When discussing French gastronomy, it’s not hard to guess what immediately comes to mind. The trifecta of “wine, cheese and breads” are the usual suspects, closely followed by breakfast pastries, funky foods – mostly along the lines of terrines and patés, frog’s legs, escargots, steak tartare, and what someone once described as “actually, not far from dog food”.
Be that as it may… one man’s meat is another man’s poison, n’est-ce pas?
What may come as a surprise however, is how partial the French are to their sweets, or bonbons, as they call them over here. We’re not talking about gâteaux like a fondant au chocolat or a Paris-Brest, nor desserts like a clafoutis or a crème brûlée, nor pastries like an éclair or a kouign-amman, nor biscuits like a macaron or a tuile, but actual sweets.
Or candy if you’re from the USA. Or lollies if you’re Australian. Yes, sweets.
How fond exactly, of sweets, are the French, you might wonder? Well, consider this – statistics from the Syndicat National de la Confiserie (yeah, they actually have a national candy organisation) state that in 2013, the French spent a total of 1,070 million€, to consume 222 200 tonnes of sweets. Over a billion euros. On average, a French person would consume 3.3kg (or 7.27lbs) of chocolates, dragées, nougats, pâtes de fruits, marzipan and chewing gum per year. For those interested in a full breakdown of stats, click here.
Little wonder then, that the Confiserie Des Haut Vosges is the fifth most visited enterprise in all of France.
GodzillaPin, eager to indulge his sweet tooth.
Having sampled and bought the CDHV goodies many times before, at various Christmas markets and local fares, the duo simply couldn’t resist a visit to the factory in Plainfaing when they were in the area for the Ninja Turtle’s trail race in the Vosges. Hey, carb-loading, right? And since sugars are carbs, who’s to argue with science?
Entry was free and open to all, and the visit included a quick tour with a demonstration of the candy-making process. The team were highly professional and explained the process well, BUT… it was all conducted in French. That said, the factory does welcome international visitors, and there were brochures and pamphlets in English, German (and maybe Italian if one remembers rightly?) At any rate, it’s a great place to bring the kids who need an extra incentive to brush up on the French!
Our guide expertly explaining the process.
Cooking the sugar before adding essential oils to flavour the lollies.
That lump of sweetness weighs about a good 100kg!
Putting the candy through the mould…
As they roll down the conveyor belt, the candy hardens, and as it falls, it shatters into individual pieces…
Where they get rotated for further cooling and to prevent sticking.
Once the factory tour was complete, visitors proceed to the museum.
A video demonstrating part of the fabrication process.
A turbine for dragées, a specialty of Verdun, GodzillaPin’s hometown.
A bergamot plant, a variety of citrus and a popular candy flavour from Nancy.
Traditional copper pots on display. These were called “cul de poule”, which translates to “ass of chicken”. Truly.
The visit ended in the candy store, where GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle spent so much money, the shop gave them a free environmentally-friendly reusable bag to carry all their goodies in, plus three free bags of candy, because of course, the 15 they bought were not enough. After all, with a 3.3kg of candy consumption target each to meet, they’ll need all the sugar they can get to fulfil their patriotic obligation!