Älplermagronen - how the potato came to Switzerland
The potato has had a long journey. However, it was not a straightforward path from its arrival in Europe to the present day, where they are clearly one of the most popular vegetables in Switzerland. Before we processed them into Älplermagronen, Rösti and Co. they are believed to be an ornamental plant.
From the discovery of the new world and its vegetables
As part of the Conquista, more and more Spanish conquistadors moved to South and Central America in the 16th and 17th centuries to discover, conquer and develop the land. From the new colonies, they brought back to Europe, among other things, vegetables that until then had been unknown here. Among them was the potato. The solanaceous plant was already cultivated in the Andes region of South America about 8,000 years ago and spread from there across the continent. It was already highly valued by the Incas and provided people with valuable food even in inhospitable regions.
The potato travels to Europe
The first evidence that the potato had reached Spain dates from 1573, but it is believed that it was first cultivated on the European mainland between 1565 and 1570. It was probably already cultivated around 1562 in the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain. From Spain via Italy, it gradually spread throughout Europe. The potato also reached the British Isles independently of its importation by the Spanish. To this day, it is not clear exactly who brought it with them. The first record of the tuber's presence in England dates back to 1596, and in Ireland it has been growing in the fields since 1606 at the latest.(Do you know the history of parsnips?)
The potato arrived in Switzerland in 1590, when Swiss guardsmen brought it from the Vatican. Here it was first cultivated not for its good taste and nutritiousness, but for its flowering.(This is how you garden on the windowsill) Initially, there were some misunderstandings around its use, and not only here - its preparation was apparently not passed down everywhere.
Thus, people sometimes ate the above-ground parts, the berries or the green tubers, which led to severe indisposition and symptoms of poisoning. As a result, the potato initially fell into disrepute in many countries or was cultivated as an ornamental plant. In addition to the lack of understanding regarding its preparation, the growing conditions in Europe also presented some challenges, which were, however, mastered through special breeding.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the potato finally gained a foothold as an edible plant, including in Switzerland. At the latest after the famine that began in 1770, the value of the potato as an edible plant was fully recognized. Its triumphal march was unstoppable, and today it is an integral part of many recipes.(Recipe for summer: radish soup with zing).
The potato in our recipes today
It is impossible to imagine Swiss cuisine without the nightshade plant. In Switzerland, more than 30 different varieties grow on an area of almost 11,000 hectares, of which around 400,000 tons are harvested annually and 45 kg are consumed per capita.(Interview with farmer Marcel on the challenges in agriculture) In recent years, however, the popularity of the great tuber has declined slightly. Nevertheless, it is and remains the centerpiece of Swiss cuisine. The most important varieties include Agria, which has proven itself primarily as a grafting variety, Bintje, and Charlotte, which is the most popular variety among firm-cooking potatoes. In addition to the classic varieties, more and more new or unusual varieties are finding their way into the hearts of Swiss potato fans. Thus, in the meantime, some blue-, white- and red-fleshed varieties have also found their way into the kitchen.
In addition to fresh potatoes, processed potato products, i.e. chips and French fries, are particularly popular today and already account for about half of potato consumption. But traditional Swiss dishes are not to be missed either.
Rösti is one of the most famous dishes from Swiss cuisine and the classic side dish to Zürcher Geschnetzelte. It is made from raw or cooked grated potatoes and fried in the form of a patty in hot butter. The Swiss eat Berner Rösti additionally with bacon and onions. The best potatoes to use are waxy potatoes or predominantly waxy potatoes.
The recipe for popular and convivial food includes cheese, starch, white wine, garlic, lemon juice, as well as spices is prepared a mixture, which is first heated and then put in a special pot over a rechaud. Then pieces of bread or potatoes are dipped into the delicate mixture with a long fork until they are covered with cheese. True gourmets also choose pear pieces. In some areas it is also customary to douse bread or potatoes with the melted cheese. Classic garnishes are silver onions, cornichons and mixed pickles.
Similar to cheese fondue, raclette is also centered around slowly melted cheese. According to the Valais raclette tradition, a halved loaf of raclette cheese melts over the fire and the cheese is finally scraped off in portions with a knife. This is accompanied by gschwellti, pickled vegetables or tomatoes.
Nowadays, it is just as common to use a special raclette oven for raclette, where the side dishes are chosen as desired and baked in small pans with a slice of raclette cheese on top.
A simple but tasty and nutritious dish is Geschwellti or jacket potatoes. The potatoes are cooked in their skins and then served with various garnishes such as vegetables, curd dip or cheese. The Erika potato variety is particularly suitable for this dish.
The traditional Swiss dairy dish consists of pasta - usually maccharoni or penne - potatoes, cream, cheese and onions. Pasta and potatoes are cooked together, cream and coarsely grated cheese are added at the end of the cooking time and the whole thing is finally rounded off with fried onions.
A traditional recipe for Älplermagronen
You'll need four servings for this tasty, hearty and filling recipe:
- 500 gr waxy potatoes
- 500 gr pasta (ideally macaroni)
- 300 ml cream
- 400 gr cheese, grated
- 175 gr bacon
- 2 - 3 onions
- Flour (approx. 2 tbsp.)
- First cut the peeled potatoes into small cubes
- Boil them with about three quarters of a liter of water for about five minutes
- Now add the pasta and cook until both potatoes and pasta are firm to the bite and have completely absorbed the water.
- Now you can add the cream and season to taste with the spices
- Cut the onions into rings, fry half of them briefly in butter.
- Now mix the pasta-potato mixture with the fried onions, the bacon and half of the grated cheese and pour it into a baking dish
- Cover with the remaining grated cheese and bake in a preheated oven at 200 °C top and bottom heat for about 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare fried onions from the remaining onion rings by dusting them with flour and frying them in butter
- Serve the Älplermagronen now sprinkled with the fried onions, traditionally apple sauce is also served with it
MyFeld wishes en Guete!
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