This Thanksgiving note came in from the American side of the family early Thursday, as the US holiday was getting underway (photos may follow, if she can bear to send them). Names changed to protect the first-time-for-pie granny:
“I’m baking 2 pumpkin pies to take to Mark’s & Susan’s tomorrow night. Terry [daughter] couldn’t believe that I’ve never baked a pie in my life. I was going to buy these, but she convinced me that pumpkin pie is the easiest thing in the world to make, so I bought the stuff to make them. However, since I’m baking two, I have them staggered on two different oven racks, and thought it was a good idea to switch them halfway through.
“I managed to move the first one just fine, but when I got to the second one (full of very runny pumpkin filling), I dropped it onto the oven door and the entire filling and part of the crust ran all over the interior of the door. So that involved a big cleanup. First I scraped most of it back into the pie (minus some crust); luckily the door was very clean! Then I decided it would be best to clean up the remainder, rather than let it bake onto the door and into all the cracks. So I spent quite a lot of time removing that (from a very hot door), then started baking again.
Who knows how this will all turn out?! No wonder I’ve always bought pies in the past.”
Swiss food news
Zurich, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) – Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, Migros, will increase by one-third its purchases of Swiss Integrated Production grains for bread at the 2011 harvest, significantly increasing its use of near-organic grains. Integrated Production (IP, or PI in French) is a label that covers a set of very high standards followed by about 20,000 of Switzerland’s 60,000 farmers for part or all of their production. It is not as strict in terms of chemical use as organic farming, but farmers commit themselves to working closely with nature and to encouraging biodiversity by helping flora and fauna thrive.
Migros will increase its IP grains by 90,000 tons, using these for bread and bakery products made by its bakery arm, Jowa, and for flour sold in its food outlets. The decision should give a boost to the label TerreSuisse, jointly created by IP-Suisse, Migros and the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sembach.
TerreSuisse farmers, notes Migros, use no fungicides or insecticides, and they make a concerted effort to create spaces that encourage biodiversity: ponds for wild plants and wildlife, empty stretches in the middle of fields to encourage the threatened skylark to nest there, as well as hares, and fallow fields that encourage insects and cornflowers to flourish. They often heap stones into mounds that serve as shelters for lizards.
Lausanne, Switzerland (GenevaLunch.com) – Scientists at the University of Lausanne have discovered that the third generation, or “grandchildren” of funghi they took from a field near Zurich could play a role in reducing the need for fertilizer for rice, allowing it to grow five times faster than rice produced today, with a little help from funghi which, in their turn, have been helped by labs. The researchers caution that the results of their work are far from being ready to apply to rice paddies, but the research unearthed significant information about rice (explanation, Science Now):
More than 80% of plant species make friends with a common fungus. In return for sugar, the fungus helps the plants extract nutrients from the soil. But rice plants, a primary food source for billions of people, don’t have this special relationship—and thus they don’t receive the extra boost the fungi give other plants. A new study suggests that with a little help from researchers, however, the fungus will bond with rice, increasing the plant’s growth rate by up to five times.
The first two generations of funghi had little impact on the rice, but the grandchildren did, which researcher Ian Sanders and his team surmise is due to the greater genetic variability of the third generation grown under laboratory conditions.
The research was published in the 10 June issue of Current Biology.
GenevaLunch is looking for contributors to our revised food blog, now called Savouring Switzerland! We are opening up some of our blogs to the local international community in the Lake Geneva region, to give more people a voice and an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience. We have a small group of writers lined up to write about food and we are looking for more.
If you are interested, please write to email@example.com, including a link to online samples of your work. If you want to send attachments, please make sure they are not bigger than 2MB.
Here is what we are looking for:
- published writers (this can mean your own blog as long as there are enough entries for us to judge the writing): reliability, good writing, a love of all things related to food
- food photographers
- contributors who will write 1-2 times a month, anywhere from 50-300 words, with accompanying images as a general rule
- wide variety of topics: food news, Switzerland and food, regional dishes, shopping, markets, recipes (not our main focus, however) of interest to the international community, food sources for a variety of national cuisines, food trends, seasonal, cooking with children – the possibilities are wide open.
We can offer you the most widely-read source of news and information in English in the region, with an excellent reputation for quality, as a platform. We will provide a link to your own blog or web site if you are a regular contributor. Please note that, as with all blogs, we do not edit and there is no payment.
Our thanks go to Jonell Galloway-White, who has done a wonderful job of writing The Rambling Epicure in this space for the past year, will now be setting up her own independent blog (and contributing, when she has time, to Savouring Switzerland) to focus more on European cuisine.
By Ellen Wallace, GL editor
The Swiss supermarket chain Migros has just introduced seven new food products from the Balkans that it will carry regularly, to answer a growing demand, it says.
The products, from Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are:
- Vegeta, a trendy mix of spices and herbs, from Croatia
- Podravka beef slices, Croatia
- Podravka goulash, which has won a Superior Taste Award, Croatia
- Argeta chicken-based spread, with no preservatives, from Slovenia
- two prepared vegetable products, Ajvar, one strong, one mild
- coming in autumn: peppers stuffed with sauerkraut
by Ellen Wallace
My first potato plant has just poked its head above the mound where it grows, and my thoughts immediately turned to that Swiss favourite, roesti.
We grow enough potatoes to last the family from July to late January, and while my preference remains boiled and salted for fresh-out-of-the-ground spuds, roesti is an easy second favourite.
The June wedding season will soon be upon us, and if you’re looking for a particularly Swiss gift, consider these. If your budget is under CHF50 another option is always a lovely padded Swiss potato basket with top to keep them warm.
Two fine kitchen gifts: a roesti hand-crafted dish or a Swiss Diamond breakfast pan
Two kitchen items that make the roesti experience nicer also make excellent wedding gifts, if they are in your budget.
I have a roesti dish from the Heimatwerk shops, of which there are several in Switzerland. They do beautiful hand-crafted ceramics.
The dish is designed so you can cook the potatoes on a griddle, on one side, slip them into the dish, then turn it back over into the pan to cook the other side. We put the pan on top of the dish, as if it were a lid, then in one quick motion reverse it.
Migros’s home delivery service is perfect during this period of icy, snowy streets
Since I live in the old town in Geneva, I walk everywhere. A few years ago, I had shoulder and wrist injuries from carrying too many heavy shopping bags, and ever since, I’ve had to do my heavy grocery and household shopping with a trolley. A couple of years ago, after regularly hearing the leshop.ch ads on WRS (formerly WRG), I decided to try and avoid pulling my heavy trolley, filled with milk, detergents, and other heavy products, up the hill from the Coop 2000 and the Boulevard Helvétique market to the Russian Church, so I tried leshop.ch. With the ice and snow on the streets over the last few weeks, home delivery can definitely be a godsend.
Online supermarket shopping, a luxury that fits every pocked
Although the leshop site is not the most user-friendly and not everything is translated into English, it is still quite functional for a non-French-speaker. The process is simple. Start by opening an account. This allows you to have a shopping cart, which you can use just like a shopping list that you put on the front of the refrigerator, adding things as you run out of them (I just leave my leshop.ch shopping cart open on the screen and add things as needed). When you are ready to order, send it in before midnight, and it will arrive on your doorstep between 5 and 8 p.m. the next day.
by Ellen Wallace
New variety of apples available in Switzerland: Tentation
I’m fussy about apples because I grow my own, four varieties, and I find too many supermarket apples soft or tasteless or too sweet or too acidic. New apples are constantly being developed, but like many consumers, I’m set in my ways and am not easily tempted to try them.
I’ve just tried Tentation™, an apple developed recently in the middle of France, and which has been distributed in Switzerland since November. It’s a cross between Golden Delicious, possibly my least favourite apple variety, and Grifer, aka Golden Blushing: the marriage is made in heaven. The apples are crisp, sweet yet pleasingly acidic, a lovely blush of pink on the rosy-gold skin.
My only complaint is that they are relatively large, too much for a snack. But they slice beautifully, and at our house were a success served as a Sunday mid-afternoon snack, with a handful of good mixed nuts.
Earlier this autumn I was brave and tried a new Swiss apple, Galmac, from a cross between Jerseymac and Gala. It was equally good, especially appreciated because it comes on the market earlier than most acidic apples.
Tentation was 10 years in the making, Galmac 23. After all that time and effort, they deserve the praise.
Where to buy them:
Apricots are on sale in Valais and this weekend is their peak, say pickers and sellers. I’ve been buying them at different places, mainly for eating but I’m trying to convince the household’s jam-maker that our supply is running low. He’s more interested in making raspberry jam but the two together on a table with slices of hot toast on a fine summer morning comes close to a visit to a cathedral!
The main traditional variety is called Luizet. They are smaller and less tart than some of the smoother skinned new varieties such as Goldrich. They also don’t keep as well, which is why you see fewer of the Luizet in supermarkets. I find the Luizet more flavourful but my visiting English mother-in-law prefers the newer ones for snacks. Valais grows 10 varieties, with the advantage to growers that the season is a bit longer.
The traditional ones are best for jam-making. We’ve been paying a little over CHF5 for a kilo and CHF20 or a bit more for boxes of 6 kilos.
Where to buy them
This is a wonderful time to visit some of the apricot-orchard towns around Sion and Sierre, along the Rhone river, where the trees are still laden with fruit and the mountains with snowy peaks rise above you.
My favourite is Grone, at the heart of this area, on a road going up to Nendaz, which is a spectacular and cool spot in summer, another 20 minute drive up the mountainside. But there is no shortage of signs for apricots for sale! And they are all good. Do buy direct from the grower, with the trees a few metres away, if you can.
One tip, if you’re making jam: crack the pit and use the soft centre, which looks and tastes a bit like almond, for additional flavour.