THE GERMAN CUISINE
German cuisine is known for its hearty and comforting dishes, rich flavors, and traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations. While German food may not be as well-known as some other European cuisines, it certainly has a lot to offer. German cuisine is characterized by the use of simple, wholesome ingredients, such as meat, potatoes, vegetables, and bread. Some of the most common ingredients used in German cooking include: pork, potatoes, cabbage and a variety of spices, such as caraway, mustard, and juniper berries, to add flavor to dishes.
A SHORT HISTORY OF GERMAN FOOD
German cuisine has a long and rich history that dates back to the Middle Ages. During this time, agriculture was the main source of food production, and farmers grew crops such as wheat, barley, and rye. Meat was also an important part of the diet, with livestock such as pigs, cows, and sheep being raised for their meat, milk, and wool. Over time, German cuisine evolved to include a variety of dishes that were influenced by neighboring countries and regions, such as Italy, France, and Eastern Europe. In the 19th and 20th centuries, German cuisine continued to develop, with the introduction of new ingredients and cooking techniques.
CLASSIC GERMAN DISHES
FRANCONIAN PORK SHOULDER WITH DUMPLINGS: This beloved dish in Franconian cuisine is also known as Schäufele. It is a slow-roasted pork shoulder that results in tender, succulent meat with a crispy crust. Schäufele is often served with a side of potato dumplings, but it is also delicious when combined with Sauerkraut. To enhance the dish, it is common to serve it with a side of gravy or a rich sauce made from the pan drippings. This adds even more depth and richness to the flavors.
MARINATED POT ROAST WITH DUMPLINGS: Marinated Pot Roast, or Sauerbraten in German, is a traditional German dish that consists of marinated and slowly braised beef roast. The meat is typically marinated for several days in a mixture of vinegar, water, spices, and aromatic vegetables, which gives it a distinct and tangy flavor. It is often served with a side of potato dumplings, also known as Klöße. The dumplings absorb the delicious juices from the marinated pot roast, making each bite an outstanding experience. This dish is a German specialty and is often enjoyed during festive occasions and family gatherings, particularly on Sundays. It represents the art of German cuisine.
SCHNITZEL WITH FRENCH FRIES: A culinary delight that has gained international recognition for its simplicity and deliciousness. Traditionally, Schnitzel is made from thinly pounded slices of pork, veal, or sometimes chicken. The meat is tenderized to ensure a juicy and tender result. The preparation process involves dipping the meat into beaten eggs, coating it with breadcrumbs, and then frying it until golden brown. This technique creates a crispy exterior while sealing in the meat's natural juices, resulting in a delightful contrast of textures. Schnitzel is often served with a slice of lemon, which adds a refreshing zest to each bite. Additionally, a classic accompaniment is a serving of potato salad, which provides a creamy and tangy complement to the crispy Schnitzel. Other popular side dishes include French fries, sauerkraut, or a fresh salad. While the traditional Schnitzel is made with pork or veal, variations using chicken or turkey have become increasingly popular in recent years. Schnitzel can come in different regional variations, for example, Wiener Schnitzel (originating from Vienna, Austria), Jägerschnitzel (features a mushroom gravy topping) or Zigeunerschnitzel (served with a spicy paprika sauce).
SAUSAGES: Germany is known for its sausages, which come in a variety of types and flavors, such as bratwurst, weisswurst, and currywurst, a true German culinary icon. Currywurst has captured the taste buds of millions. It is typically served with a side of crispy french fries or a fresh bread roll. The combination of the juicy sausage, tangy curry ketchup, and the crispy texture of the fries creates a mouthwatering and satisfying experience. It is often enjoyed as a quick and satisfying meal on the go, making it a popular choice for lunch or a late-night snack.
SPÄTZLE: Spätzle is a traditional dish hailing from the southern regions of Germany, particularly popular in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The main ingredient in Spätzle is a simple dough made from flour, eggs, and salt. The dough is traditionally prepared by hand, where it is vigorously mixed until it reaches a smooth consistency. The resulting dough is then pressed or scraped through a special utensil known as a Spätzle press or a colander with large holes, allowing the dough to form irregularly shaped noodles as it drops into a pot of boiling water. Once the Spätzle are cooked, they are usually drained and briefly rinsed with cold water to prevent sticking. They can be enjoyed immediately or further enhanced by sautéing in butter until they develop a slightly golden and crispy exterior. This buttery version, often referred to as "Schwäbische Spätzle," is a particularly popular variation in Swabian cuisine.
KÄSESPÄTZLE: A heavenly cheesy delight hailing from the Alpine region of Germany. It consists of small, tender egg noodles called "spätzle" layered with generous amounts of grated cheese, usually Emmental or Gruyère. The dish is baked until the cheese is melted and forms a golden crust on top. The result is a comforting and satisfying dish that showcases the harmonious combination of flavors and textures.
ROULADEN WITH RED CABBAGE AND POTATOES: This hearty and flavorful dish consists of thinly sliced beef, typically from the top round or sirloin, rolled up with a savory filling and braised to perfection. Rouladen is a popular choice for Sunday lunches or festive occasions, as it brings families and friends together to enjoy a satisfying meal. The preparation of Rouladen involves carefully selecting the beef slices and tenderizing them to ensure a tender and succulent result. The filling traditionally consists of a combination of mustard, onions, bacon, and pickles, which adds a tangy and smoky flavor profile to the dish. Each beef slice is generously spread with mustard and then layered with the filling ingredients before being rolled up tightly and secured with toothpicks or kitchen twine. They are traditionally served with a side of sweet and tangy red cabbage, which is stewed with apples and spices. Potatoes, usually boiled or mashed, are commonly served alongside as well.
HAM NOODLES: This popular dish comes from the region of Franconia. It is a simple yet delicious meal made with egg noodles and diced ham, often served with a creamy cheese sauce and garnished with parsley.
KARTOFFELPUFFER: A potato pancake that is often served with applesauce or sour cream. These crispy and savory treats are made primarily from grated potatoes, mixed with onions, flour, and eggs, resulting in a delightful combination of flavors and textures. To prepare Kartoffelpuffer, raw potatoes are peeled and grated into fine shreds. The grated potatoes are then mixed with finely chopped onions, flour, and beaten eggs, creating a thick batter. This mixture is seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, giving the pancakes a savory kick. Some variations may also include additional ingredients like garlic, herbs, or spices to add more flavor. Traditionally, Kartoffelpuffer are cooked in a frying pan with a generous amount of oil or clarified butter. A scoop of the potato batter is placed in the hot pan and flattened to form a pancake shape. The pancakes are cooked on both sides until they turn golden brown and develop a crispy exterior. Once cooked, they are drained on paper towels to remove excess oil. They are often served hot and topped with applesauce or sour cream, which provides a pleasant contrast to the crispy texture of the pancakes.
GERMAN PANCAKES: They are known as Pfannkuchen in German and are thin and delicate creations that resemble French crêpes. The batter, made from eggs, flour, milk, and a pinch of salt, is poured into a hot pan and cooked until golden brown. Pfannkuchen can be enjoyed in various ways, whether rolled up and filled with sweet fillings like jam or applesauce, or served with savory fillings such as smoked salmon or spinach and cheese.
KÖNIGSBERGER KLOPSE: Königsberger Klopse, also known as Königsberg meatballs, are a traditional German dish hailing from the city of Königsberg, which is now Kaliningrad in Russia. These meatballs are made from a mixture of minced veal or beef, breadcrumbs, eggs, and a medley of spices including salt, pepper, and nutmeg. To prepare Königsberger Klopse, the meatball mixture is formed into small, round shapes and then simmered in a flavorful broth until they are cooked through and tender. Once cooked, the Klopse are removed from the broth and set aside. The creamy white sauce is a vital component of this dish. It is made by combining the cooking broth with flour, butter, and heavy cream, creating a smooth and velvety texture. The sauce is then enhanced with tangy capers and a splash of lemon juice, which adds a delightful zing to the overall flavor. Traditionally, they are served with boiled potatoes or rice, allowing the rich sauce to soak into the starch.
GERMAN MEATBALLS WITH POTATO SALAD: German meatballs are made from a mixture of ground beef or pork, onions, breadcrumbs, eggs, and various herbs and spices. The mixture is shaped into small patties and then fried until golden brown. The result is a juicy and flavorful meatball that is perfect for any occasion. German Potato Salad is quite different from its American counterpart. It features tender boiled potatoes that are thinly sliced and mixed with a tangy dressing made from vinegar, oil, mustard, onions, and herbs. The salad is served chilled and offers a refreshing and creamy contrast to the hearty meatballs. German meatballs with potato salad is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a main course or as part of a buffet or picnic spread. It's often served alongside fresh bread, pickles, and condiments like mustard or mayonnaise.
MAULTASCHEN WITH POTATO SALAD: Maultaschen, also known as Swabian pockets or German ravioli, are a delicious traditional dish from the Swabia region in Germany. These large pasta pockets are typically filled with a savory mixture of minced meat, spinach, onions, and various herbs and spices. They are often served with a side of potato salad. Unlike the creamy mayonnaise-based potato salads commonly found in other cuisines, the German one is typically dressed with a tangy vinaigrette made with vinegar, oil, mustard, and seasonings. The potatoes are usually boiled until tender and then sliced or cubed before being mixed with the dressing (see German meatballs with potato salad). The meal is a popular choice for both casual and festive occasions in Germany.
CABBAGE ROLLS: Cabbage rolls, also known as Kohlrouladen in German, are hearty and satisfying rolls. To make them, large cabbage leaves are filled with a mixture of ground meat, rice, onions, and spices, and then rolled up and simmered in a flavorful tomato sauce until tender. They are often served as a main dish with a side of mashed potatoes or crusty bread.
LENTIL SOUP: Lentil soup is a comforting and hearty dish in German cuisine. Made with hearty lentils, vegetables, and flavorful seasonings, this soup is not only delicious but also incredibly healthy and perfect for cold winter days.
The soup is made with lentils, vegetables, and often includes flavorful meats such as bacon or sausage. The base of the soup starts with dried lentils, which are simmered until they become tender and begin to break down, creating a thick and nourishing broth. Along with the lentils, a variety of vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery are added to the pot, providing additional texture and flavors. To enhance the taste, common herbs and spices like bay leaves, thyme, and garlic are used. The soup is often seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, and some variations may include a splash of vinegar or lemon juice for a tangy twist. It is typically served with a slice of rustic bread, which is perfect for dipping into the rich and flavorful broth.
BRATWURST AND SAUERKRAUT: No exploration of German cuisine would be complete without mentioning Bratwurst with Sauerkraut. This iconic dish pairs a grilled or fried Bratwurst sausage with tangy and fermented Sauerkraut, a traditional German side dish made from finely shredded cabbage. The combination of the savory, juicy sausage and the tart and crunchy Sauerkraut creates a harmonious blend of flavors that epitomizes the essence of German food.
LEBERKÄSE WITH POTATO SALAD: Leberkäse, which translates to "liver cheese," is a type of Bavarian specialty. Despite its name, it does not contain liver but is made from finely ground beef, pork, and bacon, mixed with herbs and spices. The mixture is baked until it forms a crusty exterior. Leberkäse is often sliced and served in a sandwich or with mustard. It is commonly accompanied by a classic German potato salad, which is made with boiled potatoes, vinegar, oil, mustard, onions, and herbs.
GERMAN BOILED DINNER: Another popular German dish is called "Eintopf," in German (boiled dinner). It is a hearty and nourishing meal that has been enjoyed in Germany for generations. It is a versatile dish that can vary in ingredients and flavors, depending on the region and personal preferences but it typically consists of a combination of meat, vegetables, and legumes cooked together in a flavorful broth. The choice of meat can vary, including options like beef, pork, or poultry. Vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, and cabbage are commonly used, providing a good balance of flavors and textures. Legumes such as lentils or beans are often added to enhance the nutritional value and create a filling dish. The preparation of Eintopf usually involves sautéing the meat and vegetables in a pot before adding the broth. The broth can be made from scratch using meat or vegetable stock, or a pre-made broth can be used for convenience. The ingredients are then simmered together until they are tender and the flavors have melded together. Some popular variations of Eintopf include "Erbsensuppe" (split pea soup), "Kartoffelsuppe" (potato soup), and "Linseneintopf" (lentil stew). Each region in Germany may have its own unique twist on Eintopf, incorporating local ingredients and culinary traditions.
TROUT MEUNIÈRE: Trout meunière, or Forelle Müllerin Art in German, is a classic German dish that showcases the delicate flavors of freshwater trout. The name of the dish originates from the Müllerin, meaning "miller's wife," who traditionally prepared it. This culinary masterpiece combines pan-fried trout with a delightful buttery and lemony sauce, creating a harmonious balance of flavors. To prepare Forelle Müllerin Art, the trout is first filleted and seasoned with salt and pepper. It is then coated in flour before being gently pan-fried in a mixture of butter and oil until the skin turns crispy and golden, while the flesh remains moist and tender. The addition of butter imparts a rich and nutty flavor to the fish. The highlight of this dish is the sauce, which is made by melting butter in a separate pan until it turns golden brown, releasing a heavenly aroma. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is then added, infusing the sauce with a tangy brightness that complements the trout perfectly. The sauce is poured over the fish, enhancing its natural flavors and providing a velvety texture. Forelle Müllerin Art is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, which act as a satisfying accompaniment to the fish. The simplicity of boiled potatoes allows the trout and its sauce to take center stage while providing a hearty and comforting element to the dish. This German delicacy is a true delight for seafood lovers and showcases the art of preparing fish in a delicious and elegant manner.
TRADITIONAL GERMAN SIDE DISHES
When it comes to German cuisine, hearty and comforting dishes are a common sight on the dining table. Alongside sausages, sauerkraut, and schnitzels, a variety of side dishes play a crucial role in enhancing the flavors of the main course.
DUMPLINGS: Dumplings, or "Klöße" in German, are a beloved staple in German cuisine. Made from grated or mashed potatoes, flour, and eggs, these round, soft balls of goodness are typically boiled or steamed. Klöße can come in various sizes and are often served as a side dish with roasts, goulash, or other meat-based dishes. They have a light and fluffy texture that perfectly complements the rich flavors of the main course.
BREAD DUMPLINGS: Another popular variation of dumplings found in Germany is the "Semmelknödel." These bread dumplings are made by combining stale bread rolls or slices with milk, eggs, parsley, and sometimes onions. The mixture is shaped into balls and then boiled until cooked through. Semmelknödel is often served with dishes like roasted meats, stews, or creamy mushroom sauces. Their slightly crispy outer layer and soft, flavorful interior make them a delightful addition to any meal.
RED CABBAGE: Red cabbage, or "Blaukraut" in German, is a colorful and tangy side dish commonly enjoyed in Germany. It is prepared by cooking shredded red cabbage with apples, onions, vinegar, sugar, and spices such as cloves or juniper berries. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld, resulting in a sweet and sour taste.
SAUERKRAUT: Sauerkraut is known in the U.S. as a common topping for hot dogs. However, in Germany it is a classic side dish made from fermented cabbage. The cabbage is shredded and then fermented with salt, allowing natural bacteria to convert the sugars in the cabbage into lactic acid. This fermentation process gives sauerkraut its distinct tangy flavor. Sauerkraut can be enjoyed in both raw and cooked forms. Sauerkraut is often cooked with onions, apples, and spices such as caraway seeds or juniper berries to add depth and complexity. It pairs exceptionally well with sausages, particularly the iconic German bratwurst.
POTATOES: Potatoes hold a special place in German cuisine and are a versatile side dish in various forms. They can be boiled, mashed, roasted, or fried, offering a range of textures and flavors.
PAN-FRIED POTATOES: Pan-fried potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This dish typically starts with boiled potatoes that are cooled and then sliced or cubed. The potatoes are then fried in a pan with butter or oil, along with onions and sometimes bacon. The result is a golden-brown exterior with a tender and creamy interior. The addition of onions and bacon infuses the dish with rich flavors. Pan-fried potatoes are often seasoned with salt, pepper, and herbs like parsley or chives. They are commonly served as a side to accompany a variety of dishes, such as sausages, schnitzels, or roast meats.
POTATO NOODLES: Potato noodles, or Schupfnudeln in German, Schupfnudeln, are a type of pasta made from potatoes. They are commonly enjoyed as a side dish. With their unique shape and versatile flavor, potato noodles add a delightful touch to any meal. They are are similar in shape to Italian gnocchi or Eastern European potato dumplings. They are long, oval-shaped dumplings that are typically made by combining mashed potatoes, flour, and egg. The dough is rolled into long, thin logs and then cut into small, finger-shaped pieces. These pieces are often gently curved to resemble a small canoe, giving them their distinctive appearance. After the preparation, the noodles are usually boiled until they float to the surface, indicating that they are cooked. They are then drained and can be prepared in various ways, depending on personal preferences and regional variations. They can be served as a side dish to complement a variety of main courses in German cuisine.
BREAD IN GERMANY
Black bread, or "Schwarzbrot" in German, is an integral part of Germany's cultural identity. This type of bread is a staple food in Germany and has a long history dating back centuries. It is made with a combination of rye and wheat flour, giving it a dense, hearty texture and a distinctive flavor. It is typically darker in color than other types of bread and is often made with the addition of seeds or other grains for extra texture and flavor. Black bread is also known for its nutritional benefits. It is a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a healthy choice for those looking to maintain a balanced diet. Black bread can be found in bakeries and supermarkets all over Germany, and it is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is often eaten with savory toppings such as cheese, meat, or pickles, but it can also be enjoyed with sweet toppings such as honey or jam. Black bread comes in many different varietes:
SCHWARZBROT (DARK BREAD): This bread is usually made with a mixture of rye and wheat flour. It has a darker color and a robust, slightly sour taste.
VOLLKORNBROT (WHOLE GRAIN BREAD): A nutritious bread made from whole grain flour, often a combination of different grains like wheat, rye, and oats. It is rich in fiber and has a hearty taste.
MISCHBROT (MIXED BREAD): A bread made by combining different types of flour, typically a mix of wheat and rye. Mischbrot has a balanced flavor and a slightly denser texture.
VOLLKORNBROT: This type of black bread is made with whole grain rye flour and wheat flour, as well as various seeds and grains like sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds. It has a nutty, earthy flavor and a hearty texture, and it is often used as a base for sandwiches or served with soups and stews.