Plum pie: that annual Geneva favourite (French lesson included!)

Here's a beautiful and more exotic plum tart than the simple, classic Geneva recipe, prepared by Overthemoon, who provides clues about her additional ingredients (flickr)

Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – (Video link included) Some dishes are simply delicious; others we love because of the memories they evoke. It’s not always easy to fall in love with the specialties in a country where you didn’t grow up. I’ve always loved American apple pie and I have a certain amount of fame in small circles for making an excellent one, with garden apples, so I was astonished when an elderly Swiss neighbor told me it was a lovely pie “but it would certainly be better if you didn’t add a top crust – that’s just too much crust.”

She’s probably right, but this is my traditional, grew-up-with-it USA apple pie and I won’t change it, thanks.

I know a lot of Genevans feel the same about plum pie, which I find pleasant most of the time and really good in the hands of a grandma who knows what she’s doing, out in the countryside. Today is Geneva’s “Jeûne genevois” cantonal holiday and plum pie was once the only thing you were allowed to eat on this day of religious fasting. For the past several years it’s simply been the dessert of choice, and all the shops in the region sell these. But the best, of course, will be the one you make yourself, and it must be one of the easiest pies to prepare. A classic recipe is offered by Pique-Assiette, whose video‘s make cooking easy and fun. Better yet, if you’re struggling to improve your French, this is a great way to learn!

Starting point: buy fresh fruit. Here’s a list of 35 farmers who sell fruit directly, from the cantonal agricultural department. You can also search the database by locality.

Pique-Assiette has a summer cooking programme on TSR public television. She’s not a famous chef but rather a popular cook with uncomplicated recipes. Her plum pie recipe calls for a prepared pastry that you can buy at any supermarket in Switzerland with a layer of crushed dry Amaretti biscuits for the crust. She uses 40 grams. Prick it with a fork in several places. The dark plums (she uses 750 grams) that you find everywhere in Switzerland this time of year are sliced lengthwise and placed neatly, skins down, on the crust. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Bake at 200C for 35 minutes.

Now here is a curious coincidence. When I was googling Geneva and plums I came across an article written in 2007 about how Geneva “leads the nation in producing new varieties of European plums”, which sounded odd. It’s about Geneva, New York, written by researchers at the University of Cornell, and the gorgeous photos of deep purple plums look just like the ones growing on our trees in Geneva, Switzerland. The article carries interesting information about the health benefits of plums, the wealth of varieties and more. It is New York-oriented but this tip holds here in Geneva, Switzerland, too: “Remember that any fruit purchased locally will be superior in flavor, aroma and nutrition because it is picked at a peak of ripeness.”

Happy holiday! Mmmmm.


  1. […] Plum pies or tarts used to be the only meal eaten by 16 Century Genevans. However, these days, when most Geneva residents do not fast, it has become the de rigueur dessert. Have you bought yours? […]