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Chuchi Schwitzer Dütsch (Swiss German Kitchen Vocabulary)

chichi, kitchen

If you are interested in a) all things kitchen, b) languages, c) Switzerland and / or d) traveling in general, chances are that you have heard the word “Chuchichäschtli”, the Swiss German term for “kitchen cabinet”.

Don’t worry if you are not able to pronounce it – yet. There’s countless other words you can practice with. They might be a bit shorter, a bit less twisted, maybe (maybe!) a bit less glutteral, but fun nevertheless.

Please note that the following collection whether is complete nor should be your single source. It simply is a list of  kitchen and food related terms common in the region and dialect I grew up in and with (and, to the delight of my kids, still am speaking after having lived abroad 20 years). It is a collection of words in “bärndütsch”, the language spoken in the Seeland region of Bern.

Have fun, enjoy, practice – and hopefully go use some of the words in pretty and tasty Switzerland at one point!

tempting pizza

aamächelig: inviting.

abchüele: to cool down.

abschmöcke: to season to taste.

Änischräbeli: A traditional Christmas cookie. Rock hard, bone white, shaped into little crescents, heavy in anise flavor.

swiss style mac & cheese

Äuplermaggrone: The Helvetic take on Mac & Cheese. Consisting of left over boiled potatoes, hollow pasta, well melting cheese and cream.

blodere: to boil.

Bluemchööli: Cauliflower.

chacheli

Chacheli: Bowl

chätsche: to chew.

Chegele: Chestnut.

kastanie, edible chestnut

chnätte: to knead.

Chnöfpli: Literally translated: Little buttons. A hand made pasta, for which the dough is cut into random pieces straight into the boiling water. Delicious with saucy meats or tomato sugo.

chöcherle: to lightly cook.

Chochhäntsche (or: Pfanneblätz): Oven glove.

Chrosle: Gooseberry.

chrüsch: crunchy, crusty.

crunchy texture

Chuechebläch: Baking sheet.

Chüeuschranktür: Fridge door.

Drü-Chünigs-Chueche: The Swiss contribution to the vast collection of Epiphamy pastries is a ring consisting of several small, sweet bread buns. The buns are decorated with coarse sugar crystals and in one of them hides, well, the king.

Düüri Bohne: Dehydrated grean beans. Even after soaking and cooking them, they remain wrinkled and concentrated in flavor.

Swiss version of Empanada, meat filled hand pies

Fleischchräpfli: The Swiss version of Empanadas. Handpies filled with ground beef.

Fotzuschnitte: Slices of bread drenched in milk, then egg mixture, and baked in a skillet. Often dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with apple compote. Comparable to French Toast.

füürheiss: hot as fire.

hot as fire

Ghüderchessu: Trash bin.

Griesspfluute: Sweet version of Grits. The Swiss sweeten theirs with sugar and serve it with a plum (or other fruit) compote.

gruusig: disgusting, gross.

Guguhupf: Bundt cake, yeast based.

Härdöpfutätschli: Fritters made of left over mashed potatoes, pan baked.

Hörnli und Ghackets: A simple, traditional peasant dish. Elbow Macaroni with ground beef and its juice.

Hundeli: Literally: Little dog. Cervelats with their ends cut crosswise, about 2 inches deep. When cooked, the ends will separate and make the sausage look like a dog (in case you have enough imagination.)

iifüue: to fill.

Iigmachts: Preserves (sweet or savory).

preserved cheese

lääi: luke warm.

Löcherbecki: Colander.

Meertrübelischlee: Red currant jelly.

Metzgete: The “slaughtery”. It describes a party held at a restaurant or farmhouse in the fall, when all harvests are done and some animals just have been slaughtered. Classically served are ham, bacon, blood and liver sausages, roesti and apple sauce.

Miuchcaffe: Old time “latte”. Combination of (about) half hot coffee and half steamed milk.

Miuchchanne: Milk vat (made of metal).

milk vats

Panierti Plätzli: Thin, breaded pork cutlets. A cheaper version of the Wiener Schnitzel.

panierti platzli

Pfanneribu: Sponge

pfluderig: mushy.

rüehre: to stir.

rüschte: to peel.

schnätzle: to chop.

schprützig: prickly.

Schüttubächer: Mixing jar.

süüferli blöderle: to carefully boil.

sauerkraut

Suurchabis: Sauerkraut (or: Fermented white cabbage).

Täfeli: Candy.

Teigtrööler: Rolling pin.

tünke: to dunk.

verbrösmele: to crumb up.

vermodere: to rot.

Wurscht-Chäs-Salat: A classic, rustic salad prepared of Cervelat slices and cubes of hard cheese (often Appenzeller). There can be onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc. added. Summer fare.

zääi: tough.

Zapfezieier: Cork screw.

Zigerschtöckli: A truly one of a kind cheese produced in one single dairy. It is made of whey, a secret mix of dried and powdered herbs, aged eight months and shaped into a little cylinder (to which the term “schtöckli” refers). Ziger comes in a light green hue, is mighty sharp and usually grated on or into foods.

Zuegge: Spout

spout, zuegge

Swiss Kiss #10 – Läbchueche (Ginger Bread)

Gingerbread, traditional Christmas pastryKids usually don’t have a developed sense for time. And because they live in the moment, they are not very interested in time either (except when it’s “time” to go to bed – then they become extremely uninterested). There’s phases though throughout the year, when even kids become alert of specific days. Birthdays, for instance, seem to tickle an instinct slumbering within them. Suddenly they are bright awake and can tell exactly how many days or how many night sleeps their big day is away. Christmas tends to have the same effect.

And for me, as a child, Chlouser (Santa Day) did, too. It was the day when we went to the little fair in town, straight from school, when my mother baked Grittibänze (bread people) for supper and we even were allowed to have chocolate with it. – And there was Läbchueche! Even though the bakeries started to offer them earlier every year, in my family we never touched them before Chlouser. They rang in the Holiday season, and – as every thing restricted or limited – tasted already good just because we had had to wait for them.

verzierter lebkuchen mit zuckerguss

Each region of Switzerland prepares its own version of Läbchueche, and they even go by different names. While I grew up with the very light, yet sticky Bäremutz of the Bern area (the bear in the name and in form of a sugary decoration referring to the name of the Swiss capital, Bern), others were used to slabs – or more elaborate shapes as hearts, flowers or animals – containing nuts, honey, almonds, chocolate and more.

It took me half a century, and a move across the big pond, until I learned about what I now call Barbara’s Läbchueche. I met this wonderful Swiss lady and market goer through cheese – who would have guessed – and immediately was impressed by her energy, wit and, especially, her baking skills. The first time we met she brought me the Läbchueche from Obwalden, a region deep in central Switzerland, where once her home had been. The squares were undecorated and unpretentious, and their texture and flavors down right addicting. Moist, fluffy, springy, chocolatey and spicy all at once, long lasting on the palate yet not too heavy in the belly. Barbara’s Läbchueche are easy and quick to prepare and become even tastier after a few days. What else would one wish for during the busy Holiday season?

gingerbread, wrapped as gift

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Swiss Kiss #8 – Erst August Weggen

August first rolls with flags

To Swiss, August 1 marks what July 4 does to Americans: It is our national Independence Day. And while there are fire works, pick nicks – or barbecues, how Americans prefer to call them -, tons of sausages, potato salads, ice cream, fruit pies and such on both sides of the ocean, my very favorite part about August 1 are Erst August Weggen: Little, light breads with a cross shaped on the top – representing the Swiss flag -, that from the middle of July and until the big day abundantly fill the bakery shelves across the country.

Weggen, or Weggli, depending on the region, are made year round and stand as one of the staples in Swiss bakeries. The day in, day out, regular version is a portion sized, a bit flattened dome with a cut in the center. The crust is egg basted, very fine and very soft, the inside is feather light, smooth, with a hint of a unique, flattering, addictive, slightly sweet flavor. Which comes from the addition of a tiny bit of malt. (Ta-daa, there goes the secret!)

The special birthday edition is prepared with the exact same ingredients and in the exact same technique as the common Weggli, but in honor of Helvetia has the cross shaped on its top. – Which shows how versatile of a bread the Weggen is: It can be shaped into knots, pretzels, pigeons (traditional in some areas around Easter), little porcupines, people, snakes… you name it. Even though there is this slight, slight hint of sweetness in the flavor profile, Weggli adapts both to sweet and savory companions. Served with butter and jam or honey, this mini bread is a luxury way of the traditional Swiss breakfast (slices of bread, buttered and topped with a sweet spread). When then some cheeses, charcuterie and pickles are added, it easily can make for a delicious Brunch or light supper.

So, go and prepare a batch of dough, shape some Weggen or find your favorite form, and enjoy by eating it with what ever suits your taste buds best. – Meanwhile, I will celebrate with plain, still warm, simply traditional Erst August Weggen. Happy 723. birthday, beautiful Switzerland!

egg yolk and milk for swiss holiday bread

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Pictures at a Fridge #5 – Birthday Card

birthday card with lady gulping beer

This is the most funny and meaningful birthday card I ever received. First, it reminds me of that short but great stay with my one friend in California, during which she gave me the card. Also, it speaks the (my) truth. As opposed to Wynona, I do not care for sweet baked goods, so people who know me will not even try to tempt me with this kind of goodies. They won’t do it with beer either (like the photo suggests). – But they will do it with wine. And they won’t have to try hard. I love my wine, just like Wynona loves her beer. And that is it. Cheers!

Text birthday card

Of Bunnies and Carrots

carrot cake with Marzipan decoration

Where there are bunnies, there (better) are carrots. And since Easter is all about bunnies, and long ears and soft round tails can be seen and smelled everywhere, I always felt that Rüebli-Chueche (carrot cake) and Easter should belong together. Already as a child, long before I knew about the ritual of setting out cookies and milk for Santa, I believed that the Easter bunny should be rewarded somehow, and kept happy. (Even if it was us, and not him, getting to enjoy the cake. At least we paid him tribute and respect.)

Rüebli-Chueche is one of the very classic, simple, basic and ubiquitous baked sweets in Switzerland – year round, not on Easter particularly (except in my house). Its picture and recipe can be found in most every baking book. The cake – that, interestingly, often is called “torte” and thus elevated into the category of more complex and complicated oeuvres (which it is not at all) – has its roots in the Aargau canton, just west of Zurich – a rather flat region dubbed “carrot land”.

This nicely moist cake is based on equal amounts of shaved carrots and ground almonds, plus eggs, sugar (less is more here!), a spritz of Kirsch and just a little flour and baking powder. It’s trademark is a bright white and shiny frosting and cute little Marzipan carrots that are vertically stuck into the cake so that just the greens and top of the carrot are visible. In Switzerland, these decorations can be bought at any bakery or grocery store. If you don’t have access to them, simply opt for plain Marzipan and work with food coloring and your creativity – like I did for this specific cake. It actually is much fun! So much, that I decided it would be a shame to hide the carrots in the ground of the cake. So I arranged them on the top, like bunches of carrots at the market.

The almonds can be substituted with any kind of ground nuts, and the choice of flour is one hundred percent yours. – Unless, of course, you plan to offer a slice to the Easter Bunny. In this case you would have to find out what his favorite nuts and flours are. (And don’t forget a glass of carrot juice!)

carrots with greens

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