Kriesi und Kirsi lat Gott wachsen, und an jedem Ort sagt man ihnen, wie es der Brauch ist, Kriesi oder Kirsi, und es ist beides gleich gut, und niemand hat das Recht, den andern auszulachen. Weisst es, Bub.
Looking up the different Swiss German dialect words for cherries led me to a Berner Zeitung article called Der Chriesi-Chirschi-Graben. It’s about one of the many subtle dialect differences (in a country full of subtle dialect differences), this time between the Emmental and the Oberaargau (located confusingly in canton Bern and not canton Aargau).
These neighbouring regions speak differently, and it’s not just cherries (Chirschi vs. Chriesi), but milk (Müuch vs. Miuch), goats (Geiss vs. Giiss), piles of hay (Schöchli vs. Birlig) and countless other words and expressions.
As the article mentions, even the Emmentaler writer Jeremias Gotthelf had something to say about it. The quotation above is his, from his 1854 story Der Besuch (The Visit). One character, Stüdeli, marries and moves from the Oberaargau to the Emmental. Back at her childhood home, she refers to cherries by their Emmentaler name, Chirschi, and her brother teases her relentlessly. Their mother breaks in with the above quote, something like: cherries, no matter by what name, are grown by God, and depending where they grow and what the custom is, they get their name, and both names are equally good, and no one has the right to laugh at another. Know this, boy.
Cherries are cherries.
Stüdeli’s mother probably made some kind of Chriesiwähe, while her daughter made an Emmentaler version and probably called it a Chirschichueche.
(And just a note, I live in the Emmental, but my husband grew up over the border in the wild heart of the Entlebuch, canton Luzern, so in this house it’s a Chriesiwähe).
Normally, I prefer apricot or plum Wähe (less pitting). But with my intrepid toddler at my side, we managed to pit the kilogram of cherries necessary.
I upped my ground nuts here, using finely ground walnuts from a local mill and spreading a thick layer on the base of the tart. Ground almonds, toasted, would also be a logical companion. The rest of the Wähe is as I always make it—a buttery base rolled thin, egg and milk/cream custard, a bit of vanilla for flavour, and not too much sugar.
Bake a Wähe, sweet or savoury, in the morning and serve it up for a quick dinner—different variations below.
200 g flour
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
80 g butter, cold
125 ml water, cold
1 kg cherries, pitted and halved
100 g ground nuts
300 ml milk or cream (or a mix of both)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste or extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, suagr, and salt.
Add the cold butter in pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until you have small flakes.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the water. Mix this gently until a dough forms. Try not to overwork the dough or it will become tough.
Press the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic, and let cool in the fridge for about an hour.
Roll out your dough and line a 26 cm (10 inch) round tart pan. Poke the bottom of the dough lightly all over with a fork, then keep the tart shell cool (preferably in the freezer) until you have the filling ready.
Preheat oven to 220 C / 420 F / gas mark 7.
Whisk together the milk or cre, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
Place your tart pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with the nuts, then arrange the cherries in rows on top. Pour in the liquid.
Bake in the bottom half of the oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until the liquid has set and the fruit juices are bubbling.
To save time, you can use use store-bought dough like Kuchenteig / pâte brisée / pasta per crostate to line your pan.
For the liquid element, I went half milk and half cream. For a lighter version, go for all milk, something richer demands more cream.
Always place the tart pan on your baking sheet before pouring the liquid over.
If the top gets a little dark during baking, cover with aluminum foil.