Switzerland is a cherry paradise.
These trees are just across the street from our house in the Emmental.
But no place loves their Chriesi (cherries) more than Zug. Famous for the beautiful trees that dot the landscape, this fruit has been the pride of the canton for centuries. Their famous cherry market is first mentioned in 1627, and the ringing of the cherry bell, Chriesigloggä, in 1711.
The city of Zug even had its own cherry orchard in the Allmend, one that belonged to its citizens.
Once the cherries were ripe enough to pick, the church bell at St Michael's, also known as the Chriesigloggä, rang for half an hour to mark the official opening of the cherry season.
Then the race was on.
At this point, all citizens of the town had the right to pick the cherries in the Allmend. They would take their ladders, basket-woven backpacks, and cherry picking tools and dash through the town to get their hands on the first fruit. They had likely prepared days in advance, as there was no early warning when the bell would ring. And there were strict fines for anyone who tried to pick the cherries before the season had officially started. The city even employed a cherry watchman to guard the site against enthusiastic early pickers.
The tradition of the Chriesisturm faded in the 20th century as cherry trees slowly began disappearing from the Zuger landscape. Not wanting to lose this important part of their heritage, in 2006 an association was set up called 1000 Kirschbäume für Zug (1000 cherry trees for Zug), to encourage planting cherry trees in the canton. Two years later the association for the preservation of Zuger cherries IG Zuger Chriesi, was formed. The tradition of the Chriesisturm was reinstated, and now the streets are once again full of people running with ladders, only this time instead of frantic cherry picking, the participants have a calm cherry-rich lunch together in the town square.
The Zuger cherry association website is full of information on cherry customs, Chriesi yogurt, Zuger Chriesiwurst (cherry sausage), Chriesi Bier, Zuger Kirschtorte, Zuger Kirsch and this recipe, the oldest surviving Zuger cherry recipe.
The name Türkenbund in the original recipe would have referred to the shape of the batter as it baked and rose above the side of the dish. Similar to the French clafoutis, this recipe from the second half of the 18th century adds semolina (hartweizengriess) to the mix. With a base of cherries and a fluffy top, this is a delicious way to use up your cherry windfall.
I adjusted the recipe down and it comfortably provided a lunch for two and a hungry toddler, with a bit left over.
400-500 g cherries, pitted and halved
500 ml milk
knob of butter
pinch of salt
75 g semolina (hartweizengriess)
rind from half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
4 eggs, separated
30 g sugar
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6.
Butter a 1.5 L (6 cup) baking dish and fill the bottom with your pitted cherries.
In a large pot, bring the milk, butter and salt to a boil.
Add the semolina and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the lemon rind and spices. Let cool slightly.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy.
Whisk the egg yolks into the semolina batter.
Whisk a third of the beaten egg whites into the batter, then carefully fold the rest in.
Scrape into your prepared baking dish, on top of the cherries.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is browned to your liking.
- Semolina is also sold as semolina flour. In Swiss supermarkets this is called Hartweizengriess / Semoule de Blé dur / Semola di Grano Duro.
- I prefer to have all the fruit at the bottom and place all the batter on top. The original recipe calls for the cherries to be mixed into the batter itself.
- The original recipe suggest serving the dish with milky coffee, sweet white wine, or real Zuger Krisch.
- Perfect for dinner, breakfast, or dessert.