Sweating and out of breath, we reached an oasis in the form of a small hut selling products from their alp. There were homemade syrups, preserves and jams, cured meats, cheeses, alpine flower soaps and creams. You could purchase through an honesty box system, and they even had a jug of water for weary, and poorly prepared wanderers (not us, Sam had ensured we were schlepping 1.5 litres of water in 35 degree heat).
I suggested that we rest in the hut until dusk, sampling meats and cheeses, and then return home under the cool cover of nightfall, but Sam disagreed. We purchased what we could carry and wouldn't spoil. Namely this single jar of pine syrup:
Fir trees (Tannenbaum) are used in many products here. The sap or the young green tips of the trees are taken and processed into thick and thin syrups. They can be used in baking, or simply as a spread.
I really wanted to like the tannen syrup. I had never tried it before and it's thick and amber and smells like Christmas. It seemed so alpine and wholesome that I felt sure I would love it. I spread it thickly onto a piece of Zopf, breathed deeply (O Tannenbaum!) and took a bite. I promptly handed the rest of the slice to Sam. It tasted like an alpine meadow in bloom. It was sweet and much too flowery to be eaten alone. It didn't taste like Christmas at all.
So, I decided that I needed to do something else with the rest of the jar, namely granola.
The best granola tutorial I have seen is this brilliant step by step guide from Buzzfeed.
Oats in Switzerland
In Switzerland, the oats come in two forms, fein or grob (fine or coarse). The coarse oats remain whole, while the fine oats are cut into smaller pieces. In North America, there are many more forms of oats, like quick cooking, steel cut and rolled, all of which involve pressing or cutting the oats, mostly to reduce cooking time. Usually it is preferable to use the coarse oats for granola, however I wanted to see how much of a difference the fine oats would make (the pictures below show the fine granola). The taste was equally good, but the texture wasn't as good as with the coarse oats, so I suggest that you use those.
As for the add-ons, I simply took a variety of nuts from the cupboard, dipped each one in the tannen syrup and ate it. Same for dried fruit, apricot was the clear winner. There was a great festive cranberry shortbread that I made many years ago, where the defining spice was cardamon, and I thought it would enhance the christmassy taste. It did.
And I couldn't resist a slug of this...
360 g coarse/traditional oats
150 g walnut pieces
1 tbsp cardamon
1 tsp nutmeg
50 g butter, melted
150 g tannzweigdicksaft (or other syrup)
shot maple syrup
250 g dried apricots, chopped
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F / gas mark 6.
Line a big baking tray with parchment paper.
Mix together the oats, nuts, spices and salt.
Add the melted butter and syrups. Stir well.
Spread onto the tray and bake for about 45-50 minutes, stirring once halfway.
Add the apricots once it comes out of the oven and mix them into the granola while it is still on the baking pan. Let cool completely.
- The melted butter can be substituted with oil.
- As the Buzzfeed article shows, this is possible with any combination of seeds, nuts, fruits, and spices.
- Ovens vary, so keep an eye on the granola as it is baking and if it gets too dark, turn down the heat or take it out.
- The granola will become crunchier over time. Once out of the oven, leave it to cool completely, otherwise it will still be soft.