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AUTUMN

How to make the most of autumn food in Switzerland

The temperatures have dropped and autumn has made its appearance in Switzerland. While many people are sad to see summer go, food writer Franziska Wick from Little Zurich Kitchen couldn't be more excited about the arrival of her favourite season. Here are her ideas about how to make the most of Swiss autumn food.

How to make the most of autumn food in Switzerland
Photo: Fran Wick/Little Zurich Kitchen
Seasonal produce
 
To get into autumn mood, go for a wander through your local farmers market once a month and see how the produce is changing from summer to autumn fruit and vegetables. 
 
Once apple season has started, buy some apple varieties that are only available in autumn, such as Gravensteiner or spot the first unpasteurized, unfiltered apple juice of the season. Get some parsnips and if you don't like them in soups and stews, make this delicious parsnip and maple syrup cake
 
Beetroot, another autumn and winter vegetable, is great as salad, raw or cooked, and it goes well in a smoothie with oranges or apples. Savoy cabbage calls for hot and comforting soups on cold and foggy autumn nights and once quinces appear at the markets you know that autumn is nearing its end and the cold winter months are just around the corner. Quince can't be eaten raw but they make delicious quince jelly which we Swiss use as a spread on a buttered slice of bread. 
 
Roast chestnuts
 
Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism
 
Another sign that autumn is here is when the ice cream stalls make way for the roasted chestnut stalls. Most chestnut trees that can be found in Switzerland are of the inedible horse chestnut variety (apart from in Ticino), so the chestnuts you collect yourself are most probably only good for crafting, not for eating, but you can buy edible chestnuts from Italy at the markets and in supermarkets and roast them yourself in the oven, or you can get a freshly roasted bag of chestnuts from a stall in your town, preferably at sunset when the temperatures drop and those warm chestnuts make both your cold hands and your soul happy. 
 
To make it even more autumn-like, enjoy a glass of Sauser/vin nouveau with your roasted chestnuts. Sauser is a very young wine, with the fermentation process just started when the liquid is being bottled in November, making it a bubbly drink which is only slightly alcoholic. Get a non-pasteurized one from the market (expensive) or a supermarket (a lot cheaper) but make sure you don't miss the short unpasteurized Sauser season which only lasts a few weeks! 
 
Home baking
 
To celebrate Swiss autumn at home, bake a traditional Swiss plum tart or apple tart or cook a batch of red cabbage with caramelized chestnuts and homemade Spätzli with some meat or sausage if you like. It's also the time that the Swiss celebrate the start of the Suppeziit (soup season); here are nine traditional Swiss soups to try this autumn. 
 
Eating outdoors
 
Photo: Robert Boesch/Swiss Tourism
 
Autumn is also a glorious time to spend your weekends in the great outdoors, with the trees turning yellow and red and the soft light of the autumn sun. Pack some sausages, potatoes, salads and drinks and head to the forest for a campfire lunch with your family or friends. Let the heat of the fire warm up your skin and if you have children, collect a bagful of beautiful leaves, sticks and nuts and use them for autumn crafts on a rainy afternoon. 
 
It's also the time when the beechnuts are ripe, they're edible and delicious – it's said you shouldn't eat too many of them uncooked, but my family usually eat quite a bit of them and never have had an issue. You can find them lying on the ground around the beech trees in forests and parks. 
 
Fair fare
 
Another Swiss autumn must do is visiting an autumn funfair or harvest/wine festival. They're happening all over Switzerland and are a great time to enjoy some Swiss funfair food such as fried apple fritters with vanilla custard, roasted and sugar coated almonds, raclette, garlic bread, Magenbrot cookies and more.
 
For the carnivores, autumn is also the time for eating game and the Metzgete, a feast at which the meat from freshly slaughtered animals is eaten. 
 
For me personally, it's not mainly the autumn foods itself that make this season so appealing, but the fact that that most autumn food and drink is only available for a very limited time. This makes me enjoy them to the fullest and it helps me being mindful and live the moment, something so valuable in our busy, often much too busy, world. 
 
By Franziska Wick, Little Zurich Kitchen
 
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FOOD & DRINK

You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

Switzerland is not exactly known for innovative cuisine but for hearty and, some say, uninspiring food. But can some of the country’s dishes be qualified as ‘weird’?

You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

Unlike its neighbours France and Italy, Switzerland’s culinary tradition is relatively plain.

After all, how many foreigners would actually say “I am going to Switzerland for the food”?

Still, don’t rule out some surprises on the culinary front. Whether you consider these dishes as ‘weird’ or just very unappetising depends mostly on how adventurous you are and how solid your stomach is.

So let’s begin.

The Berner Zungenwurst (Bernese tongue sausage)

Some of the wackiest foods have a regional flavour — literally and figuratively.

One of them is a traditional “tongue sausage” from Bern.

A cookbook from 1835 states that two or three pig tongues should be used as ingredients, along with meat and blood from pork and beef. What’s not to like?

These days, however, the tongue has been phased out, but the name remains. Contemporary cookbooks call for Zungenwurst to be made from pork and beef meat, along with crackling and spices. 

In 2019, Zugenwurst achieves EU protected status, which prevents imitators from reproducing the sausage, unless they do so under a different name.

If you can get over its appearance, you might actually enjoy it.

Photo: Photo: Tamorlan, CC BY-SA 2.5/.

READ MORE: Three things to know about Switzerland’s protected ‘blood tongue sausage’

Saucisse de choux

West of Bern, in Vaud, another sausage reigns: the so-called “cabbage sausage”.

No tongue or blood here; this traditional smoked sausage is made from white cabbage, pork and bacon, and eaten boiled with potatoes and leeks — another typical Vaud dish called “papet”.

According to legend, the origin of this sausage dates back to the year 879, when the family of the Emperor of Germany stayed in the Vaud town of Orbe for several weeks.

As the meat ran out, locals mixed cabbage with the sausage meat to fill the stuffing. The smoking stage appeared in the Middle Ages, when it was realised that by smoking the meat, it could be kept longer.

Cenovis

Unless you grew up eating Marmite in the UK or Vegemite in Australia, it may take you a whIle to develop your taste buds to accept, and actually like, Cenovis —  the dark brown paste made from yeast extract.

This very salty paste is spread on a slice of buttered bread.

READ MORE: Six common myths about Swiss food you need to stop believing

How did this idea originate in the first place?

According to the company website, “it was in the mind of a visionary brewer from the Rheinfelden region in the canton of Basel-Country that the idea of using the precious yeasts from the production of beer germinated”.

Spiny thistle

If you think this plant is unfit for human consumption, Genevans will disagree with you.

That’s because cardon épineux genevois is not only a local specialty, but it is also  the first vegetable to be included in the official Swiss registry of origin.

It can be eaten, for example, as a gratin — grilled with (Swiss) cheese on top — to accompany meat or fish.

First consumed around Europe in the 16th century where it was widely cultivated, these days canton of Geneva is the only place that still produces thorned thistle.

Genevans make a dish out of this plant. Photo by Pixabay

READ MORE: Ten varieties of cheese you should be able to identify if you live in Switzerland

Rivella

That Switzerland has its own beverage is not in itself unusual (and certainly not weird) — after all, it does have plenty of cheese and chocolate of its own.

What is slightly odd, however, is that this carbonated drink is made from milk whey.

Perhaps it is because Swiss cows produce too much milk and this surplus had to be used somehow — we don’t know. What we do know is that in 1950 two men, Roberth Barth and the biologist Hans Süsli, got together in Zurich and used a recipe initially conceived to produce a whey beer to create a soft drink that tastes a bit like a mixture of ginger ale and bubble tea.

As is the case with Cenovis, you probably have to train your taste buds (or trick them) to like it.

Chestnut paste tarts

To the untrained eye, these little tarts, called vemicelles, look like worms piled on top.

In fact, in Latin “vermiculi” actually means “worms”. But if you can get past the appearance and the name, these pastries are actually quite delicious.

And making them from scratch (rather than buying them ready made) is almost an art form: traditional recipe calls for about half a kilo of chestnuts.

An incision has to be made in each chestnut before boiling. Then, chestnuts should be shelled, simmered with milk and sugar before being pressed through a special machine to create the long “worms” of chestnut paste.

Photo by Robert Patti on Unsplash

Last but not least…cholera!

OK, what is actually weird about this dish is not its content  but the truly off-putting name.

There is a reason for that: this dish was invented during the cholera outbreak in the 1830s when people were scared to leave their homes and made a pie with whatever leftovers they had on hand: potatoes, onion, apples, bacon, leek and cheese.

As far as we know, this is the only food still in existence that was created out of necessity during a health crisis. To this day, there is no dish called Covid (although all of you budding chefs out there may see that as a challenge). 

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