Tag: Switzerland

Cooked, Cured, Curdled | The Story of Traditional Food in Europe – Part 4

Of all the indigenous produce in Europe the bolet is the most popular mushroom


The winter wonderland of the Ursern Valley became a reality for outsiders who wanted to witness Goethe’s ‘snow-capped mountainous desert’ when rail followed road. Open to easterlies and westerlies, heavy precipitation (with snow 184 days a year) and bitterly cold winds, winters in the Ursern valley are harsh and long. Summers are generally warm and wet.

The first settlers in the Ursern contributed to the monotonous landscape. They cleared forested slopes to gain new pastureland. Their animals denuded the slopes. Constantly threatened by devastating avalanches, the valley was almost bare when houses began to dot the landscape.

In 1397 a notice was issued that forbid the removal of the trees by their inhabitants and their descendants. Experience showed that a forested slope provided protection against avalanches, rockfalls and whitewater. Hardly anyone took notice and almost 500 years passed before a plan was made to erect avalanche barriers and begin reforestation.

By 1950 three new forests had been created. The forested land around Andermatt, the principle town of the valley, was doubled and forest wildernesses were created to promote biodiversity. Now there are almost 170 hectares of high forest in the Ursern Valley.

The hunting of deer, chamois, marmots, foxes and badgers is allowed for two weeks each September. Small game hunting season runs from 15 October to 30 November. Wild berry collecting has no limit. However wild mushroom collecting has a daily limit – no more than 500 grams of morels, 2 kilos of chanterelles and 3 kilos of boletus and other mushrooms.

A rival to mushroom soup and stew containing mushrooms, among the most popular traditional dishes in Europe, sausage with mushroom sauce is prominent.

The sausage might be smoked or it might be spicy. It might be cut up and served in the sauce. Generally the sausage is left whole, grilled and served with potatoes and the sauce.

In Switzerland the large pork sausages called bratwürst are a popular snack with bread and condiments. They come alive when they are served with creamed mushroom sauce that sometimes comes with the grated potato dish called rösti.

Ever since the white mushrooms known as champignon d‘Paris became popular they have replaced the bolet mushroom in this sauce, although clever chefs add reconstituted dried porcini to give the sauce an earthy depth of flavour.

So while the champignonrahmsauce is a pragmatic accessory to the bratwürst among chefs and cooks, those with access to the mushrooms of the forest prefer to make this typically Swiss dish with fresh boletus. Then it becomes bratwürst mit steinpilzerahmsauce, a totally different reality with no equal.

The mushroom hunters who bring home freshly dug bolets and chanterelles usually have two thoughts in their mind.

Do I fry these mushrooms in a little oil and eat them with fresh bread?

Do I fry them in oil and add fresh eggs to make an omelette garnished with freshly cracked black peppercorns?

As a traditional accompaniment, creamed mushroom sauce features with slices of veal and once again the champignon d‘Paris is favoured. It also features with meatballs in a dish that is popular in Poland, where the cream is sour cream and, in typical Polish tradition, the sauce is piquant. The choice of mushrooms is more egalitarian. In Italy the sauce is made with cream, garlic and, not unsurprisingly, porcini.


BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Brisolée (autumn harvest buffet with chestnuts, cheese, fruit and wine)

BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Brisolée (autumn harvest buffet with chestnuts, cheese, fruit and wine)

Three elements of the autumnal brisolée © ST/swiss-image.ch

From the attic window in the alpine chalet, a fine mist can be seen hovering over the valley in the pubescent dawn, the sun still to rise over the mountain peaks. Gradually, as the morning lengthens its shadows, the mist will dissipate, the valley light will shimmer in the promise of a clear day and the high mountains will be framed by a blue window. 

This momentary vista is a mere glimpse of the absolute magic of the Rhône Valley, in high summer a sumptuous land full of growth, at summer’s end a mystical land like this morning. All the way from the expanse of the lake known as Léman where cormorants gaze into the water from the rocks at Château de Chillon to the magnificence of the Aletsch Glacier where chamois look askance at solitary hikers high above the longitudinal plain, this Swiss valley canton offers something unique in the world.

It is the first week of October. The grapes have been harvested, the chestnuts have been collected and apples, apricots and pears have been dried and pulped and fermented and left whole. Tweaks have been made to apple pie recipes. New wines have been selected. Rounds of mountain cheese have been declared ready. Legs of beef have been salt-spice cured, air-dried and delicately sliced, also ready. Batches of rye bread have been baked. Finally the apples pies have been prepared … and baked. Everyone is ready!

chestnuts-in-pan-cutout-lowres

Hand-picking sweet chestnuts from the woods alongside the Rhône under the high peaks is an old tradition of the people. Traditionally the chestnuts were roasted over an open fire, taken inside and served with chunks of mature mountain cheese accompanied by fresh grapes, pieces of apple and pear, grape (must) juice or young wine to wash everything down. Nothing unusual there, just the typical country fare of the canton.

Except this is brisolée, the autumn harvest plate of the people who tend the land where the Rhône is joined by the Dranse at the acute turn eastwards into the valley below the Bernese Alps at Martigny.

Here chestnuts abound between the river, the town of Martigny and the adjacent village of Fully, where the annual chestnut fair is more than a celebration, it is an event characterised by brisolée and fondue and the traditional produce and products of the valley.

The roast chestnut, cheese and wine tradition morphed into a café culture in the Martigny-Fully region in the 1960s when café and restaurant owners realised they could replicate the domestic culture, and offer buffet-style versions of the original plate in a celebration of the change of the seasons.

Brisolée became a traditional dish with an appeal beyond the Martigny-Fully region. Now it is an aspect of the food culture in the Swiss-French speaking areas of the Valais and neighbouring Vaud along the Lac Léman shore. Chestnuts, cheese and wine remain the common denominators of the dish, except among those (including the organisers of the chestnut fair at Fully) who include other Valais products, such as the air-dried beef produced in the canton and various charcuterie. Deep red in colour, these thin slices of beef give off an aroma that is unique to their producers. They compliment brisolée.

In the home the older tradition prevails, with apple tart an integral component. The rye bread of the region is now an essential component of the café and fair culture, and sometimes a brisolée plate will contain roast chestnuts, cheese, rye bread and air-dried beef.

A good place to sample brisolée is the Restaurant de Plan-Cerisier above Martigny Croix on the switch-back road into France.

Brisolée Produce


Rye Bread and Dried Beef
Cheese and Apples
Brisolée buffets are now typically organised in October by restauranteurs and hoteliers but wine-growers continue to arrange brisolée parties in their cellars, and small events are held in the home.

2 bottles new wine
1 kg apples, cored, quartered
1 kg chestnuts, washed, notched
1 litre must (white grape juice)
1 kg pears, cored, quartered
1 rye bread, cut into thin slices
500 g mountain cheese, cut into chunks
500 g white grapes
180 g dried beef slices
Butter

Roast chestnuts for 35 minutes in oven at 200°C. Wrap chestnuts in a cloth. Serve chestnuts with buttered rye bread, cheese, dried beef, white grapes, apples, pears and must.

Brisolée Recipe

Cooking Chestnuts in the Rhône Valley

BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Alpine Cheeses | Swiss Cheese Grotto 

René Ryser is proud of his ‘cheese grotto’ high above Gstaad, more than delighted with the arrangement that allows artisan cheese-makers to store their products in the controlled environment of his warehouse in Lauenen and happy to sell these delicious local cheeses in his shop.

Made with raw milk from the cows that graze the pastures of the Berner Oberland from Interlaken to the Simmental, each cheese is unique to its creator. Alpkäse, a six to eighteen month valley cheese, is a full fat hard cheese stored as rounds that weigh between five and 16 kilos. Hobelkäse, the mountain cheese, is a mature cheese with a depth of flavour that sets it apart.

In their shop on Lauenenstrasse at the bottom of the town beyond the Saanen river, we ogle regional cheeses – Bleu de Lenk, Etivaz, Livarot, Sapolet, Schönriederli Geräuchert – and cheeses from further afar including cheeses with geographical indicator status.

Then it becomes obvious. Alpine tradition is defined by the cheese-makers across the Bernese Alps with a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Back to the grotto.

BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Alpine Cheeses | Hobelkäse

Hobelkäse SWITZERLAND mountain cheese

AlpineCheesePosters-lowres

BLUE WINDOW | Food Travels in the Alps | Alpine Cheeses | Raclette du Valais

Raclette du Valais SWITZERLAND alpine cheese

RacletteduValais-lowres

A winemaker called Leon is held responsible for the invention of the melting cheese known as raclette, when he accidentally let a half-wheel melt by the fire. 

It is a good story but the origins of cheese-making in the hidden valleys of the Rhône river valley go back to before the Romans occupied the region. 

For centuries, cheese was used as currency among the people and with visiting traders.

Geographically and historically linked to the area that now defines the canton, specifically the valleys of Bagnes and Goms, Raclette du Valais is a semi-hard cheese associated with the lively Hérens cows. 

As much a part of Swiss alpine scenery as the chalet and cable car, these cows graze the fragrant flora of sloping meadows along with the black-dotted cows of picture postcard Switzerland.

The people of the Rhône valley regard their raclette as the true melting cheese despite its wider production in other parts of Switzerland and especially on the other side of the Alps in Savoy. 

For hoteliers like Stefan Welschen, our host for the night in Brig, raclette is the speciality of the canton, because of its character and the variety of its flavours. 

The herders of the Goms Valley insist their milk is superior to that of the Val de Bagnes, and vice versa. 

Once described as ‘delicious, fatty, sweet and soft’, the raclette wheels are consumed by the Valaisans themselves, melted, scraped and served in numerous ways or grilled until its edges are crisped. 

A sixth of all raclette produced in Switzerland comes from the canton. A little is exported, largely to émigrés.

Fricot Feature | Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part Two


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36-month old Malga Stravecchio

Producing cheese from raw milk and natural rennet, heat and fermentation is older than history. Archaeologists and historians have an idea when it started. That idea, or story if you prefer, is based on a presumption.

The story involved a merchant in an ancient caravanserai – a camel train – on a journey under the hot sun across ancient lands. When the merchant arrived at the destination, milk carried in a bag made from a sheep’s stomach was discovered to be lumpy, churned into curds by the constant jogging of the camel on uneven ground under the heat of that sun.

The same argument has been made for the discovery of yoghurt. Same principle.

Of course it is possible it might have been a deliberate experiment. Meat was tenderised under the saddles of the horsemen who travelled long distances, a tradition that continued until horses became sports stars and lost their natural status in society. Our ancestors never ceased to discover methods to preserve their food, using microbial fermentations and elaborate techniques that are still in use today and cannot be replicated fully by modern methods.

It is the old cliche, if it isn’t broken …

Reportáž z byndziarne vo Zvolenskej Slatine.© Dušan Kittler
The Making of Bryndza, the soft sheep’s cheese of Poland and Slovakia

Whether it was accidental or deliberate is no longer relevant. Somewhere, somehow, someone realised that the character of milk could be altered to produce a food with a longish life – cheese!

Whether this happened 5000 years ago or 3500 years ago is relevant for one reason. The pasteurisation of milk is modern – very modern, a speck in time.

This leaves us with a dilemma. In the countries where cheese has become an integral aspect of the character of farming – ancient and modern – there is a strong raw milk tradition in its preparation.

This includes many European countries, in fact mostly European. That should not be a shock to anyone who knows the history of food. It is also not a surprise that cheese making is a mountain and valley occupation, that goat’s milk rather than sheep’s milk and certainly not cow’s milk has been the driver through time.

The environment is the medium.

Goat’s milk makes fresh cheese, sheep’s milk makes cheese that is adaptable, and cow’s milk makes cheese that has a relatively long life, certainly in the maturation period. Each has a tradition that is unique in the countries where these animals graze the fields and meadows and upland slopes.

It is not a surprise that some of the best cheese in the world comes from countries with high country snow, where the flora is rich in the organoleptic qualities that are transferred to the cheese via the milk.

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Pouring the Rennet

America does not appear to have a milk or a cheese tradition, yet it is the Americans who are driving the campaign, if it can be called that, to eradicate cheese made from raw milk. They would prefer to ban all products made with raw milk.

Deaths from food poisoning have generally come from mass-produced industrial food or from food that has been contaminated by industrial processes or food tainted by toxic waste. Deaths from eating cheese made with raw milk do not compare.

Is there an agenda? People who know cheese believe there is.

It starts with the microbes that inhabit the world, the single cell organisms called bacteria. They are present in the milk and are present in the rennet, the enzymatic preparation that clots milk, changing it into curds. These microbes digest the lactose in milk and, in the process, produce lactic acid, which acts as a preservative.

The enzyme is called chymosin. It is found in the stomachs of ruminants – which is why the milk curdled on that famous journey.

When chymosin is introduced to the milk as rennet it converts the proteins from liquid into solid. This coagulation process is the result of a catalytic action. Casein makes up the majority of milk proteins. There are four casein molecules in milk – alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta and kappa.

Without kappa casein, milk would spontaneously coagulate. Milk proteins are soluble because of kappa casein. When chymosin interacts with kappa casein it converts it into a protein called macropeptide. The milk can no longer hold its liquid state. It clots and changes into curds.

Bacteria are maligned, yet not all bacteria are malignant, many are beneficial and without them our food web would disintegrate. We would have no fermented food, including the aromatic cheeses that allow you ‘to taste the animal’.

The secret of cheese making is the skilful management of microbes, and the management of moisture before and after the process. Therefore cheese should be made with milk that is as fresh as it comes, before any kind of harmful microbial activity can take place. It should be stored in conditions that are not receptive to microbial activity. And, ideally, cheese consumers should be knowledgable when they buy and store cheese.

The pasteurisation of milk will destroy harmful bacteria but it will also produce a different kind of cheese. In their book, Reinventing the Wheel – Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese, Bronwen and Francis Percival are typically patronising in their approach to this issue. If the book was less about them and more about cheese, it would be educational. It is not the first book on cheese to patronise its potential readers and it won’t be the last. There is knowledge and wisdom in the Percival book, unfortunately it is hidden among the paragraphs that state ‘look at us, aren’t we clever when we write about cheese?’

Campaigners for real cheese, they are not!

This is the problem and sadly it is not confined to the likes of the Percivals. Ignorance of ‘real’ cheese among the general population has allowed supermarket chains to sell ‘cheap’ cheese, especially in the English speaking world. In their profit before people behaviour, supermarkets dictate what the people purchase. Cheese connoisseurs naturally go elsewhere and are not typically concerned about those who have no understanding of ‘slow food’ and no informed knowledge about artisanal products. That said, not everyone can afford to shop at Neal’s Yard Dairy, where Bronwen Percival is the cheese buyer.

Rene Ryser manages a cheese grotto and a cheese shop in the Swiss Alps

Real Cheese from Bern country in south-west Switzerland, where farmers are strongly supported by the Swiss government and local cantons

Sadly we now live in a world where ‘real’ cheese is for those with purchasing power and ‘plastic’ cheese is for everyone else. If there is concern about the demise of ‘real’ cheese makers in the English language-speaking countries, it is not manifest among those who are used to hopping over to France, Italy or Switzerland to buy the cheeses that do not travel, like the best Abondance or Appenzeller or Fontina or Malga or Tomme or Sbrinz – all cheeses with strong local traditions, that become expensive when they are purchased at specialist outlets in Dublin or London or New York.

Cheese, as Bronwen Percival is not slow to demonstrate, is a continental European sensibility, where cheese can be bought from a dedicated artisanal shop – a fromagerie – or from a market stall, sometimes from the cheese maker themselves, or from a supermarket chain that is sensitive to the desires of its customers.

In Britain and Ireland it is difficult to find a supermarket that has on its shelves ‘real’ cheese. Abondance, the wonderful cheese of the Savoyard region of the French Alps, found its way into the Tesco chain in Ireland, interestingly at a price lower than at Auchan and Carrefour in France and Italy. Miracles do happen!

But we digress.

Reinventing-the-Wheel
Published by Bloomsbury

The most interesting chapter in Reinventing the Wheel is chapter seven. For those not as knowledgable about the cheese world as Bronwen Percival, this chapter is worth the price of the book.

When the Percivals state that the regulation of cheese – ‘deciding what is and what isn’t safe to eat’ – is ‘caught up in the fraught discussion of milk hygiene and safety,’ they make a very important point, which they are not slow to elucidate: ‘cheese is not liquid milk’.

As someone who is lactose intolerant and was forced to drink warm milk in school as a child, I find it difficult, 50 years later, to trust those who are entrusted to look after public health. Anyone with a brain, who was forced to drink raw milk as a child during the middle decades of the 1900s in certain countries, worked that out and were told to keep quiet. The pasteurisation of milk solved one problem, authority and morality remain.

Food safety has been an issue since the first nomads settled down in central Anatolia over 11 000 years ago, it came with civilisation and remained all the way into the modern era. Those with knowledge might argue that the French and the Swiss have better standards of food safety than the Americans, yet there is an argument that American-led laboratory science has been let loose on a world that is now scared of its own shadow – rightly so in many instances, but not with cheese made with raw milk and prepared in traditional ways. The Reblochon story in the Percival book is an example of the kind of ‘rational pragmatism’ that should be adopted toward raw milk cheese making.

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This is the Swiss reblochon

If the Americans want to impose a zero risk regulation to ensure food safety, that is their prerogative. For those of us who love raw milk cheeses, from the Camembert of Normandie to the Reblochon de Savoie – two cheeses singled out by the Percivals, we will continue to take our chances. Thankfully not everyone lives in the USA.

Unfortunately the future of raw milk cheeses in Britain and Ireland is bleak, because of the American influence. A tradition that is young and weak cannot compete with a tradition that is old and strong. Elizabeth Bradley makes a cheese just as good as any of the similar cheeses made in France and Italy. Her years do not compare with their years. America’s baleful influence on other countries is a worry to those who care about ‘real’ food, never mind ‘real’ cheese.

Of course we here in Fricot are biased. We have absolute faith in traditional methods. All the preserved foods come from an ancient lineage of expertise that resulted in techniques that have been passed down the generations and work as well today as they did thousands of years and countless generations ago.

Mechanisation does not produce good food, that is obvious to anyone who understands the lack of an organoleptic characteristic in anything that is mass produced. It certainly does not produce food as good as cheese made from raw milk.

So what is the real issue?

It might be obvious to say it is about food corporations and their desire to make profits from the mass production of cheese made with ‘safe’ milk. Certainly making money is a strong criteria for those who need to make money.

That would be the easy explanation, the truth this time is hard and complicated.

For now we should celebrate those who want to make cheese because they have a strong desire to produce a product that has organoleptic qualities, that has a unique taste and a depth of flavour, that is the consequence of its environment and their skill.

Tète de Moine (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti)

Fricot Feature | Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part One

Goat farmer Elizabeth Bradley is a cheese-maker in Ballybrommel in the flatlands below Mount Leinster in east Carlow, south-east of Dublin. A few kilometers away in Shillelagh under the gaze of the mountains in west Wicklow dairy farmer Tom Burgess uses a portion of his summer milk to make cheese.

They make two of the most aromatic cheeses in Europe, one with goat’s milk, one with cow’s milk. In industry parlance they are artisanal, making hardly enough to mark the shadow of an impression in the billions of exports in dairy products. That is because they sell to local markets. That is one of their problems!

They have other problems, that have nothing to do with making and selling cheese. These problems are shared by most cheese makers across Europe, especially artisanal producers who are not concerned with packaging and supermarkets, with dairies, commerce and exports, and with the glossy promotional images of farmers and cheese that have nothing to do with reality. People who like to be small and be very good at what they do.

Cheese-making in Ireland was an ancient activity. It was part of the fabric of society. Michael Ó Sé, writing about old cheeses (and other milk products) in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1948 referred to the traditional coagulants used in cheese-making. Binit (calves rennet) and binit uain (lambs rennet) were used as animal rennets, and mothan (bog violet) as a vegetable rennet. Sadly this tradition died with many of the old ways and for several hundred years Irish cheese-making was just another myth.

By referring to the old methods, using the same raw materials, farmers returned to cheese-making in the 1900s and within two generations Irish cheeses were back on the shelves. Bord Bia, in their promotions for farmhouse cheese-making, noted the fact. “The cheese-makers developed their craft, and enthusiastic friends, enlightened local chefs and shopkeepers put in orders for cheeses and the amateurs slowly evolved into professionals. Experience and knowledge passed to other interested farms and slowly a new food culture began to emerge.”

In Ireland, say Bord Bia (the governmental food department), our farmhouse cheeses are unique to each producer, expressing terroir in the true sense of the word. “This has the advantage of allowing for innovation and creativity, while still respecting the values of traditional cheese-making. Our European neighbours find it hard to believe that each cheese is only produced on one farm and is the result of the passion and dedication of one family.”

“The personality of the cheese-maker is often reflected in aspects of their cheese; from the wild and unpredictable to the precise and consistent. The large range of Irish farmhouse cheeses now available is exceptional considering the youth of the industry and the small size of our island.”

Elizabeth Bradley has just collected 500 litres of raw cow’s milk from a dairy farmer in Bagnelstown. She will pay the fixed market rate of 39 cents a litre. “Most dairy farmers will not sell their milk to small cheese-makers, because they are afraid of any consequences,” she says, driving back to her small farm with the milk in tow. She pumps the milk into her 500 litre vat, adds the starter culture and gradually brings the milk up to 32ºC. Several hours later the curds of cheese rest in containers under a press.

Over in Shillelagh Tom Burgess explains why the grass is the hero of his Irish cheddar. “It is made from grass-fed milk, other cheddars are not made from grass milk. So my cheddar is a yellow colour. English cheddars are white. It is still-growing grass, living, a natural environment.”

His 150 cows graze 200 acres. They calve in February and March, and milk through the summer when the grass is growing. Milking is stopped in November and December. For that reason he realised he needed a product with a long shelf life and decided on cheddar.

“There was already a demand for cheddar, and I felt the customer would move onto a stronger cheddar and pay more for a better sample. It melts well, cooks well, people know cheddar. It fitted my production profile, which was seasonal production.”

“It is a mature cheddar so I make the whole year’s production and then I store it. We make about 200-250 kilos a day over 80 days, that’s 16 tonnes. And we are still increasing. We are selling it but we would like to put it in the supermarkets where it will sell in volume.”

He employs two people to make the cheese. “I am able to pay them, instead of working on my own, the milk lorry arriving in the middle of the night, and still make a sustainable living out of my cattle.”

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The Moo Man film makers Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier might come to Ireland to feature the work of raw milk cheese-makers. After the success of their film about Sussex dairy farmer Steve Hook and his small organic raw milk business, it is no surprise to hear that the next stage of the process – cheese-making – is on their agenda.

Heathcote was drawn to the story of Errington Cheese who were forced to close their business after the authorities in Scotland implicated them in an outbreak of ecoli and has decided that the wider issue of bacteria in raw milk cheese should be investigated. His initial investigations tell him that there are numerous agendas, and for those reasons there are genuine fears for raw milk cheese-makers like Bradley and Burgess.

Rules that do not apply to raw milk cheese makers in France, Italy or Switzerland, where raw milk cheeses are celebrated as part of a regional food culture that attracts tourists and customers, are being applied to Irish and Scottish cheese-makers.

Dubliner Ben Sherwood has just finished his thesis on the future of raw milk cheese in Ireland. He is optimistic about Irish cheese but not sure about the future. “We could end up losing all our raw milk cheese-makers unless we do something,” he says. “There do not seem to be many new cheese-makers. Between 1995 and 2015 we lost about two-thirds of our raw milk cheeses.”

Elizabeth Bradley has another theory. “Part of it is the fact that there are very few people depending solely on raw milk cheeses for a livelihood so are therefore not going to take the risk.”

Ben Sherwood wonders whether the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are taking a lead from the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, where soft raw milk cheeses are not allowed. “You cannot sell or import two-month old raw milk cheese.”

This policy is part of the precautionary principle and the FSAI believe they serve the public by being cautious. Earlier this year supermarkets removed a pasteurised cow’s milk brie from their shelves. “As a precautionary measure, SuperValu is recalling batches of Wicklow Blue, due to the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes,” the FSAI stated in a public announcement.

In 2005 University College Cork food sciences professor Alan Kelly surveyed food scientists on the public understanding of food risk issues and messages, and found that these experts had “little confidence” in the public’s understanding of food risk issues. “The public under-assesses the risk associated with some microbiological hazards and over-assesses the risk associated with other hazards such as genetically modified organisms and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.” They also said that the “media tend to communicate information that is misleading”.

Another reason for FSAI’s concern.

Paolo-Verona-Cheeses.lowres

During his student years Ben Sherwood worked part-time in a shop with a specialist cheese counter. It gave him a window into the world of cheese consumers. “Only a small minority who come into the shop come up to the cheese counter,” he says. “People who know their cheeses know what they want, they have their favourites, the ones they are familiar with. Then there are people who haven’t a clue, but want to learn. Those are the best moments, that small interaction and the change in peoples outlook that one piece of cheese can make. They are the key to improving our culture.”

At the street markets across the country it is the same. Some people buy the cheeses they know, while other people want to know more about cheese. If the seller is also the cheese-maker they are in luck. “I think people do care,” says Elizabeth Bradley, “but are bombarded with information, have very busy lives, huge demands from the complex system around them.”

There is, according to Ben, a blissful ignorance about cheese. Despite attempts by the state, through Bord Bia, and others, like Sheridans cheesemongers, to promote Irish cheese, the medium does not convey the message.

Something is wrong.

Who is killing the cheese-makers? We all are, if you believe those who care about cheese, raw milk cheese in particular. From those in authority who display a “terrible arrogance” to those in the artisanal food sector who appear to be ruled by “arrogance and fear” to the consumer who has a “blissful ignorance” and sees food as an entertainment rather than a culture, to a media that has no excellence in food writing.


… continued in part two.

Legendary Dishes | Mischleta (apple, cheese, corn and potato gratin)

SWITZERLAND
  • 400 g potatoes, cooked whole, peeled, cut into 1 cm slices
  • 250 g sweet apples, peeled, quartered and halved
  • 200 g coarse corn
  • 200 g Bergkäse / Swiss mountain cheese, grated or sliced
  • 60 g butter
  • 30 ml rapeseed oil
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Oven dish, 25 cm in length

Sauté apples and potatoes in oil in batches in a frying pan over a medium heat, season and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Grease baking dish liberally, add the corn, cheese, potatoes and apples in layers and finish with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve on warmed plates.


INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS =  Apples | Corn | Mountain Cheese | Potatoes

LEGENDARY DISHES


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EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Legendary Dishes | Apfelsalat (apple salad)

AUSTRIA GERMANY LIECHTENSTEIN SWITZERLAND

Traditionally this salad utilised cored and peeled apples, quartered and sliced, dressed with sugar, for sweetness, and crushed walnuts, and served with cold cuts. None of that here. The vegan version is faithful to the old recipe, and adds a little lemon juice, for tartness, and hazelnuts to accompany the walnuts. The vegetarian version allows for a cream-milk sauce.

6 apples, cored, peeled, quartered and sliced
120 ml cream (optional)
120 ml milk (optional)
60 g hazelnuts, chopped small
1 lemon, juice and zest
45 g icing sugar
30 g walnuts, crushed

Combine apples with lemon juice and zest, and the sugar, stir and leave to rest for an hour in the refrigerator. Dress with nuts, and, if desired, whisk the cream into the milk. Serve sauce with the apple salad.


INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS =  Apple | Hazelnut | Walnut

LEGENDARY DISHES


FRESH FRICOT | THE FRONT PAGE


EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     
GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Legendary Dishes | Pangasius Knusperli im Backteig (pangasius nuggets)

SWITZERLAND

Despite the proliferation of fresh water fish in Switzerland, increasingly popular is a member of the catfish family from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta called pangasius. There is a sense, wandering around Bern, that fish and chips have been given a Swiss makeover with this Asian speciality, which Pangasius
reached export sales of €20 million in Europe during 2014. Sold in fast food outlets as deep fried battered nuggets, fillets of pangasius are also available breaded and ready to cook in supermarkets. We are enjoying the takeaway version from a cafe at the tram stop junction on Hessestrasse.

  • 400 g pangasius fillets, cut into 4 cm strips
  • 125 g flour
  • 100 ml white wine / beer
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 30 ml canola / sunflower oil
  • 5 g mustard powder
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • Baking powder, pinch
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch
  • Oil, for deep frying

Whisk wine or beer, oil and egg yolks into the flour, mustard powder and PangasiusKnusperliCoop
salt for a smooth batter. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter. Heat oil to 190°C in a deep pan. Dredge pangasius pieces in the batter. Fry until golden, about three minutes. Dress with lemon juice. Serve with French fries.


Photos courtesy of Pangasius Vietnam, the Seafood exporters and producers of Vietnam and the Coop supermarket in Switzerland.

LEGENDARY DISHES


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EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     
GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Legendary Dishes | Fondue (aromatic cheeses, melted with wine, served with bread cubes) + Fondue Story

Cheese, garlic, kirsch, potato (or corn starch) and white wine are the essential ingredients of fondue. Emmental, Gruyère and Vacherin, the cheeses that form the base for a classic Swiss fondue, only tell part of its story.

FRANCE | SWITZERLAND 

Across from the railway station in Lausanne is a rising cobbled street. It leads to a busy road in the heart of the lakeside city. Located in an alleyway across from a nondescript church is the august establishment known as Café Romand. We looked around and wondered where we could sit. A sign above the kitchen celebrated the year 1951. Immediately we were transported into Switzerland’s past, when the country was still clinging to its culture, its traditions and its unique forms of language – Swiss-French along its western border with France, Swiss-German throughout almost two-thirds of its 26 cantons, Italian in the south and Romanche in the east. Yet here, on the rising shore of Lake Geneva, Café Romand epitomised this distinctiveness and uniqueness.

The Swiss are a courteous, generally friendly people with a strong sense of identity, an even stronger sense of belonging rooted in place, especially in the mountains. This is evident in the café.

A thin, gaunt woman dressed in a white apron and black dress, money belt hung loosely around her slight waist, asked us for patience. We waited. We were standing close to the kitchen, while waitresses darted in and out.

Meanwhile the waitress who had told us to be patient began dragging a smallish square table to an area between similar sized tables and several oblong tables joined together. She motioned for us to follow her.

In a flash she whipped out a white table cloth, produced cutlery from somewhere, chairs from somewhere else and told us to sit while she bought the menu cards. A badge on her waitress uniform told us she was Virginia.

We thanked her and ordered fondue. It was the reason we had come, ‘the best fondue in Lausanne is in the Café Romand,’ we were told.

It was. 

Then we heard an interesting story. The high mountains that divide France from Switzerland are believed to be the birthplace of this comforting winter dish and there is ample evidence to suggest that fondue is a product of the dairy farmers who have tended cattle for centuries on high meadows, in the areas of France and Switzerland once known as the Duchy of Savoy. It stretched across the Alps into Piedmont in Italy, and in the departments of Haute Savoy and Savoy in France and in the cantons of Vaud and the Valais the people shared the same food culture.

The western Swiss cantons of Fribourg, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud all specialise in fondue but Emmental, Gruyère and Vacherin – the classic cheeses that form the basis for a classic Swiss fondue – only tell part of the fondue story.

The Vacherin cheese of Fribourg is preferred by fondue aficionados because it adds full flavour to the mildness of the Emmental and the piquancy of the Gruyère – the combination for the classic Neuchâteloise.

Neuchâteloise, Moitié Moitié (half Gruyère, half Vacherin) and the fondue served in Salvan restaurants and along the valley canton are among the most popular with Swiss people. If you want to know which cheeses go into which fondues served high in the Alps you will have to ask. This is another clue to the origins of fondue.

More than likely you will be told a story about black and white cows, sonorous bells and hidden valleys. The semi-hard ‘delicious, fatty, sweet and soft’ cheeses of the Bagnes and Goms valleys are associated with the lively Hérens cows, as much a part of Swiss alpine scenery as the chalet and cable car, and the fondue of the region.

An older, more romantic fondue! Yet not that different from the fondue served in the valleys of Haute Savoy, across Lake Geneva, across the high peaks between the Valais canton.

High above Martigny in the valley canton of Switzerland, the picturesque town of Salvan is an alpine vision of perfection. Here, and all along the Trient valley towards Chamonix – the ski resort in the French Alps, the restaurants serve a special fondue made from mountain pasture cheese, in the tradition of their fore-bearers.

Of course the popularity of this amazing cheese dish may also have something to do with the tradition that demands punishment when a diner loses their bread in the fondue pot.

A man must buy a bottle of wine or a round of drinks.

A woman must kiss all the men in the company.


Fondue Savoyarde

Beaufort, Emmentaler

Made with milk from the abondance and tarine cows found grazing alpine flora. Beaufort is known as the prince of mountain cheeses in Haute Savoy and Savoy, and usually the principle ingredient in this distinctive fondue.

  • 1 large farmhouse loaf, cut into cubes
  • 400 g beaufort cheese, grated
  • 400 g emmentaler cheese, grated
  • 375 ml dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Nutmeg, large pinch
  • Black pepper, large pinch

Rub the inside of the fondue pot (caquelon) with garlic. Add the cheeses white wine. Warm over a low heat, stirring thoroughly with a wooden spoon to obtain a smooth, blended mixture. Add pepper and grated nutmeg. Let the fondue cook for five more minutes, stirring constantly. Place the fondue pot over its warmer and enjoy the fondue by dipping the pieces of bread using long forks.


Fondue Rustique

Appenzeller, Emmental, Gruyère, Vacherin

  • 1 large farmhouse loaf, cut into cubes
  • 300 ml white wine
  • 200 g appenzeller cheese, grated
  • 200 g gruyère cheese, grated 200 g smoked bacon, cubed
  • 200 g vacherin fribourgeois cheese, grated
  • 150 g ham, cut into thin strips
  • 100 g emmentaler cheese, grated  
  • 75 ml kirschwasser (sour cherry spirit – schnapps)
  • 20 g potato starch
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Lemon juice, splash
  • 1 sprig tarragon
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Paprika, pinch 
  • Nutmeg, pinch

Sauté the bacon in a frying pan over a low heat. When the fat begins to separate add the ham strips and tarragon. Remove from heat. Rub fondue pot (caquelon) with the garlic clove. Add the cheeses, potato starch and wine, warm slowly. When the cheese starts to bubble on the surface, reduce heat, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch followed by the bacon and ham pieces. Season and leave the fondue to cook for five minutes over a low heat. Transfer the pot to its warmer and enjoy the fondue by dipping the pieces of bread using long forks.


Fondue Simpilär

Gruyère, Raclette

Less well known are the individual fondue of the mountain valleys. In their 2012 cookbook the farmer’s association of the Wallis canton offer a fondue made with local raclette and local wine.

  • 400 g gruyère mature cheese, grated
  • 400 g raclette full-fat cheese, grated
  • 20 g cornstarch
  • 20 ml Walliser white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • White bread, cubed

Rub caquelon with the garlic, add wine and reduce. Turn the heat low, stir in the cheese and allow to melt gradually. Make a paste with the cornstarch and a little wine. Add to the fondue and reduce. Serve with bread, keeping the fondue warm.


Fondue Neuchâtel

Emmental, Gruyère, Vacherin

The classic fondue in Switzerland.

  • 800 g mixture of emmental, gruyère, vacherin, grated
  • 240 ml kirschwasser
  • 35 ml white wine
  • 20 g /cornstarch
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • nutmeg, grated
  • White bread, cubed

Usual procedure. Add the lemon juice with the cornstarch and wine, then the kirschwasser, finishing with the nutmeg.


Fondue Apfel Walnuss

Gruyère and Vacherin with apple and walnuts

  • 400 g gruyère cheese, grated
  • 400 g vacherin Fribourgeois cheese, grated
  • 2 apples, diced small
  • 240 ml apple brandy
  • 50 g walnuts, coarsely chopped, toasted
  • 40 ml white wine
  • 20 g cornstarch
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved
  • Nutmeg, grated
  • Cayenne pepper, pinch
  • White bread, cubed

Replace kirschwasser with apple brandy. Once cheese is melted add walnuts, then carefully stir in the apple pieces. Finish with the cayenne and nutmeg.


Älpler Fondue

Appenzeller, Emmental mature, Emmental mild, Sprinz with macaroni and bacon

Inside the Cheese Grotto in the Swiss Alps
  • 350 g emmental mature cheese, grated
  • 350 ml white wine
  • 240 ml kirschwasser
  • 200 g bacon, cut into strips
  • 150 g appenzeller extra cheese, grated
  • 150 g emmental mild cheese, grated
  • 150 g sprinz, grated
  • 20 g  cornstarch
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped small
  • Pepper, pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Älplermagronen pasta (amount of choice)

Stir cornstarch into kirschwasser. Fry bacon and garlic in butter in the fondue pot. Deglaze with wine, add cheese. Stir until cheese melts, add cornstarch mixture. Season. Serve with älplermagronen.


LEGENDARY DISHES


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Legendary Dishes | Bratwürst mit Zwiebelsauce und Rösti (sausages with onion sauce and grated potatoes)

GERMANY SWITZERLAND
  • 1 kg Potatoes
  • 4 St Galler sausages / pork-veal sausages
  • 500 g Onion sauce

Zwiebelsauce GERMANY SWITZERLAND onion sauce

There is no agreed method for making onion sauce in Europe. Some cooks insist it should be aromatic and saucy, rich and strong, and have a smooth consistency, other cooks believe it can be lumpy and gooey, thick or thin, flour-based or tomato-based.

Cream Version
  • 350 ml bouillon
  • 200 g onions, sliced into rings
  • 100 g shallots, sliced
  • 100 ml red / white wine
  • 45 ml sour cream 
  • 30 g butter
  • 30 g white wheat flour
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Lemon thyme leaves, for garnish

Pour the hot water into a bowl, add the bouillon powder and leave to soak. Combine flour and onions in a large bowl. Heat butter in a large frying pan, add the flour and onion mixture, and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. De-glaze the pan with the wine, add the bouillon and choice of herb, simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream, simmer for five minutes, season. Serve hot with grilled sausages and fried grated potatoes, garnished with lemon thyme.

Tomato Version
  • 350 ml bouillon / broth
  • 200 g onions, sliced into rings
  • 120 g tomato passata / sauce
  • 100 g shallots, sliced
  • 100 ml red / white wine 
  • 30 g butter
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Lemon thyme leaves, for garnish

Pour the hot water into a bowl, add the bouillon powder and leave to soak. Heat butter in a large frying pan, add onions, sauté for five minutes until the onions start to brown. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. De-glaze the pan with the wine, add the broth and choice of herb, simmer for 15 minutes. Add tomato sauce, simmer for 15 minutes, season. Serve hot with grilled sausages and fried grated potatoes, garnished with lemon thyme.

St. Galler Bratwürst SWITZERLAND pork-veal milk sausages

St-Galler-Bratwurst

The butchers‘ guild of St. Gallen in 1438 noted that the country bratwürst was made with veal, belly pork, spices and fresh milk, and had a distinctive white colour. Today the St. Galler bratwürst is a white unsmoked sausage made with veal, pork, spices and milk. Why change a good thing? This unique sausage is produced in the cantons of Appenzell, St. Gallen and Thurgau with meat and milk from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Throughout its history it has been made with and without veal, an unthinkable thought today to those who cherish a bratwürst that is now an integral aspect of Swiss festival culture. The year 2013 was the 70th anniversary of the St. Galler bratwürst at the Olma agricultural fair. More than half a million bratwürst went on the grill. Many were eaten on their own, some with the brown rolls called bürli and not a spoonful of mustard in sight. They are difficult to make in the home because the technique requires equipment that will produce a fine emulsion of the meat, milk and spices. But not impossible. St Galler sausages are sold in Switzerland in 160 g x 2 packets.

  • 370 g veal, minced
  • 260 g bacon, minced
  • 150 ml milk 
  • 100 g pork, minced
  • 25 g pork belly rind, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 15 g salt
  • 1 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp ginger, ground
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1 tsp white pepper, ground
  • Mace, large pinch
  • Pork casings
  • Ice, crushed

Blend the celery, onions and rinds in milk until smooth, add minced meat and blend again. Adjust liquid content with some ice, add seasonings and blend again. This should produce a thick smooth paste. Pack into casings, 25mm long, and place in a large pot of boiling water. Cook for 30 minutes. The desired internal temperature of the bratwürst should be 72°C. Prepare a pot of ice cold water. Plunge bratwürst into water to cool down. Hang until dry. The St. Galler bratwürst should contain 37% veal, 26% bacon, 10% pork and 27% bulk, of which 25% must be milk, wet or dry. Mace and pepper are mandatory, but other spices can include a combination of cardamom, celery, coriander, ginger, leek, lemon, nutmeg and onion.

Zürcher Rösti SWITZERLAND Zurich pan-fried potatoes

Johann Jakob Strub brought the potato to Switzerland. A native of the canton Glarus, he was a lieutenant in the English army and according to legend returned home with a bag of seed potatoes from Ireland. Potatoes were cultivated in Glarus in 1697. They spread to the neighbouring cantons and by the middle of the 19th century prötlete herdöpfel, fried potatoes, replaced barley porridge as the preferred breakfast among farming families around the growing city of Zurich. The recipe travelled south-west into the Bernese countryside and over the mountains into the Roman canton of the Valais / Wallis, where it was called pommes de terre roties. It became the morning meal among the French-speaking farmers, who shortened the name to roties – rösti in Swiss-German. By the mid-20th century variations of the original recipe began to appear. The Roman west preferred boiled potatoes, the Germanic east used raw.

  • 1 kg urgenta potatoes, grated, squeezed, dried
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 30 g oil
  • 15 g caraway seeds, soaked
  • Salt, large pinch

Mix onions and potatoes, and sauté in a frying pan over a medium heat for ten minutes. Place a plate on top of the frying pan, invert onto the plate. Oil pan and slide rösti back. Cook for 20 minutes.

The rösti story is told in The Great European Food Adventure.

Varieties and uses of European potatoes are discussed in the Fricot Edition pocket book Cooked, Cured and Curdled: The modern story of traditional food in Europe.

INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS = St Galler Sausages

Text & Pix © Fricot Project 1998-2020

LEGENDARY DISHES


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Festive Food | Roasted Almonds

RoastedAlmonds-lowres

 

Gebrannte Mandeln
AUSTRIA GERMANY SWITZERLAND
roasted almonds

 

They are crispy and sweet, very addictive, and are probably the world’s oldest confection. They are sugared nuts, almonds in particular, which were a favourite treat with the ancient Romans. Sugared almonds were given as gifts and according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat they were distributed at private and public ceremonies.

Almonds and hazelnuts have been coated in a syrup made originally from honey, then from molasses and nowadays beet or cane sugar, and served as a festive treat for countless centuries.

These days it is the method that is a keen subject for debate and the amount of sugar. Once apon a time the ratio was 3:2 in favour of sugar, now it is 3:2 or 2:1 in favour of the nuts, mostly almonds, especially in central, northern and western Europe.

From Italy the idea of combining spices with sugar and coating almonds and pine kernels with the caramelised mixture caught on in France, where these confections became associated with fairs and festivals.

In the Germanic countries, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla-flavoured sugar and water are brought to the boil, almonds are added and slowly cooked in the syrup. The coated nuts are poured out onto a sheet greased with butter, separated and left to cool.

In England the nuts are roasted in the oven and then added hot to a sugar and water syrup. Because of the formation of acrylamide, a chemical identified as a possible carcinogen, during the roasting of almonds the oven temperature should be at 129°C or lower.

The Spanish largueta almond is regarded as the perfect variety for this delicious confection, because of its intense flavour.

This is the German version with reduced sugar.

 

200 g largueta almonds, unpeeled
50 g sugar
50 g vanilla sugar
50 ml water
5 g cinnamon
Butter, for greasing

 

Boil the sugars with cinnamon and water, add almonds and cook over a low heat stirring constantly until the water has been absorbed and the sugar begins to dry. Spoon the sugared almonds onto a buttered baking sheet. Separate the almonds with two forks, leave to cool.

Fricot Feature | The Fondue Story

CafeRoman

Across from the railway station in Lausanne is a rising cobbled street. It leads to a busy road in the heart of the lakeside city. Located in an alleyway across from a nondescript church is the august establishment known as Café Roman.

We looked around and wondered where we could sit. A sign above the kitchen celebrated the year 1951.

Immediately we were transported into Switzerland’s past, when the country was still clinging to its culture, its traditions and its unique forms of language – Swiss-French along its western border with France, Swiss-German throughout almost two-thirds of its 26 cantons, Italian in the south and Romanche in the east.

Yet here, on the rising shore of Lake Geneva, Café Roman epitomised this distinctiveness and uniqueness.

The Swiss are a courteous, generally friendly people with a strong sense of identity, an even stronger sense of belonging rooted in place, especially in the mountains.

A thin, gaunt woman dressed in a white apron and black dress, money belt hung loosely around her slight waist, asked us for patience. We waited. We were standing close to the kitchen, while waitresses darted in and out.

Meanwhile the waitress who had told us to be patient began dragging a smallish square table to an area between similar sized tables and several oblong tables joined together. She motioned for us to follow her.

In a flash she whipped out a white table cloth, produced cutlery from somewhere, chairs from somewhere else and told us to sit while she bought the menu cards. A badge on her waitress’ uniform told us she was Virginia.

We thanked her and ordered fondue. It was the reason we had come, ‘the best fondue in Lausanne is in the Café Roman,’ we were told.

It was.

Then we heard an interesting story. This very Swiss dish apparently originated across the lake in Haute Savoie.


FONDUE SAVOYARDE

  • 1 large farmhouse loaf, cut into cubes
  • 400 g Beaufort
  • 400 g Emmental
  • 375 ml dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • Nutmeg, large pinch
  • Black pepper, large pinch

Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Grate the cheese and place it in the fondue pot. Cover with white wine. Warm over a low heat, stirring thoroughly with a wooden spoon to obtain a smooth, blended mixture. Add pepper and grated nutmeg. Let the fondue cook for five more minutes, stirring constantly. Place the fondue pot over its warmer and enjoy the fondue by dipping the pieces of bread using long forks.


CheeseGrotto-lowres
The Cheese Grotto in the Alps

The Savoy and Jura mountains that divide France from Switzerland are believed to be the birthplace of this comforting winter dish and there is ample evidence to suggest that fondue is a product of the dairy farmers who have tended cattle for centuries on high meadows.

The western Swiss cantons of Fribourg, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud all specialise in fondue but Appenzeller, Emmental, Gruyère, Raclette and Vacherin – the classic cheeses that form the basis for a classic Swiss fondue – only tell part of the story.

The Vacherin cheese of Fribourg is preferred by fondue aficionados because it adds full flavour to the mildness of the Emmental and the piquancy of the Gruyère – the combination for the classic Neuchâteloise.

Neuchâteloise, Moitié Moitié (half Gruyère, half Vacherin) and the fondue served in Salvan restaurants and along the valley canton are among the most popular with Swiss people.

But if you want to know which cheeses go into which fondues served in the Alps you will have to ask.

It is in these mountains that fondue makes its reputation, as chefs compete with each other to produce the ‘perfect’ fondue.

And they are not going to give away their trade secrets.

Of course the popularity of this amazing cheese dish may also have something to do with the tradition that demands punishment when a diner loses their bread in the fondue pot.

A man must buy a bottle of wine or a round of drinks.

A woman must kiss all the men in the company.


vacherin fribourgeois-lowres

FONDUE

Ideally fondue should be made in a caquelon, heavy-bottomed saucepans that come in various sizes, and served on a stand over a burner to keep the mixture in a semi-liquid state.

  • 2 Baquettes, cut into cubes
  • 400 g Gruyere, grated
  • 400 g Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated
  • 300 ml dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 15 g cornstarch, dissolved in 20 ml kirsch
  • 5 g white pepper
  • 4 fondue forks

Rub garlic around the caquelon, add the cheese followed by the wine and cornstarch mixture. Melt gradually over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula. Finish with the pepper.


Gruyere&Apple-lowres

FONDUE NEUCHÂTEL

The classic fondue in Switzerland.

  • 800 g Emmental, Gruyère, Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated
  • 240 ml kirsch
  • 20 g cornstarch, dissolved in 35 ml white wine and 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Nutmeg, grated
  • White bread, cubed

Rub garlic around the caquelon, add the cheese followed by the kirsch and cornstarch mixture. Melt gradually over low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spatula. Finish with the pepper.

Indigenous Ingredients | Spelt

AndrewWorkman&SpeltField
Andrew Workman surveys one of his spelt fields in Dunany, county Louth, Ireland

Lucius Annaeus Seneca was the most distinguished of the Spanish writers of the Roman imperial age.

Born in Corduba in Andalucia to a Roman equestrian family, Seneca was brought to Rome as a child and seemed destined for a political career. Instead, he became a stoic philosopher, producing wise words that carry moral echoes down the ages to us.

Seneca grew up in a Rome that distributed welfare in the form of free grain, spelt among barley and emmer, an expedient consequence of the food riots, 60 years before he was born, in 59 BC.

An ancient hardy grass thought to be native to both Persia 8,000 years ago and south-eastern Europe 4,000 years ago, spelt was cultivated throughout the continent from the Caucasus to Scandinavia.

Three thousand years ago, river valley communities in the south of Ireland were cooking with spelt berries.

The ancient Greeks and Romans expanded its use. Roman armies lived on spelt (along with barley), making an early version of polenta.

Nearly one thousand years ago, Abbess Hildegard von Bingen of Rupertsberg wrote enthusiastically about spelt. ‘It makes people cheerful with a friendly disposition,’ she said. ‘Those who eat it have healthy flesh and good blood.’

Spelt has been making a comeback in recent decades, largely in southern Germany and in nothern Switzerland, where older varieties have been cultivated.

Known as urdinkel (old spelt), the range of flours milled from spelt are going into every type of bread and pastry, replacing wheat in many recipes.

It is also becoming increasingly popular in Ireland, where Andrew and Leonie Workman grow, mill and package spelt berries and flour from their farm in Dunany, on the coast below the ancient land of Oriel above the Boyne Valley.

Spelt, with barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, remained a staple in Europe until the 20th century, when it fell out of favour for numerous reasons, not least the problems associated with harvesting, separating and milling it into flour.

The Workmans have got round these problems with modern machinery. Now spelt is one of their biggest sellers and they have high hopes for the berries, which can be used in salads and stews, to make risotto and soaked whole to be baked in bread.

SpeltBerries
Spelt Berries

Dominick Gryson, a Louth man who has experimented with ancient grains to find strong shafts for thatching, believes the Workmans have found a great artisan product.

‘Spelt does not give the same yield as modern wheats, which do not grow well here in our climate,’ he says. ‘Spelt, on the other hand, is suited to the soil and the climate and can be sold as a high-value organic product.’

Dermot Seberry, who champions the Workmans’ produce in his book, A Culinary Journey in the North-East (of Ireland), agrees. ‘They fit in with the super food group and are a substitute for risotto rice and barley in the likes of stews and black pudding,’ he says.

‘For me, it is personal. They are low-gluten and have high nutritional content, particularly for the over-thirties, who have become hyper aware of inner health. Not a trending product but very much the next big little food!’

Spelt contains beneficial minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins (B and E), and has six of the eight essential amino acids that stimulate the production of happiness hormones, just as the abbess said.

But it is the low GI (glycaemic index of carbohydrates) that makes spelt a primary health product. With 35 compared to 40 for wheat and 70 for rice, spelt releases glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, balancing out blood sugar levels.

Spelt saved the early Roman Empire but it also sustained the tribes of barbarians who brought about the fall of Rome and allowed their descendants to supplant Roman power throughout Europe.

Something that powerful is worth promoting, especially now that modern wheat has lost its allure and the wisdom of the ancients, Seneca and von Bingen among them, is finally being listened to.


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Legendary Dishes | Rösti (grated potatoes)

SWITZERLAND

The rösti divide is longer between east and west, boiled and raw, lard and oil, it is between good rösti and bad rösti.

The secret to the success of rösti lies with the choice of potato, and how it is prepared.

Starch content is crucial. It should be low to medium.

Generally mealy potatoes do not make good rösti and generally waxy potatoes are too firm, but these rules do not always apply. It is the water in the potatoes that makes a difference.

Swiss Agriculture recommend the Lady Christa, Ostara, Sirtema, Urgenta and Victoria varieties, which are all firm potatoes in the middle range.

The perfect rösti should be compact and crisp, and not greasy.

To achieve this, the potatoes – cooked or raw – must grate evenly and hold their cut shape.

Cooked potatoes are cooled in a fast-freezer, raw potatoes are cooled in a water bath. Then they are grated in a food processor for less than a minute.

Home chefs face challenges here.

Leaving them overnight in a cold place is how they did it in past days, and today the fridge will achieve the same aim – cool the potato for grating.

Whatever the choice, the grated potatoes must go into the pan or skillet immediately.

Butter or lard is still the preferred frying medium but the use of oil, sunflower in particular, is becoming popular. The next secret is controlling the heat and gas is preferred to electric, to prevent the rösti cake from burning.

And the final secret is experimentation – like all simple cooking!


Zürcher Rösti

Johann Jakob Strub brought the potato to Switzerland. A native of the canton Glarus, he was a lieutenant in the English army and according to legend returned home with a bag of seed potatoes from Ireland.

Potatoes were cultivated in Glarus in 1697.

They spread to the neighbouring cantons and by the middle of the 19th century prötlete herdöpfel (fried potatoes) replaced barley porridge as the preferred breakfast among farming families around the growing city of Zurich.

The recipe travelled south-west into the Bernese countryside and over the mountains into the Roman canton of the Valais, where it was called pommes de terre roties.

It became the morning meal among the French-speaking farmers, was shortened to rotiesrösti in Swiss-German.

By the mid-20th century variations of the original recipe began to appear.

The Roman west preferred boiled potatoes, the Germanic east used raw.

  • 1 kg potatoes, grated, squeezed and dried
  • 4 onions, sliced
  • 30 g oil
  • 15 g caraway seeds, soaked
  • Salt, large pinch

Mix onions and potatoes, and sauté in a frying pan over a medium heat for ten minutes.

Place a plate on top of the frying pan, invert onto the plate. Oil pan and slide rösti back. Cook for 20 minutes.


Berner Rösti

  • 1 kg potatoes, parboiled whole in skins a day before use, refrigerate or freeze dry
  • 50 g bacon, diced
  • 30 g butter
  • 30 ml milk
  • Salt, large pinch

Grate potatoes and mix with salt.

Heat a large frying pan, add a third of the butter and oil, making sure to cover all the surface and up to the rim, turn heat to low.

Add bacon and potato, fry, pressing down with a spatula to form a cake. After ten minutes add another third of the butter and oil all round the edge of the rösti cake.

When the edges start to harden and crisp, shake the pan to make sure the potato mix has not stuck to the base. Cover with a plate and fry for another ten minutes until the underside has formed a golden crust.

Turn the rösti over by inverting the pan and plate, leaving it on the plate, and sliding it back into the pan.

Add the remaining third of the butter-oil around the edges. Leave to fry for ten minutes. Finally pour the milk over the rösti, cover and cook for ten minutes. The milk will evaporate.

Lard should be used but low fat butter mixed with vegetable oil is a viable option. Crafty cooks use goose fat laced with oil because it brings up the golden colour.


Rösti Ursprünglich

Many restaurants serve the original boiled potato version.

  • 1 kg boiled whole rösti potatoes, peeled, grated
  • 300 g Appenzeller / Emmental cheese
  • Eggs (optional)
  • 45 g butter
  • Salt, pinch

Melt a tablespoon of butter in large frying pan, add potatoes and salt. Fry over low heat. Press down on potatoes, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan edge, cover with a plate and cook until a crust begins to form. Turn the rösti onto the plate. Add a tablespoon of butter to the pan, slip the rösti back into the pan and fry until golden. Serve a fried egg with each portion.


Rösti mit Langsamen Bratkartoffeln

The idea of making rösti with slow-cooked roast potatoes sounds like a new idea. It’s not. Making rösti with leftover roast potatoes was always a tradition, it just never caught on in the cafes, diners and restaurants.


 Potato photographs courtesy of Swiss Agriculture


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Legendary Dishes | Mohrenköpf (chocolate balls)

EarlyBeckMilkTruffles
Truffles – the new chocolate balls

Traditionally these are cylindrical dome shaped confections with a marshmallow or sponge filling, a biscuit base and chocolate coating. Artisan production is dwarfed by the commercial specialists who insist the mechanical method produces better products.

Originally a German confection with a foam filling, made with egg, flour and jam, the Swiss claimed the ‘Moor’s Head’ for their own when the Germans and French adopted a more politically correct name, and began to significantly alter the traditional recipe.

The Germans renamed them Chocolate Kisses, and began to produce a different dessert.

The French altered the recipe so much that Boule Meringuée au Chocolat is closer to the Mohrenköpf than Tête Choco, which is effectively a chocolate ball.

The Swiss remain loyal to the original recipe, convinced by the popularity of their filling – a sugary foam made with egg whites for an airy texture.

But tastes are clearly moving from the light into the dark and this is reflected in the different versions of the Mohrenköpfe.

In French-speaking Switzerland the Mohrenköpfe is a Boule Meringuée au Chocolat – a chocolate ball filled with sponge cake and lemon or vanilla cream filling, sold and eaten fresh.

But this is one chocolate confection that is gradually losing its shine, so here are a few recipes for those who like these things.

The first one is an adaptation of the Swiss Mohrenköpfe, the cream and sponge fillings replacing the foam.


Mohrenköpfe

Sponge

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 75 g pastry flour
  • 75 g vanilla sugar
  • 25 g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt, pinch

Cream Filling

  • 400 g cream, whipped
  • 1 lemon, zest

Jam Filling

  • 250 ml milk
  • 45 g apricot jam
  • 25 g sugar

Biscuit Base

  • 175 g breadcrumbs
  • 50 g flour
  • 50 g mixed nuts and seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 20 g butter
  • Salt, pinch

Coating

  • 250 g 70% chocolate, chopped
  • 30 g butter

Equipment

  • 2 bun trays with 12 moulds
  • 12 silicon moulds, same diameter at large end as bun tray moulds

Beat egg yolks, add flour, cornflour, baking soda and salt. Beat egg whites and 75 g sugar until stiff. Fold into yolk mixture. Pour batter into 12 moulds. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes. Leave to cool on wire rack.

Form breadcrumbs, butter, egg and nuts into a soft dough. Bake in the same sized moulds as the sponges at 180°C for 20 minutes.

Leave to cool.

Boil milk, add remaining 25 g sugar. Heat jam, stir into milk-sugar mixture. Leave to cool.

Arrange the biscuits on greaseproof paper on a small tray. Spread jam-milk mixture thickly on each biscuit, top lightly with sponges.

Melt chocolate and butter in a bain-marie.

Whip cream with lemon zest.

Pour the tepid chocolate into each silicon mould, evenly coating the inside of the mould.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Place a large dollop of lemon cream inside each mould, place a biscuit-sponge sandwich on top, seal with a layer of chocolate.

Refrigerate for two hours.

Turn out of moulds.

Schokoküsse

GiantChocolateHead
Giant Chocolate Kiss

Sponge

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 75 g pastry flour
  • 75 g vanilla sugar
  • 25 g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Salt, pinch

Mousse

  • 250 g 70% chocolate
  • 150 ml cream, whipped
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 5 egg whites, whisked

Coating

  • 250 g 70% chocolate, chopped
  • 30 g butter

Equipment

  • 1 bun tray with 12 moulds
  • 12 silicon moulds, same diameter at large end as bun tray moulds

Beat egg yolks, add flour, cornflour, baking soda and salt. Beat egg whites and 75g sugar until stiff. Fold into yolk mixture. Pour batter into 12 moulds. Bake at 180°C for 15 minutes. Leave to cool on wire rack.

Melt chocolate for the mousse in a bain marie while beating the yolks. Stir into the melted chocolate after 15 minutes. Whisk the egg white, fold carefully into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the cream.

Refrigerate.

Melt chocolate and butter for the coating. When it has cooled pour the tepid chocolate into each silicon mould, evenly coating the inside of the mould.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Place a large dollop of mousse inside each mould, place a sponge on top, seal with a layer of chocolate.

Refrigerate for two hours.

Turn out of moulds.

Boule Meringuée au Chocolat

EarlyBeckAssortment
Chocolates are Evolving – this is a selection from the Early Beck shops in Switzerland

Sponge

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 120 g vanilla sugar
  • 40 g almonds, ground
  • 40 g butter, melted
  • 20 g pastry flour

Cream-Chocolate Filling

  • 200 ml Chantilly cream, whipped
  • 150 g 70% chocolate, chopped
  • 50 g butter

Dressing

  • 75 g 55% chocolate, flaked
  • 50 g cocoa powder

Equipment

  • 1 bun tray with 12 moulds

Mix eggs with sugar, sieve flours on top followed by a slow dribble of butter. Pour this batter into 12 buttered and floured moulds. Bake for 20 minutes in 170°C oven.

Boil cream, add 70% chocolate and whip into a soft paste with the butter.

Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cut each sponge in two, spread a thin layer of cream on one side and cover with the second side.

Top each sandwich with cream, dot with 55% chocolate flakes and dust with cocoa powder.


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Culinary Connections | Small Breads

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GERMANY SCOTLAND SWITZERLAND FINLAND

Rowie

Through the backlit window pane of an artisan bakery, golden-brown buns are a tantilising sight, an invitation to indulge.

Generally made with high-gluten flours, a large ratio of butter or lard, fresh yeast and sugar with milk, salt, and an egg or milk glaze, the ubiquitous roll of Vienna was for many years the epitome of this type of bread.

In Aberdeen around the time that Viennoiserie was evolving in Paris, a flaky bread became popular with fishermen. Using the same technique for making croissants, the Rowie was neither crescent nor roll, and it was made with beef dripping. It was also excessively salty and is now exclusively authentic – a product of its time and not easily replicated in the domestic kitchen.

  • 500 g strong white wheat flour
  • 350 ml water, warmed to 38ºC
  • 250 g butter / lard or 50:50
  • 20 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 10 g sugar

Dissolve yeast in sugar and warm water. Sieve flour and salt, add yeast water and work into a soft smooth dough. The high water ratio makes this a tough dough to work, about 20 minutes of hard kneading.

Cover the dough and leave to rise for an hour.

Degas, leave for a further hour.

Cut the fat into small cubes, divide into three portions. On a floured working surface roll the dough into a rectangle, about 40 cm x 30 cm. Place the cubes of fat from one portion on two-thirds of the rectangle. Fold the non-fat end into the middle, and then again over the final third.

Leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered.

Flour the surface, roll the dough out again with a little flour to aid the process, repeat once more.

Flour the surface with flour and roll the dough again, then divide it into 15 pieces (roughly 80 g each), shape into ovals or rectangles, arrange on greased baking trays.

Leave to rise until the doughs have risen considerably.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aberdeen-rowie.jpg

DDR Brötchen

Ostalgie, the nostalgic trend for the humdrum German Democratic Republic, has brought with it a yearning for the simple traditional food once served in the cafes and canteens of Berlin, Leipzig and other East German cities. These breakfast rolls were soft and salty, and were made more often than not with margarine and whey.

Pre-ferment

  • 250 g white wheat flour, t405 / t550, warmed
  • 250 ml milk, full-fat / whey, warmed to 38ºC
  • 20 g yeast

Dissolve yeast in a little of the milk or whey. In a large bowl stir remaining milk or whey into the flour with the yeast mixture. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Second Dough

  • 250 g white wheat flour, t405 / t550
  • 75 g sugar
  • 25 g butter / lard / margarine
  • 15 g salt
  • 5 g barley / wheat malt
  • Milk, for brushing

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add salt and sugar, incorporate the butter, lard or margarine, then add the pre-ferment. Knead into a soft smooth dough, about 10 minutes. Cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Degas, leave for an hour, cut into 12 pieces (roughly 65 g each), shape into balls, arrange on baking trays. Cover.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

When they have risen, brush lightly with milk.

Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes.


Bürli

A popular bread in eastern Switzerland, bürli are eaten with St Gallen bratwürst. Generally made with prepared flour, bürlimehl (wheat flour, wheat gluten, barley malt flour and acerola powder). Artisanal hand-made handbürli are preferred to maschinenbürli, the mass produced version, but they are difficult to make.

Pre-ferment / Sourdough

  • 150 ml water
  • 75 g strong white wheat flour / white wheat flour, t550
  • 75 g white spelt flour, t630
  • 5 g yeast

Stir flours into water and yeast in a large bowl. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Final Dough

  • 300 g sourdough
  • 175 g white wheat flour, t550, warmed
  • 100 ml water / milk, warmed to 38ºC
  • 50 g rye flour, warmed
  • 50 g wholewheat flour t1050, warmed
  • 20 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 5 g barley malt flour
  • Warmed water for wash

Dissolve yeast in milk or water. Work flours, malt, salt and yeast liquid into
pre-ferment to make a soft elastic dough, about 20 minutes’ hard kneading. Rest for three hours. Preheat oven to highest setting. Cut dough into 80 g pieces, shape into rolls, lightly wash with warm water, make a deep cut on the top of each roll. Place on floured baking trays. Leave to rest for an hour. Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Reduce heat to 230°C, bake for 20 minutes, opening oven to allow residual vapour to escape, then bake for a further ten minutes. This will produce dark crusts on the breads. For lighter crusts reduce starting heat to 210°C and take out after 20 minutes.


Korvapuustit

This is the cinnamon bun of Finland.

  • 500 g strong white wheat flour
  • 200 ml milk, warmed to 38ºC
  • 120 g sugar + 60 g sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg
  • 60 g butter, semi-hard, cubed
  • 60 g sour cream
  • 60 g cinnamon
  • 25 g yeast
  • 15 g cardamom seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pearl sugar

Pour milk into a large bowl containing the yeast. When it froths stir in 100 g of flour to make a loose paste. Add cardamom, salt, four tablespoons of sugar and stir in the egg with remaining flour. Work in the cream. Knead for 20 minutes until the dough stretches easily without breaking.

Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Divide into two pieces. Roll dough into a rectangle sheet, about one centimetre thick.

Divide butter cubes into two portions. Place the cubes on the first sheet, and with a wide knife, spread in an even layer to the edges. Sprinkle with cinnamon andremaining sugar.

Starting at the narrow end, roll the sheet tightly, finishing with the seam underneath. Repeat with second batch.

With a sharp knife, cut the rolled dough at an angle to make triangles, 5 cm x 2 cm, for a total of twenty buns. Turn each bun with the narrow side on top. With both thumbs squeeze the bun in the middle to make it bulge.

Remove buns to baking trays layered with greaseproof paper. Leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Glaze buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 12 minutes. Eat them slowly, they are a treat to be treasured.


Zuckerbrötchen

Sugar buns? An indelicate description for these delightful breads.

  • 500 g zopf flour or 300 g strong white flour, 195 g white spelt flour, 5 g barley malt flour
  • 165 ml milk, full-fat, lukewarm
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 45 g vanilla sugar
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 45 g pistachios, chopped
  • 45 g currants
  • 20 g yeast
  • Saffron powder, pinch
  • Salt, large pinch

Glaze

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 45 g pearl sugar

Dissolve yeast and saffron in half the milk. Leave to froth. Sieve flours into a large bowl with salt and sugar. Work in the butter, add remaining milk, yeast mixture and egg. Fold in the zest. Knead into a smooth dough, about 15 minutes, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Add pistachios and sultanas, knead, leave for a second hour. Degas, divide into equal pieces, around 80 g each. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.


Assorted Breakfast Breads

The Aberdeen, Berlin and Vienna breads are plain compared with the bread rolls that are now prominent in Austria and Germany, and in Switzerland.

Among the assorted breads found in a Swiss bakery are small rolls containing multi-varied ingredients.

The secret to the success of these breads are flour combinations from the millers. For example:

Halbweissmehl is a semi-white flour made with barley flour, wheat flour and wheat gluten. It is used to make enriched breads.

Zopfmehl is strong white flour with barley, spelt and wheat gluten. It is used to make plaited bread.

Bakers also make up their own combinations, mixing spelt with strong white, maize with spelt, white with rye.

The results produce specialist yeast bread rolls like these:

Apfelmost-Brötchen 
wheat flour - apple juice and cream
Aprikosen-Brötli 
semi-white, maize flours - apricots, 
butter, milk
Gewürzzopf-Brötchen 
kopf flour - butter, milk, spices and yoghurt
Hölzlibrotli 
white, wholewheat flours - butter, 
herbs, milk
Kartoffel-Baumnuss-Brötchen 
semi-white flour - potato, walnuts
Käse-Brötchen
white flour - baking powder, butter, 
gruyére cheese, milk
Maisbrötchen
maize, spelt flours - curd cheese / quark 
and milk (also made yeast-free, with baking soda)
Nussbrötli 
semi-white flour - milk, walnuts
Zöpfliknoten 
kopf flour - butter, honey, kirsch and milk, 
and an egg-saffron glaze

This cornucopia reflects a trend with modern traditional baking in Europe, where the simple bun made with butter and milk is being gradually replaced by breads that cater for all tastes.


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Ingredient | Pear

Valais-WallisPear-low-res
A Pear in the Valais, Switzerland

Italy is the spiritual home of the pear in Europe.

In a good frost-free warm year production in the pear growing areas, largely Emilia-Romagna and Mantua, will be close to a million tonnes.

In a bad year, a third less.

Varieties include Abaté Fétel (sweet, yellow), Beurré Bosc/Kaiser (sweet-spicy, brown), Conference (sweet, yellow-green), Doyenne du Comice (sweet, green-brown) and the popular table pear William Bon Chrétien (juicy-sweet, green-yellow).

Soil and climate make all the difference to the pear crop.

Spain, with its Mediterranean climate – hot and dry in the summer, cold and semi-dry in winter, produces the blanquilla (juicy, green), ercolini (juicy, yellow-green), conference and limonera (sweet, green- yellow) varieties.

A good year will bring half a million tonnes.

Switzerland, by comparison, is lucky if it produces 30,000 tonnes in a good year. What it does produce is good-quality William Bon Chrétien, whose origins are disputed between England and Italy.

At Martigny in canton Valais, the Rhöne river turns sharply to the east towards Sion and Sierre. Here, under the high alps, 200 growers will produce Beurré Bosc/Kaiser, Guyot (juicy, yellow), Louise Bonne (juicy, green-brown) and William BC varieties using the espalier method.

Travellers passing these pear orchards will see rows of supported trees in various stages of growth.

Pear trees require four years of careful training before they bear fruit. In full bloom they will produce a crop for 25 years.

In the Rhöne valley the pears are harvested green from August 20 for three weeks. They are stored until they turn yellow, about 15 days, when they will be full of juice.

Four-fifths of the Williams BC crop goes to Distillery Morand in Martigny, where they are mashed and distilled into Williamine, their famous pear brandy.

Cholera

GommerCholeraSlice-low-res
A slice of Cholera

The 1830s were difficult for the people of the hidden Swiss valleys.

Cholera swept across the land, confining people to their homes, where they relied on the stable foods of the land – cured and dried meat, cheeses, fruit, leaf and root vegetables.

Packing leftovers into a pie encased with pastry provided a pragmatic solution.

Out of adversity a traditional dish emerged and survives today.

500 g puff pastry
400 g potatoes, boiled whole, 
peeled, sliced 
400 g raclette cheese, sliced
250 g apples, sliced
250 g Bosc pears, sliced
150 g leeks, halved, sliced, 
braised in butter

Pear Varieties

 
BELGIUM 255,000 tonnes
Conference
Doyenne du Comice
Durondeau
 
CZECH REPUBLIC 103,000
Conference
William Bon Chrétien
 
FRANCE 124,000
Conference
Doyenne du Comice
Guyot
Passa Crassana
William BC
 
ITALY 717,000
Abaté Fétel
Beurré Bosc/Kaiser
Conference
Doyenne du Comice
Guyot
Passa Crassana
William BC
 
NETHERLANDS 208,000
Conference
Doyenne du Comice
 
PORTUGAL 179,000
Rocha
 
SPAIN 349,000
Blanquilla
Conference
Ercolini
Guyot
Limonera
Passa Crassana
William BC

Traditional Pear Dishes

 
Armut Tatlisi TURKEY carmelised pears 
 
Birnenkuchen SWITZERLAND pear cake
 
Birnweggen SWITZERLAND pear wedges 
 
Gaufres avec Pomme et de Poire Sirop BELGIUM waffles with apple, pear sauce
 
Hutzelbrot GERMANY fruit cake
 
Oie Rôtie aux Fruits FRANCE roast goose with apples and pears and prunes
 
Pečená Kachní Prsa CZECH REPUBLIC duck breasts in pear sauce
 
Peras al Vino SPAIN pears in red wine


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EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     
GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

SWISS BREADS

Ask any baker or chef in Switzerland to guess how many different breads there are in the confederation, and more often than not they will come up with the same figure — 300!

That sounds high until you consider the number of flours and flour variations that exist. Meyerhans Mill list 51 different flour mixes.

So if you want to make the popular morning breads known as gipfel and weggli all you have to do is buy the respective mixes.

Their gipfel mix contains wheat flour (types 400 and 720), starch, salt (with iodine), sugar, barley malt flour, skimmed milk powder, wheat gluten, butter powder and an emulsifer.

Their weggli mix contains wheat flour (type 550), vegetable oils and fats (partially hydrogenated), skimmed milk powder, salt (with iodine), sugar, starch, barley malt, dextrose and emulsifier.

Obviously this makes the job of baking so much easier and the result is appropriate.

Swiss Milk list 112 bread recipes.

These recipes understandably feature breads that contain butter, cheese and milk, are decorative, diversive and typically Swiss. They include:

BIRENBRÖT – the delicious bread made with pears
BUTTERZOPF – the traditional braided loaf
DINKELBRÖT – spelt bread
KARTOFFELBRÖT – potato bread made with brown flour
MAISBRÖTCHEN – yeast-free bread made with cottage cheese
MILCHBRÖTCHEN – popular breakfast and lunch bread roll
PLIGÄTSCH – sweet spiced fruit and nut bread
RÜEBLIBRÖT – the original carrot bread
WALNUSSBROT – this walnut rye bread is among the best rye breads

Mutschli – Breakfast Bread Rolls


Among the most popular breads in Switzerland are:

BÜRLI – St. Gallen bread rolls served with St. Galler sausage
GIPFEL – crescent breads
MUTSCHLI – the eponymous breakfast roll
SEMMELI – the crunchy breakfast roll
WEGGLI – the soft breakfast roll

See Brötchen Contents for a selection of brötli and Swiss Alpine Breads for more information and other versions of the recipes .

Gipfel

The majority of bread eaten in Europe takes place early mornings to mid-day in the form of various shaped buns, flat and pocket breads, hot and cold toast and a range of pastry breads that have disputed origins. We know some of these as croissant au beurre, pain au chocolat, croissant aux amandes, pain au chocolat aux amandes, pain aux raisins au beurre, chausson aux pommes, chouquettes … and the plain old croissant. This enigmatic crescent-shaped pastry bread is more than mere food, it is the stuff of legend. Popularily associated with royalty and resistance, the origins of the croissant go back to ancient pastry traditions. Whether they are Jewish, Italian, Austrian or Hungarian no longer matters. Viennoiserie has been a success since it was introduced at the World Fair in 1867. Gradually it seduced every pastry chef from Paris to Copenhagen, where the Danes claimed it as their own. The real irony is that a pastry bread originally made as a communal activity only to be adopted by the aristocracy is now within reach of everyone, albeit as a machine-made factory product. The real danger is that the original waxing moon-shaped delicacy will be lost as the world decides there is only one crescent – the croissant! This is the original crescent-shaped breakfast bread.

  • 500 g soft white wheat flour
  • 280 g milk
  • 50 g sugar
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 30 g yeast
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • 10 g salt

Bring milk gently to lukewarm in a saucepan. Dissolve yeast in milk. Sieve flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar. For a salty flavour double the amount of salt. Add yeast mixture, and work into a loose smooth dough. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll out the dough, dot with pieces of butter. Spread butter on the dough and fold over three times. Place dough in a plastic bag, leave in a cool place to rest for three hours or leave overnight. Cut the dough into 80 g pieces, roll into oblong sheets 12 x 18 cm. Starting at one edge roll tightly and form into a crescent shape. Place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper, the seam underneath. Spray with cold water, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Preheat oven to 190°C. Spray again with water or wash with egg yolk. Easier than making croissants and just as satisfying, just like the sweet crescent of choice in central Europe – the perpetually popular

Vanillegipfel

Made in the 19th and 20th centuries with ground almonds, butter, flour, vanilla-flavoured sugar and salt, modern trends are moving back to the older method of using grated almonds, egg yolks and vanilla seeds. Some recipes call for the almonds to be toasted ground or whole in a dry frying pan. Butter also plays a huge part in the success of these crescents. Soft rather than hard butters help relax the dough.

  • 250 g soft white wheat flour
  • 210 g butter, softened
  • 125 g almonds, ground
  • 75 g vanilla sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, deseeded
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt, pinch
  • Icing sugar, for dressing
  • Vanilla sugar, for dressing

Crumble the butter into the floor, add the egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla seeds and finally the almonds, working quickly to make a smooth dough. Rest dough in the fridge for two hours. Roll out dough to a thickness of no more than one centimetre, cut into four centimetre square pieces, about 15g each, roll and shape into crescents. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place crescents on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Bake for 12 minutes. While still hot, roll crescents in the icing sugar then the vanilla sugar.

Weggli

Traditionally made with white flour, yeast, milk, butter, malt, sugar and salt, artisan and home made weggli are superior to the mass produced varieties that use improvers and milk powder to prolong the shelf life. Spelt gives these weggli a kick. Made with kefir instead of milk, they are mouthwatering.

  • 350 g strong white flour 
  • 150 g white spelt flour 
  • 200 g kefir, brought up to room temperature
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 50 ml milk, warmed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 15 g honey
  • 15 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • Milk, for glazing

Dissolve the yeast in the honey and warm milk. Put the flours and half of the salt in a large bowl and allow it to come up to 20°C. Crumble the butter into the flour, add yeast mixture and kefir, knead until firm and elastic. Leave to rise for an hour. Degas, leave for a second hour. Desired dough temperature is 25°C. Divide dough into 60 g pieces, shape into ovals and place on a greased baking tray. Leave to rise for 30 minutes. Add a tablespoon of milk and remaing salt to the egg yolk. Brush buns liberally. With a dough cutter or large blade make a deep cut in each piece of dough down the middle without dividing it into two pieces. The two halves must still be joined Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes, or 210°C for 20 minutes for a slightly softer bread.