Marcaire / marcairie
Who are the marcaires?
The marcaires are farmers from the Vosges hills who raise dairy cattle for the production of Munster cheese Their name is based on the Alsatian word "malker" which comes from the German "melker", meaning someone who milks cows. More than 1000 years ago, they cleared the high altitude pastures known in French as the hautes chaumes to take their cattle there to graze.
On the feast of St Urbain, on 25 May, the marcaires leave their village, to the sound of cattle bells, to make their way back to the high pastures. Munster cheese is produced in a marcairie (cheese factory) by the farmer, surrounded by his cowherds.
Today, these mountain pasture farms have been extended and have become farm-inns, where hikers can enjoy the legendary "marcaire meal".
You can still see traditional marcaire costumes being worn at village festivals or during the seasonal migration to summer pastures.
The marcaire meal
A special feature of the Vosges, most of the farm-inns in the upper Rhine area serve various specialities from the region. However, the traditional marcaire meal remains the most popular with walkers. It is comprised of farm produced products: soup, Munster valley pie, smoked meat accompanied by steamed potatoes (the "roïgabrageldi"), Munster cheese and a tart made with blueberries or seasonal fruit.
Marcaire d’hier fermiers d’aujourd’hui (Malou Schneider, Gérard Lacoumette, Gérard Léser) Edition du Rhin, further info at: www.munsterfermier.com