Jennifer Brown sent in this delectable piece on German food after her final college semester abroad in Dresden as an exchange student. This is a photo of her with a German making spaetzle.
Germany is a country known for its beer, politics, eco-friendly ways, and its food. The general characteristics given to German food are “thick,” “buttery,” and “meaty”–words describing recipes that can date back to several generations within families. Food in Germany is prepared fresh and thoughtfully; minute-ready items are seldom preferred and refrigerators are smaller than American standards in order to promote the frequent, fresh buying of ingredients. Additionally, Germans seek out local meat, dairy, and baked goods–towns often have numerous local butchers, farms, and bakeries that daily serve their own delicacies.
Considering my experience with the country and its delectable edibles, the following is a series of specialties that I highly recommend (in alphabetical order):
Bretzel – Behold the famous bretzel! Bretzel is German for “pretzel.” Bretzels are eaten at all times of the day in Germany. People cut them in half and butter them for breakfast, or they pack them away to nibble on with lunch, or they have one while they’re eating a small dinner or at an evening beer garden. My German friends generally agree that the best bretzels are in Bayern (the south-eastern region of Germany). In Bayern, Germans eat a bretzel with a white sausage and mustard, alongside a tall hefeweizen in the morning. Venture to the prominent Viktualienmarkt on an early morning in Munich to make an order!
Gluehwein – A German version of mulled wine, gluehwein is a longstanding wintry tradition in Germany. It’s a main feature at Christmas markets throughout the country, and people make it in the warmth of their homes as well. Red wine is the traditional wine used for the recipes, but white wine has been substituted in recent years. The wine used is typically a cheaper wine that grants low prices for merchants and consumers alike. Spices like cinnamon and anise are added to the wine and mixed with sugar. Drinks like gluehwein make Germany’s brutal winters more bearable.
Kartoffeln mit Quark – A long-time money saver in Germany: potatoes and curd cheese. The potatoes are boiled and usually skinned, and the cheese can be mixed with various herbs. The result is most similar to the American baked potato, however Americans don’t really have quark in their diet; the thick, milky cheese is hard to describe, with a slight sour-cream taste that melts with the hot potatoes. While trying this dish, be sure to mash up the potatoes with a fork so they can really blend with the quark.Konigsberger Klopse – I recently stumbled upon this dish while working at a music venue in Dresden where the cook made yummy specialties for the staff. Konigsberger Klopse is a Prussian meal that is popular around the city of Hamburg. The combo is another potato recipe with meatballs, a white creamy sauce, and capers. The potatoes are also boiled and skinned, and should also be mashed with a fork so they can properly absorb the white sauce.
Kuchen – Germans love Kuchen. There are different kinds all over the country; some parts of the country devour more kuchen than others. I became a routine visitor of Cafe Troegeln in the city of Ulm, where guests can choose a piece of decadent homemade Kuchen from over 30 different options in large glass cases–the variety is remarkable. One of the first things a person notices is that “German chocolate cake”
in the United States is an entirely different creation than what is actually made in Germany. Overall, “cake” in Germany is not as sweet, and has more fruit and nuts and less frosting than what bakeries in the US provide.
Maultaschen – A Swabian specialty from the region of Baden-Wuerttemberg. They’re pasta pockets comprised of homemade noodles filled with meat, spinach, bread crumbs, and onions. The dish is usually pan-fried with onions and eggs. People also add them to brothy soup or eat them alongside potato salad (it is important to add that German potato salad in Baden-Wuerttemberg is different in that it has a vinegar–not a cream or mayonnaise–dressing).
Schnitzel – Every German will willingly admit that schnitzel did not originally come from Germany. The breadcrumb-coated, pan-fried veal (or pork) belongs to Germany’s next-door neighbor, Austria. Schnitzel is a meat cutlet without bones, and is often ate with no sauce other than some zest from a lemon. Potato salad or french fries are normally served with Schnitzel, or one can occasionally find spaetzle paired with the meat, in towns within Baden-Wuerttemberg. Schnitzel is also served in sandwiches at cafes.
Schokolade – Arguably the most important part of the “sweet” section of German grocery stores is the chocolate section. Germany tries hard to bring new kinds of chocolate to its people, with competitive brands offering vast varieties. The most famous commercial German chocolate is probably Ritter Sport, which can commonly be found in the US, however the company’s “special” varieties are only available in Germany, such as the seasonal chocolates, like the strawberry-rhubarb white chocolate. Other leading brands include Milka, Kinder, Stollwerk, and Neuhaus.
Spaetzle – Another Swabian delight! Spaetzle are homemade, pressed plain noodles that are served fresh and eaten with either rahmsosse (dark cream sauce) or as part of a noodle casserole, called kaese (or
cheese) spaetzle. The noodles are often added as sides to meat-based meals, but are also popular choices among vegetarians. Although spaetzle noodles are plain, they’re tasty because they’re almost always pressed hot and fresh (you can buy bagged spaetzle from the grocery store, but this is a very unpopular option).
Stollen – Fruitcake has a pretty bad reputation, but “stollen,”
fruitcake’s sophisticated partner, is a coveted dessert throughout Germany. The best stollen is handmade and bought from a local bakery in the food’s birthplace of Dresden. Stollen is a sweet, tough bread baked with sugar, rum, butter, and small chopped pieces of fruit and sometimes nuts. Some stollen is coated with powdered sugar or a thin layer of icing. Germans have special Christmas stollen that is a traditional treat in the winter.
Verschiedene Salate – Germans make the nicest-looking salads by far–all colorful and precisely chopped. I was amazed at how many different salads my host families made, all with homespun dressings and seasonal veggies. Cucumber salads and tomato salads are my favorites. Potato salad is probably the most internationally famous German salad, but there are a ton of other ones. My boss at the music venue where I worked loved herring salad the most.
Weisswurst (and other wursts) – White sausage! As mentioned, weisswurst (made of veal and pork) is a local breakfast favorite in Bayern, especially when eaten with sweet grainy mustard, a pretzel, and a beer! Don’t get too hungry, though–before eating the sausage, you have to peel off its skin first. Most German sausage skins are edible, but not this one!
Thanks for reading about my favorite German cuisine, and thanks to HBT for publishing this. Please comment if you have anything to add. As they say in Germany, Guten Appetit!