is nearby so that’s working very well for us, too.”

Artisan cheese of the month: Bleu de Gex

Crafted in the Pays de Gex, in the Monts du Jura massif near the Swiss border, this is a tasty blue cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is also sold as Bleu du Haut-Jura or Bleu de Septmoncel.

The cheese’s blue veins come from the mould injected (Penicillium glaucum). Before sale, it is kept in a humid, cool cellar for at least three weeks. In general, maturing continues over a longer period of two to three months.

Bleu de Gex has a light hazelnut and mushroom flavour, a smooth texture and is slightly crumbly.

To buy Bleu de Gex in situ from an artisan cheesemaker today, head to Fromagerie Seignemartin, where they also produce Comté, Abondance and Gruyère.

Local speciality: Lautrec pink garlic

A speciality from the village of Lautrec in Tarn department, l’ail rose (pink garlic) is a Label Rouge product with a sweet and subtle taste and long storage time thanks to a slow drying process. Join local producers for a weekend of fun and tastings of pink garlic dishes on the weekend of August 3-4.