Kottenbutter - the butter bread of the grinders

© Ira Schneider

Kottenbutter is a hearty butter sandwich that goes back to the Bergisch grinders on the Wupper. In their water-powered work workshops, known as "Kotten", the craftsmen could not take long breaks. Black bread topped with smoked mettwurst, onions and mustard was just the right meal for the men working hard at the grindstone.

A lot of effort for the daily bread

Until the beginning of the 20th century, there were still family and two-man businesses that manufactured as subcontractors in home work for large companies in the heights of Solingen. The grinders often ground the delivered blanks on the wet stone under great time pressure, because a total of up to 150 different work steps are necessary to finish a scissor blade "made in Solingen". Depending on the product, a single grinder carries out 30-35 steps by hand. The profession of the self-employed grinder, now called cutting tool mechanic, is almost extinct. The occupation of the "Liewerfrauen", the wives of the home workers who brought breakfast to their husbands and transported goods back and forth in large wicker baskets, is even more extinct.


Strengthening, fast and cheap

© Ira Schneider

Despite the strenuous and health-threatening work at the grindstone, a two-man operation could not afford a full meal. The sandwich on hand during the break was a fortifying, quick and inexpensive meal. The typical mountain "Schwattbruat" (brown bread) used to be baked not only in bakeries but also, in very rural areas, for a long time by the self-suppliers in the village or farm bakery, which was fired with wood lances. Wholemeal rye bread still has a long tradition in the Bergisches Land and enjoys great popularity with fresh minced meat, with Mettwurst - also known as Kottenwurst - or, for example, with lamb or beef salami of the regional brand "bergisch pur"

Ringing tradition on the Wupper

To cut a loaf of bread or a sausage, you need an excellent knife blade. According to a documentary record, blades have been made in the blade town of Solingen since 1363. Over the course of time, many grinding mills and hammer mills settled along the Wupper, as the water power was used to drive the grinding stones, millstones and iron hammers. This is why the Wupper was once called "Germany's most industrious river".

Experience living history

© Ira Schneider

At the confluence of the Weinsberg stream on the banks of the Wupper, the Wipperkotten is still the last original Solingen grinding cottage. The eventful history of the double cottage complex goes back to the 17th century. Up to 16 grinders found space here on just a few square metres and ground the famous Solingen blades under considerable pressure! Today, a sponsoring association in close cooperation with the LVR Industrial Museum looks after the Wipperkotten and organises a grinder and Kotten festival in spring and autumn.

Grinder and cottage festival

In addition to grinding demonstrations and a historical film, visitors can also have their household knives sharpened while taking a look inside the old walls, visit a knife exhibition with sales or enjoy homemade delicacies, including Kottenbuttern. Incidentally, more than 2,000 visitors come to see the Kotten every year - and not just for the Kottenfest. The Balkhauser Kotten is also one of the more than 100 former Solingen Schleifkotten on the Wupper. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1830 and again in 1969. Several grinders were still working here until the mid-1980s. The Kotten, which is now maintained by a board of trustees of patrons and the city of Solingen, also offers various events throughout the year, including a waffle and a potato fritter day, as well as guided tours.

Here is the recipe to go with:

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