Coming from Minnesota with its high percentage of residents with German heritage, German foods are not too far from what I would normally eat, but what I tried this week was much different from (and much more delicious than) anything I had imagined!
It was lucky that food was the topic of this weeks post since my mother is in town and my friends here wanted to make a few feasts to welcome her into Germany. On a normal day, I would eat brötchen (bread rolls) for breakfast, a pretzel and mozzarella sandwich for lunch, and some soup or salad for dinner. Brötchen are the ultimate food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bakeries all over Berlin sell them and it is not uncommon to pick up a fresh batch every morning. I like to buy mine in dough form and bake them myself. That way they are nice and fresh when they’re done. In my opinion, pretty much anything can taste good on brötchen. I personally like Zwiebelmettwurst, which is raw minced pork with minced onions. It’s illegal to sell in the United States since it needs fresh and regulated ingredients due to its being raw. Therefore I try to eat as much as I can while I’m here! It’s best to eat on a buttered brötchen with plenty of salt, so if you ever get the chance to try some, remember that tip (otherwise it may taste a little bland). Unfortunately my mother was not so impressed with the zwiebelmettwurst, but luckily we were able to have breakfast with several friends this last week. We first went to my boyfriend’s family in Woltersdorf, a small town in Brandenburg right on the eastern border with Berlin. They made two dinners for us, and the breakfast is what I’d call an “authentic German breakfast.” An authentic German breakfast has lots of variety, with different cheeses, meats, jams and jellies, and side dishes to offer. It’s often hard to decide what to put on the brötchen. Because of this indecision, I usually end up eating more than I intended.
Our main dinner was Sauerbraten (pot roast) with Rotkohl (red cabbage) and Klöse (potato dumplings). Sauerbratenis one of the most popular foods in Germany and is considered a national dish. Oftentimes restaurants in the U.S. will put it on the menu if they are trying to give their customers an “authentic” German dining experience. On the second night we had Kasseler, which is cured and smoked pork. It was also served with the same side dishes as theSauerbraten, since they go well just about any meat. I had some warm Sauerkraut with my Kasseler, which was a delicious combination.
How did I feel when I tried it?:
At first, Rotkohl and Klöse can be a bit intimidating to try. I never thought red cabbage could be so delicious. TheKlöse have one of the strangest textures I have ever eaten. They are sticky and sometimes gooey. Yet they taste like potato and their thick subsistency is quite filling. The Sauerbraten is amazingly tender and flavorful. The marinade really does work to make it hearty, yet soft at the same time.
Sauerbraten can be made in a variety of ways, but this particular dish was made by marinating some tougher cuts of beef in vinegar and spices for three days. During this time the meat becomes soft and tender. After marinating, the meat is cooked on the stove in a frying pan (I believe “braised” is the correct terminology) and left to simmer for a few hours. The juices from the meat are then used to make a gravy, which is thickened with crushed Lebkuchen (a German-specialty gingerbread cookie). The gravy can be poured over the Sauerbraten and the Klöse on the plate, and the Rotkohl can be added, too. Klöse are a staple food in many regions, but I’ve only ever made the pre-packaged ones before. These Klöse were hand made, though, from boiled and grated potatoes, eggs, and flour. After mixing the ingredients and rolling them into a ball shape, Klöse are cooked for about ten minutes, or until they are all floating in the water. Rotkohl is spiced with bay leaves and clove, and vinegar or wine is added to give it a distinct flavor. I goes great with many meat dishes and rounds off a healthy and hearty meal.
Germans are known as ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of people, and after living through this winter, I can see why. Hearty and piping hot foods are a must in a country where heat is expensive and the people are always letting in the winter air to freshen up the room. Also, Sauerbraten is a traditional food which has been eaten for a very long time in Germany. Since most Germans didn’t have refrigerators until the latter 20th century, making Sauerbraten was a convenient way to keep the meat from going bad. The marinade made of vinegar and spices kept the meat while also providing a delicious flavor, which makes for a timeless and beloved German dish.