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Bridge to Health Blog

The History of Swiss Birchermuesli

Written by Verena Leo   Posted in:Nutrition   May 12, 2020

The History of Swiss Birchermuesli

Hello there, my name is Verena Leo. I am an Osteopath and Craniosacral therapist at Bridge to Health in Uxbridge. During the lock down period I have returned back home to Switzerland and the diet I grew up with.

So today I would like to share a piece of Swiss nutritional history by highlighting some background information about the famous breakfast dish: the Birchermüesli. It was developed around 1900 by the physician Dr Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner. It is said that he first discovered the dish when hiking in the mountains and being served a similar dish by a dairymaid. Apparently it had been locally consumed for many decades before. Müesli comes from the word Mus, which means puree. Dr Bircher-Benner was a nutritional pioneer as he started to develop the recipe further and started to use it to improve his patient’s life by changing their diet and introducing raw foods and plenty of fruits and nuts. Although Dr. Bircher-Benner did not receive much credit from his colleagues during his lifetime, the Birchermüesli became very popular with the general public. In the 1950s a Swiss company crafted Bio-Birchermuesli using Bircher-Benner’s original recipe and made it global. 

The original recipe involved 1 tablespoon of oats, 3 tablespoons of water, which were soaked for 12 hours. Afterwards 1 tablespoon full of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk were stirred in. Just before serving the dish 2 whole apples including the core (ca. 200g) would be grated and stirred in and 1 tablespoon of grated hazelnuts or almonds added. He used condensed milk as at the time milk was not pasteurized and therefore presented a risk in terms of contracting tuberculosis. Also the oats nowadays are processed in a way that the soaking time has reduced to a much shorter time.

Today a classic Birchermüesli for one person consists of roughly the following ingredients: Mix 1-1.5 tablespoons of oats in a 0.25dl milk, add 1/2 tablespoons of sultanas and 125g yoghurt (neutral or flavoured), add the juice of 1/8 of a lemon and a bit of the grated peel. 1/4 tablespoon of cinnamon can be added to sweeten the mixture. After removing the core, cut 1 apple (for example braeburn) in pieces and then grate and stir it into the Müesli. Afterwards the mixture can be enriched with 100-125g of seasonal fruits including for example strawberries and apricots. The dish is completed with 1/2 tablespoon of grated hazelnuts and 0.25dl of whipped cream, if desired.

The preparation of homemade muesli varies according to individual preferences, but in comparison to porridge the Müesli is usually prepared with cold milk. The apples are often supplemented with exotic or dried fruits and variety of milk products, seeds, spices and honey, and the lemon juice is often replaced by orange or apple juice. The original Birchermüesli mainly consisted of apple and therefore was also known as the apple diet dish. At the time it was also more often consumed as an appetiser or a supper rather than as a breakfast, which it is famous for today. 

I hope you enjoy making your own Birchermüesli, if you have any questions about the recipe, or indeed about healing body aches and pains, contact me at verena@bridgetohealth.co.uk .

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