Pottery in the Alsace

Text read by Mary Peters

Bernard and Monique took Tommy to the local pottery villages, Betschdorf and Soufflenheim.

You may remember Tommy the Bear’s Tour around Wissembourg. Brida Journal xx/21. In this article, Tommy continues on his adventures discovering the northern Alsace.

Waking up was difficult because Tommy had a sore head from drinking too much beer and wine in Hunspach yesterday.  Read about it here.

On the second day, the plan was to visit 2 potteries. Bernard decided it would be better to leave a little later. Bernard made breakfast, but Tommy was not that hungry. All he wanted was a glass of water and some Aspirin.

At 10am, they drove the 20 kilometres to Betschdorf, the centre of Alsatian pottery. It is a pretty village. It is clean, there are many flowers in the summer. It is a wealthy village.

In 1720, potters came from Germany and settled down in Betschdorf. They introduced their pottery making technique, using sandstone, salt and blue cobalt. Now, there is a typical Alsatian pottery style, grey and cobalt blue. In Betschdorf, potters made more decorative items – vases, amphoras. In 1800, there were 60 pottery workshops, but currently, there are only 5. But visiting the Pottery Museum is a good idea.  

Not far from Betschdorf is the second pottery village in the region, called Soufflenheim. Tommy liked Soufflenheim more. It was a little bigger, and there are more potteries. The specialities are crockery (cups, plates, serving plates, dishes), and the pottery is more colourful. The pottery is glazed and often decorated with ducks or storks. 

Pottery has been made here since 2000 BC. The vicinity of Soufflenheim provided the most beautiful of the magnificent collection of pottery from the Bronze Age. Tommy also visited some workshops where the potters showed how they make the objects. You can also buy the items in the showrooms. 

It was time to go to a café and enjoy some good cake and a good cup of strong coffee. Tommy was hungry. He ate some éclairs, some sweet “Kugelhopf”, and a “Streuselkuchen.” He liked the Kugelhopf. It is a speciality of the region. 

Bernard then drove Monique & Tommy to Lauterbourg. This is the town, which is in the most north-eastern corner of France, directly on the border to Germany. Europe’s longest river, the Rhine, is the border between France and Germany. On the banks of the river is the restaurant “Bord du Rhin”. They sat on the terrace and watched the barges sail upstream and downstream. On the other side of the river is Germany.

Tommy wanted to try a typical Alsatian meal (other than a Tarte Flambée), so Bernard recommended a “Choucroute Royale!”

After dinner, Tommy felt full! He could hardly walk. He had learnt that being an Alsatian required stamina. Not for the faint-hearted! 

Monique’s Kugelhopf

The Kugelopf is a traditional Alsatian cake. You serve it at breakfast or the aperitif. It is also an aperitif cake at the wedding buffet.

To make it, you need:

– 500 gr flour
– 200 gr butter
– 100 gr sugar
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 l milk
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– 50 gr dried grapes
– 50 gr almonds
– 25 gr baker’s yeast (Boulanger)

Put the flour in a bowl and make a well. Heat the milk and put it inside the well and the baker’s yeast. Let stand and wait for the yeast to rise well (15 minutes).

Then, add the butter, the sugar, the eggs, and the salt. You mix all these ingredients.
You cover the dough with a towel and let it rest for 1 hour.

After, you work the dough, add dried grapes, and put all this in a special Kugelopf.

mould, that you put butter and almonds at the bottom beforehand.

A clay mould is more traditional (from Soufflenheim). Tin is more commonly used today.

You can soak the dried grapes in water (traditional in Alsace) or a little rum (Monique’s choice).

The dough must rest 30 minutes to rise.
Then, you bake the dough for 45 minutes at 170 degrees.

When the cake is cold, you sprinkle it with icing sugar.

There are two types of Kugelopf. This is the sweet version. There is also a savoury (salé) Kugelopf. It contains bacon cubes and more salt.

The best Kugelopf depends on the bakery. All bakers have variations of the same recipe. The quality of the flour and the ingredients influence the quality and taste of the Kugelopf.  In all professions, if you have good raw materials, you have an excellent product.

Bernard’s “Chouroute Royale”

What is “choucroute”?

Choucroute is “Sauerkraut” (fermented white cabbage).
The cabbage comes from the region “Ackerland” near Strasbourg.

The cabbage is harvested in autumn and kept in containers until winter. The cabbage ferments in the container. Choucroute is a typical winter meal.

There are two versions:

Normal sauerkraut and royal;
-Normal is with wine (Riesling) or beer.
– Royale with champagne. (not crémant)

Recipe for 4 people
Ingredients:
1 kg sauerkraut (fermented white cabbage)
1 bacon rind
320 gr smoked bacon
460 gr of “Kassler”
4 sausages “knacks”
4 onions and spices
accompanied by potatoes and mustard.

Afterwards, I “suggest” a light dessert. Kugelopf glacé (Grand Marnier) or some marble cake.

After the meal, I recommend a coffee and a digestive but not a café gourmand.

Enjoy your meal.

To drink with choucroute: Alsatian beer (Fisher Bière) and Riesling, not too sweet. I recommend Veuve Cliquot if you like Champagne.

What is Kassler? Pork filet. Normally you put the Kassler inside the choucroute, but Monique prefers baking it in the oven separately to make it crispier. And then serving it with the choucroute.

Knacks Typical Alsatian sausages similar to  ‘Frankfurter Würstchen‘ or ‚Wienerle‘. (Hot dog sausages).

Every year there is a Knack Competition in Strasbourg during the “Foire Européene.” in June

For Bernard, No Knack = no Choucroute.   

“Choucroute aux poisson.”
Instead of meat, you have 2-3 types of fish. But this is not “typical” Alsatian.