Zug is both the name of a canton and its capital. It is a rather odd name for a Swiss canton as the word Zug means both train or trait. The canton is about as small as the word – it’s one of the smallest Swiss cantons. But it’s also one of the richest cantons, and hence the local taxes are some of the lowest of Switzerland (or the other way round, it’s a chicken and egg question). This small canton is a beautiful place, boasting two beautiful lakes, the Aegerisee and Zugersee, a handful of ponds, beautiful, pre-alpine landscape and many cherry trees. It is the cherry trees that are the most famous food feature of this canton. And where there is fruit, the liqueur isn’t far away, as you can read below.
While many international food enterprises have their Swiss or European headquarter in Zug due to the low corporation tax rates, not many things are actually produced in this small canton. Vzug, a manufacturer of kitchen and other household appliances, is one of the most famous companies of the canton. It all started in the year 1913 with a company called Verzinkerei Zug AG, a zink coating company. Two years later the company introduced the first Waschherd, a separate oven for washing, and in 1920 Switzerland’s first hand-operated washing machine with washing machine drum followed, which meant even easier washing. More and more kitchen appliances followed, and until today many Swiss households own VZug ovens, dishwashers, washing machines and more.
Cherry trees and cherry customs
Zug’s main feature are its beautiful, old high-stem cherry trees (as opposed to the modern low-stem trees for industrial harvesting). Zug’s farmers been cultivating cherry trees for 400 years; the peak was in the 1950ies when the cherry tree count was at 44’482. Due to changes in agriculture and increased building work the tree population has reduced significantly. The decrease of the prices for cherries also meant that many farmers weren’t able to sell their cherries anymore. Nonetheless, cherries are still the most important pillar of Zug’s agriculture with three quarters of farmers producing cherries. The organisation Zugerchriesi has the mission of making the Zug cherries famous again.
The canton of Zug hosts some of the oldest cherry customs of Switzerland. The Zuger Chriesimärt (Zug cherry market) is held yearly in the city of Zug during three to five weeks somewhere in June-August, depending on the timing of the cherry harvest. There local farmers sell various popular and less known cherry varieties, other cherry specialties from Zug as below, and there are food stalls, drinks and more. Meanwhile, at the Zuger Chriesisturm (Zug cherry storm) both grown-ups and children run through the Zug’s old-town with their very long, wooden cherry ladders (watch a video here). There’s also the Zuger Chriesitag (Zug cherry day) on the last Saturday before the summer holidays, where the locals compete in the art of cherry stone spitting.
The Zuger Kirschtorte (Zug kirsch liqueur cake) is popular in the entire country. This cake is made of two Japonais (nut merengue) discs, a sponge cake, kirsch liqueur and a special creme. Some people like this cake drowned in alcohol and hence will add even more kirsch at home. Watch a making of video here.
Zuger Kirsch (kirsch liqueur from Zug), a destillate made of Zug cherries, is world famous and has received countless international awards. In Switzerland kirsch is used in many ways. It’s drunk as a digestive after dinner although it’s widely known these days that alcohol hinders rather than helps digestion, it’s used for baking (my family usually puts kirsch into chocolate cakes and bisquits to intensify the chocolate flavour), and of course there are the Kirschstängeli, the chocolates filled with kirsch.
Zuger Chriesibrägel, a sweet cherry dish, is another specialty from the canton of Zug and other cantons from central Switzerland. This can also be prepared with frozen cherries which are available in Switzerland’s supermarkets all year round. It’s such a delicious dish and easy to prepare too, read our recipe here.