Spotlight on the best Swiss local products
The 7th Swiss local food competition has crowned artisans and their specialities in different categories. We provide a background on some of this year's winners.
During the weekend of 30 September to 1 October, the Swiss terroir took centre stage in the Jura. Some 185 artisans had their products on display for the public to sample in Courtemelon, near Delémont. The 7th Swiss local food competition awarded prizes to a whole range of specialities and artisans in various categories including bakery/pastry, dairy, meat products, alcoholic beverages, and fruit and vegetables.
The jury awarded gold, silver and bronze medals to specialities from different parts of Switzerland. For each category, the prix d'excellence is awarded to the best product and the award of best producer goes to the most outstanding artisan.
Below we highlight six of the award-winning products.
Toetché by the Boulangerie du Moulin in Delémont
Pascal Dominé's toetché is once again among the prizewinners, taking the prix d'excellence in the bakery/pastry category. This speciality of the canton of Jura is a tart made with cream – but savoury not sweet. Dominé sells it in his bakery in the centre of Delémont, the Boulangerie du Moulin, which he has run with his wife for almost 20 years. "For the recipe, we start with a milk dough (of the sort we use for milk bread rolls) and then for the topping we add cream, eggs and a little salt," he explains. Special detail: the cream is placed in an oven for a whole day, at between 30 and 35 degrees Celsius. "This makes it thicker and slightly sour," he continues. In addition to the toetché, which is found in all the bakeries of the Jura, his other specialities are spelt bread and chocolates, including truffles containing damson plum liqueur, which is typical of the canton of Jura.
Dominé, who is president of the association of bakers, pastry chefs and confectioners of the Jura and Bernese Jura, thinks it is important to take part in the competition, which focuses on craftsmanship. "Hearing criticism of our products is constructive and helps us to improve. And if you win a medal, you attract new customers, all eager to taste the award-winning product!"
L'Etivaz des Arpilles, cheese from the Alps
A cheese took top prize in the dairy products category: L'Etivaz PDO made by Claude-Alain Mottier in the Pays d'Enhaut (canton of Vaud). Every summer, Mottier takes his 45 cows up to the mountain pastures, as he has done for the past 28 years. He doesn't go directly to his highest chalet, which is located at an altitude of 1,920 metres, but makes two stops along the way... At 1,768 metres, the artisan prepares his cheese in the chalet Les Arpilles: this year's winning cheese! L'Etivaz is a hard cheese and is unusual in that it is made in a cauldron on a wood fire, and is produced at altitude – so the cows only graze on grass from the Alpine pastures. The wheels of cheese are then matured in the cellars of L'Etivaz, a commune in the canton of Vaud, near Château d'Oex.
Hazelnut oil from St Gallen
The vegetable oils from St Gallen already have quite a reputation and are exclusively cold-pressed oils, in order to preserve their nutritional qualities. The seeds used come from local farms and are processed by the St. Gallische Saatzucht cooperative of 70 family farms, which also produces ancient varieties of vegetables. It sells 12 high-quality oils under its 'St. Galler Öl' brand. The one that caught the jury's attention was the cold-pressed hazelnut oil. Three families now grow hazelnuts to make it: their plantation at the foot of the Alpstein massif was one of the first attempts in Switzerland to cultivate this species, which grows naturally at the edge of forests.
Fruit alcohols from Lucerne by Erika and Franz Fassbind
Erika and Franz Fassbind were crowned best producers in the alcoholic beverages category. Based in Hitzkirch in the canton of Lucerne, they opened their distillery in 2004 but have been growing vines since 1999. Their alcohols are made from fruits that grow on their property. They entered four of the specialities from their distillery in the competition: sparkling wine made from apples, Poire Williams eau de vie, and raspberry and quince liqueurs. "We entered the contest because we wanted to know how our products would fare compared to others. We also hope to attract new customers," explains Erika Fassbind.
The specialities of the Moléson cheese dairy
The Moléson cheese dairy was awarded the prize for best producer in its category. The company, run by Michel Grossrieder, is based in Orsonnens, in the canton of Fribourg. It produces, matures and markets cheeses made with milk from about 50 producers in the region who feed their livestock exclusively with hay and fresh grass. Its specialities, typical of Fribourg, are mature Gruyère cheeses (like the Vieux Suisse, matured for 18 months) and rustic Vacherin à l'ancienne, with a wrinkled rind. The Moléson cheese dairy also sells original products, such as Fleur des Préalpes, goat's cheese wrapped in spruce bark, flavoured tommes and faya, a semi-hard cheese made from sheep's milk, matured for 3 to 4 months.
Cured raw ham from the canton of Valais, courtesy of the 'local butcher'
In his butcher's shop in Bramois in the canton of Valais, Jean-Marie Pitteloud sells a range of artisan charcuterie products. This year, his PGI cured raw ham from the canton of Valais was awarded the prix d'excellence in the meat products category. He makes it with the leaner part of the ham and uses only Swiss meat as per PGI requirements. Other specialities of the 'local butcher' are Hérens sausage (made with local beef), Valais dried meat, bacon and 13 types of dry sausage. This is the third time he has entered the competition and he already has many medals under his belt. "I enjoy taking part. I try to improve from one year to the next. And it provides some publicity for my little butcher's shop: when my Hérens sausage won the award, people from all over Switzerland came to sample it," he enthuses.