German food refers to the wide range of foods eaten in Germany, with the culinary cultures of Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt playing an integral role in principle cuisine of this European nation. German cuisine has been using a lot of starches and meats since the prehistoric era. However, it has also started using a wide variety of spices brought in from other Western countries in the last few decades. Yet still, the Germans have a preferance on pairing their traditional dishes with sauces and strongly flavored, fresh homemade foods are given much importance in Germany.
Historical and Cultural Influences
German food in olden times was generally bland. However, due to strong influences of other cuisines like Italian, Asian, and French, the Germans started preparing their dishes by adding various spices. Initially their cultivation was limited to wheat and barley, but that changed with time. Dairy products were consumed a lot and meats were made and served mainly during festivities or occasions.
Classification of German Cuisine
German Food can be broadly classified into following categories:
- Thuringia: Thuringian sausages and Thuringian dumplings are extremely popular foods of this region. Sausages prepared in this state are steamed, scaled, and cured. A wide variety of vegetables are also frown here and the common ones are cauliflower, beans, cabbage, onions, kohlrabi, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers.
- Saxony-Anhalt: Wheat, barley, oats, sugar beets, and rye are grown in abundance in this region. Würchwitzer Spinnenkäse (Milbenkäse), a delicacy in Würchwitz, is also a world-famous cheese.
- Former German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany): The former East German cuisine was quite different from the cuisine of West Germany and present day’s united Germany. The East German food was highly influenced by other European cuisines such as Russian, Hungarian, and Bulgarian.
Commonly Used Ingredients and Cooking Methods in Preparing German Recipes
Apart from sausages, German food is quite bland or less spicy. Common herbs used are parsley, thyme, laurel, basil, sage, oregano, chives, and black pepper. Beverages and sweet cakes are often flavored with cardamom, aniseed, and cinnamon especially during festivals. Mustard is a very common accompaniment with a variety of sausages.
Globally Popular German Foods
Germany has introduced a lot of mouthwatering delicacies to the culinary world. A few popular German foods include:
- Gansebraten – this is a stuffed goose recipe. The goose is stuffed with a mixture of meat, vegetables, or fruit along with spice and herb seasonings and roasted. A gravy sauce can be served with the roasted goose as an accompaniment.
- Hasenpfeffer- This a traditional whitemeat stew made with the meat of animals like the hare or the rabbit which have been marinated prior to cooking. The medium of this stew, the preparation of which involves braising with wine and onions, is the animal blood which helps in thickening it. The dish is made with small pieces of meat which are not suitable for roasting.
- Himmel und Erde – this is an assorted dish consisting of black pudding served with fried onions and mashed potatoes with apple sauce as an accompaniment. Sausages may also be included in the dish.
- Labskaus – This is a sumptuous meal made of salted beef. The meat is boiled, minced and mixed with other ingredients like potatoes and beetroot, herrings and onions. The ingredients are then fried in lard and served as a main course dish. Different versions of this dish from the Northern German cuisine are prepared.
- Sauerbraten- This is a main course dish, acclaimed as one of the national dishes of Germany, made by pot roasting with beef which has been marinated in a spicy solution of vinegar and other seasonings. The dish is served with a number of vegetable dishes as accompaniments, the popular ones being red cabbage or any potato dish which may be potato dumplings, or boiled potatoes and potato pancakes. This is even served with German egg noodles called spatzale.
- Spanferkel- This is a roasted or grilled pork dish made for special occasions with a suckling pig. The cooked meat, being from young pork mostly fed on the mother’s milk, is tender with a gelatinous texture. Roasting makes the skin crispy making it suitable for making pork rinds.
- Baumkuchen- also known as the King of Cakes, this traditional European and Japanese layered cake with the German name is believed to have got its name due to its appearance. The slices have rings on them resembling a tree. It is also believed that originally the cake was prepared on a tree in the presence of an open fire.
- Rote Grutze – This is a berry dessert. The dish is a pudding made with a single variety of berry or a mixture of berries boiled in a sweet sugar solution with cornstarch as a thickening agent. Rum is an optional ingredient which is often added for enhanced flavoring and texture. The mixture is boiled till it thickens.
Traditional German Food
- Goulash – also known as Gulaschsuppe or Rindergulasch, is a variant of the Hungarian goulash. It is a stew made with beef and potatoes in a cooking base of tomatoes.
- Kassler mit Sauerkraut – This is a pork chop dish served with potatoes and sauerkraut( or fermented cabbage). The dish is made with cured pork.
- Eisbein mit Sauerkraut – this dish consisting of roasting of pickled and smoked ham hock which is served with Sauerkurat and boiled potatoes as accompaniments.
- Wiener Schnitzel- also known as Wienerschintzel, it is an escalloped pork dish made by breading and frying the pork. Lingoberry jam or cranberry sauce are served as accompaniments with boiled potatoes, or potato salad with parsley and butter seasonings. This dish, originally of Austrian nativity, is prepared with veal though the German version uses pork.
- Leberknödel Suppe – this is a soup made of beef liver dumplings. The liver meat is seasoned with spices and herbs, breaded, and then made into dumplings which are boiled in beef broth.
Special/ Festival German Food
Oktoberfest is a festival celebrated in the month of October or last week of September in Germany. During Oktoberfest beer is served and drunk from a large, decorated stone mug called a Bier Stein. Honey cakes called Lebkuchen are baked in various interesting shapes like squares, hearts, semicircles, or little bear shapes.
Gourmet German Food
German food of gourmet variety is listed as under:
- Weisse Bohnensuppe – This is a soup made of white beans also known as navy beans. The beans are boiled and cooked with herbs and spices, vegetables and ham bone or hock. The ham bone, after being cooked may be cubed and then added back to the soup which is best served hot.
- Bratwurst-This is a sausage cooked in beer or broth and made of beef, pork or veal. The sausage though normally grilled, is also pan-fried or roasted.
- Kartoffelknödeln- This is a potato dumpling dish. Dumplings are made of boiled and mashed potatoes which are breaded, coated with egg, shaped into balls, rolled in flour and boiled in water. The dumplings are served with butter and salt condiments.
- Rye Bread – This bread, a popular variety of which is the Pumpernickel bread, is a dark colored bread made of crushed or ground rye. Wheat is not included as an ingredient of this bread. The bread is prepared by baking it for prolonged time periods at a low temperature.
- Spargelgemuse – This is a dish made of fresh asparagus. The asparagus is cooked till tender and a sauce made of butter and cheese is poured over the asparagus and served.
- Apfelpfannkuchen- These are German pancakes made of apple. These are sweet pancakes made with a batter mainly consisting of sliced apples, flour, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon. The pancakes is cooked in butter and dusted with cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.