A couple months ago, I went to Marthasville, MO, to visit Edelbrand Pure Distilling. The business, which is owned by Lynn DeLean-Weber, Martin Weber, and their daughter Tess DeLean, makes vinars, or Swiss brandy. “Vinars” is word in Romansh, or a language spoken in a small mountain region in Switzerland. Martin is from this region. He moved to the U.S. and met and married Lynn, and they decided to start making Swiss-style brandy at home.
It was very cold the day I drove an hour and a half to Marthasville to meet Lynn, Martin, and Tess, but that didn’t deter me. There’s something serene about Missouri farmland during the winter. The hills are dotted with snow and seem to roll into the clouds. Occasionally you’ll see animals grazing in the pasture, but mostly, it’s just wide open space.
Lynn, Martin, and Tess welcomed me warmly when I got to their farm. They had an adorable dog who curled up next to us in the living room. I interviewed them for a story I was writing and then Martin gave me a tour of the brandy facility.
Edelbrand makes its vinars in a converted shed on the side of their farm. The space is small, only big enough for a few people to fit inside comfortably and walk around. There are tanks lining the floors and copper stills near the wall.
I expected a small operation but it was amazing to see what Lynn, Martin, and Tess are able to do in a confined space. Edelbrand makes about 1,100 to 1,200 bottles of vinars a year. Some of those go to local restaurants and shops. Edelbrand also sells its brandy online.
The company sources all its fruit for its brandy from local purveyors and relies on friends and family to help them peel and prepare it. Once the fruit is ready, it goes into mash tanks and sits for a while. Then it goes through the distillation process. Martin and Lynn have to get up at 5:30 A.M. to prepare the stills.
After distillation, Martin dilutes the brandy down to drinking strength. It comes out of the stills at 160 proof, which is very strong, so he uses well water from the farm to bring it to 80 proof. You can read more about the process in the story I wrote for a local food publication.
After I toured the brandy room, Lynn, Martin, and Tess brought me back inside for a vinars tasting. Lynn made a beautiful Swiss pear tart using some of the company’s plum vinars. I liked it so much, I asked her for the recipe. I made it last night after I got home from work.
There are three things I love about this tart: One, it’s relatively easy to make. As long as you have dough made the night before or a premade crust, you’ll be set. I’d advocate for making pie dough if you can. It’s not intimidating (I promise) and for the extra effort, you’ll be rewarded with buttery, flaky pastry and a more authentic flavor.
The second thing I love about this recipe are the plum brandy-soaked pears. The brandy softens the pears even more and makes them very tender. You place them in a circle around your pie crust and pour the custard on top. The brandy pairs well with the eggs and cream, and it balances the sweetness of the pear.
My third favorite thing about this tart is the hazelnut element. You might be like, meh, why do I need ground hazelnuts if I already have a pie crust, pears, and custard? Trust me, you need them. They complement the pears and add a nutty, earthy richness to the tart.
I’m so happy Lynn shared this recipe with me. I can’t wait to eat the tart for lunch the next few days.
Swiss Pear Tart with Edelbrand Plum Brandy (slightly adapted from Edelbrand Pure Distilling)
pie crust (here’s the recipe I used*)
3-4 Tbsp of finely ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup Edelbrand vinars de pera (pear brandy) or vinars da plogas (plum brandy)
2 ripe pears, slice thinly (you can also use 2-4 plums)
200 ml of heavy cream (about 7/8’s of a cup)
1 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp sugar
Preheat oven to 430 degrees Fahrenheit; place rack toward bottom of oven.
Lightly spray tart pan with cooking spray.
Roll pie dough out into a circle and lay into base of a 10-inch tart pan, pressing well into sides. Prick (lightly so as not to scratch tart pan surface) base all over with a fork. Place in freezer for 15-20 minutes. This will make the crust flaky when baked.
Place sliced fruit in shallow dish or plastic baggie and pour vinars over fruit. Allow to sit until ready to lay onto pie crust.
Spread hazelnuts evenly over pastry. Gently lift fruit out of vinars and lay sliced pears in a circular design, starting with the outer edge. I usually end up with 3 full circles, overlapping each circle with the other until I reach the center.
You can mix the vinars into the cream mixture (next step) or serve at room temperature or slightly chilled with the dessert when it is ready.
Whisk together cream, egg, flour, and sugar until mixed thoroughly. Pour slowly over pears, starting from the inside of the pan to the outer edge. Bake approximately 30 minutes, until filling is golden brown. Remove and cool on wire rack for 20 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*I made the dough, shaped it into a disc, and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight before I rolled it out. I would recommend doing the same. It will be more buttery and flaky that way.