Best Foodie Souvenirs from Alsace
You’re visiting Alsace and your brain is saturated with so many charming scenes that you think you’ve had your fill. You feel the choucroute garnie and specific wine of Alsace can only be consumed in these particular surroundings. You can make choucroute at home if you’re ever craving it. But who wants to?
Forgive me Americans, Australians, or anyone that travels to Alsace by plane outside of the EU. Three of the five things on this list to bring home are for consumption. They’re for those chilly February nights when you need a break from boeuf bourguignon, roast beef, carbonara, spicy curry or whatever your go to winter comfort food might entail. You can always live on the wild side and become a raw milk cheese smuggler (the clothes in your suitcase might not be in agreement). I have a friend who does this for friends back in the US and even managed to fit 8 bottles of local wine into their suitcase. At your own risk…
Keep an eye out for these delicious and traditional products from Alsace and think of the people at home, or that night when you need a deep casserole… The old lady next door ate this cheese as if she’s never had any. Our wheel of munster was displayed proudly on her windowsill, where French people keep stinky cheese, for 4 whole days before it was impressively consumed in its entirety!
If you’re curious about beautiful Alsace, see my extensive article on 5 Villages to Visit in Alsace. It doesn’t get much more Christmassy than this. I wish you a delicious holiday!
5 Souvenirs to Bring Home from Alsace
Munster, or Muenster
Oh, the stinky loveliness that is this gorgeous cheese. Munster is a strong smelling, soft cheese with a subtle taste that doesn’t match it’s aroma. It’s made with unpasteurized milk from the Vosges area, between Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté in France. The cheese takes it’s name from the Alsace town of Muenster (not to be confused with the one in Saskatchewan!) where the cheese used to be conserved and matured in monks’ cellars. Perhaps an explanation for the religious experience.
You’ll see Munster everywhere in Alsace. Bring it home for friends. Challenge yourself to eat a whole wheel of it in a week (as we did). But, keep it on the balcony.
I was breifly confused when I posted a picture of Munster during my stay in Alsace last year to the CuriousProvence Facebook page and an American friend exclaimed that it was the grandkids’ favourite cheese. American children eating stinky cheese? I was impressed and doubtful at the same time. Then I found out that there is an American version of Munster, made from pasteurised milk. It was apparently originally made by German immigrants who missed home. Sadly, it doesn’t really resemble the Munster from Alsace.
Tips for buying and eating Munster:
- Delicious melted on…anything! You’ll see lots of Munster melted on potatoes in the markets. I suggest to buy this traditional dish only if the stand is in front/affiliated with a restaurant. Otherwise, the same care isn’t taken to make this lovely stodgy mess. I quite like it melted on toast accompanied by a delicious vegetable soup.
- Always buy lait cru, or raw milk. It should say this on the packet or “Munster Fermier”, which means the same thing.
- Most places sell vacuum-packed Munster for easier transportation
- You can freeze it! Buy the whole wheel, quarter it and freeze the quarters separately.
- Never eat Munster straight from the fridge. Every French person will make sure you know this if they see you with such a noble cheese in your possession. Let it rest at room temperature for at least twenty minutes to capitalize on its flavour.
A choucroute garnie is a simple, lovely plate of food. Better known to anglophones as sauerkraut, in Alsace it is served with 5 different types of cured pork in the form of smoked sausages and ham. In a restaurant, or at the Alsace market in Provence that I go to every year, you may be offered an additional jarret. Only say yes to the jarret if you’re really hungry. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself trying to balance an enormous ham hock on your plate in addition to the sausages! In my case, a delightful challenge.
You can buy choucroute, complete with all the sausages and ham in individual portions at butchers and nice grocery stores. There’s even a choucroute association in Alsace!
I suggest going to: Geismar Traiteur in Turckheim.
This family-owned butcher is committed to quality. I actually became a fan of theirs as they come to Provence once a year for the Sénas-Alsace Christmas market in November.
Alsace wine is very distinct.
The cheapest wine in Alsace is quite frankly, in my opinion, delicious. Anything mid-range in price will be good but not necessarily worth it. If you want something really special try Deiss or something different such as a Rêveur natural wine. The owner of Rêveur is the son of Deiss and makes, along with his soon to be wife who comes from a local Provencal winery (Henri Milan), a DELICIOUS orange wine. The best we’ve tasted.
Many villages in Alsace still have family-owned vineyards with little bars or tasting rooms along the main streets. You can taste for free (but be nice and buy a bottle) and the impressive amount of these boutiques adjacent to each other makes for fun afternoon…
What’s interesting about Alsatian wine is that it’s often sold by monovarietal. The AOC regulates the taste of each monovarietal so that you have a standard product. Once you’ve tasted all the varsities (you know you will) you can go to any bar or restaurant and order a jug of your favourite grape variety.
For more specific information about the wine of Alsace:
Wines of Alsace
The official guide.
by Jean-Paul Krebs of Les Ramparts de Riquewihr (stunning holiday rental apartments in Riquewihr)
Alsace has its own style when it comes to cast iron pots, chocolate moulds, and attractive kouglof moulds. Many of these pots are traditional but kind of kitch at the same time. Fun! They’ll most likely live in the back of your cupboard but worth it if you remember to bring them out for special themed dinner every once and a while.
For examples or to buy online:
Baeckeoffe translates to “baker’s oven.” You’ll see this in most restaurants specialising in traditional dishes of Alsace. The baked comforting loveliness is a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed mutton, beef, and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries. The dish is then slow-cooked in these ceramic casserole dishes. Traditionally, the top was sealed with bread dough to keep in all the flavours. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are also commonly added ingredients. I prefer the dish when there are lots of veggies to balance the goose fat. Here’s a recipe for Baeckeoffe recipe to try at home.
Traditional wooden toys are hand crafted in both the Alsace region and adjacent Germany. Wander the christmas markets of Alsace while drinking a glass of mulled wine, and buy a wooden toy souvenir from the artisan that made it.
Et Voila! What foodie, or otherwise, souvenirs from Alsace have you brought home?