Thirty miles south of Madison, WI, is the community of New Glarus, known as “America’s Little Switzerland.” The original settlers arrived from Canton Glarus in Switzerland in 1845; many of their descendants still speak Glarnese Swiss German today. Though the language is no longer spoken among younger people, the Swiss heritage in New Glarus endures in a number of ways, including cuisine. In this interview, the speaker recalls the different kinds of bread baked in the community.
Dialect: Swiss German, Wisconsin German Dialects
Location: Green, Wisconsin
How did you use to bake bread?
We used to bake our own bread. I can still remember when Mother used to bake bread. At that time people used old baking ovens and fired them with wood. And then they prepared the yeast. I remember my mother saving the water left over from boiling potatoes and adding yeast to it. She prepared the yeast in the evening and covered it, then made the dough the next morning, let it rise, and then baked the bread. She usually baked bread twice a week.
And for Christmas people used to make pear bread [Birnenbrot]. All kinds of dried fruit, pears, apples, plums, and so on, and raisins, all that got kneaded into the dough. And that was to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. And the Glarner also made Butterweggen, and that’s still made today. And to make that, you put butter, raisins, eggs, and sugar into the dough.