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Archive for the ‘German Food & Specialties’ Category

mittelalter-schatz-in-beelitzer-spargelfeld-entdeckt-image--2-image_620x349Seasonal delicacy

As of this week, the official asparagus season has come to an end. You will hear a lot of sighing and moaning about the fact, but ultimately it means that from now, every asparagus lover has something to look forward to again for next spring. The self-imposed cut-off date for harvesting asparagus has very practical reasons: cultivation is a long-term commitment and harvesting the perennial plant too long will make for a smaller harvest in the following year. Thus for a couple of months from April through to June each year most Germans will partake in a kind of feeding frenzy one normally only associates with piranhas. Joking! But they do take their asparagus very serious.

Regional pride

pargel-mit-gekochtem-Schinken-und-neuen-Kartoffeln-aeaf985292c54244bc463951383311d8_et2014050161As can be expected, each region in Germany has its own favourite way of preparing and consuming the white gold. If you’re interested, this German cooking site has compiled a list of some regional representative recipes for white asparagus. And I even found an English one, that presents regional food from Rhineland- Westphalia and Hesse. Even though it might be a bit hard to track it down here in New Zealand, one can find them. By word-of-mouth, as the limited supply gets quickly snapped up. Send us a message if you’d like to try it yourself. For now, to get your taste buds tempted, The Classic Recipe.

White asparagus with fresh boiled potatoes, cooked ham and Hollandaise sauce

Enjoy with your favourite wine!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Summer up North!

strand bei nacht (2)As we huddle around the fireplace, some lucky ones are packing their bags and heading to the sunny climes of the northern hemisphere. With festivals gearing up and the weather looking to settle in the upper regions of the temperature gauge, let’s have a look at what other travel aficionados think about traveling to Germany.

Germany roxx

1280px-Allgaeuer_Alpen_Panorama_1As far the online magazine uproxx is concerned, this certainly applies to Germany: it rocks. Everything a travellers’ heart could desire, like seasonal food, locally made drink, variety of geographical features (meaning stunning landscapes as illustrated by the images), ease of transportation across the country and of course the people and their festivals throughout the country and the year. And if their general photos and description didn’t get your appetite going, have a look at an article on my hometown Cologne.

Cologne, the hub of activity

And on a current note and about one of our travel destinations, the infamous chef Anthony Bourdain is travelling the world in his Parts Unknown series (for CNN) and just last week his visit to Cologne aired. Anyone who knows Bourdain knows that he doesn’t mince words when passing judgment. I was relieved to read that he had thoroughly enjoyed his stay there!

Koeln - Rheinpanorama bei Nacht

In the accompanying article on the city, the writers find it much more attractive than the much hyped Berlin. Firstly, its location makes it a great base for discovering other European cities within short train or car travel. Secondly, one other item I will mention here is Koelsch, a light lager-style beer, that has been granted protected geographical indication in 1997. It’s an essential food item and often referred to as liquid bread, one glass being the equivalent of a bread roll. And as such it is continuously served, unless one declares to have had enough. But could one ever?!

For the rest, written in a rather deprecating and entertaining style (as perceived by someone from Cologne and not from Berlin) follow the link.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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‘Official’ start of Summer in Germany

Last weekend the Christian communities all over the world celebrated Pentecost. In the Christian liturgy the event is commemorated as the “Birthday of the Church”. In a lot of western countries – even though they are secular societies nowadays – Whit Monday is a public holiday and is mostly celebrated as the definitive start of spring and summer coming.800px-St.Peter_und_Paul_in_Söll_-_Heilig-Geist-Loch

 

Celebrations

Interestingly enough, both church and secular celebrations involved lots of loud singing and playing of brass instruments! While the hymns in the church celebrations had the Holy Spirit and its enlightenment of the apostles and the people as a topic, the secular ones were a bit more pagan oriented invoking a fertile spring and summer. While you’re traveling Germany and visiting churches you might want to be on the lookout for the “Holy-ghost-holes” in the ceilings of some churches from the Middle Ages. These holes symbolized the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the midst of the parishioners. During the Pentecost these holes are decorated with flowers, red handkerchiefs or dove sculptures.

Kuh beim Almabtrieb

 

Holiday specialities

Part of the celebrations were the leading out of the cows to the pastures for summer grazing. The leading ox was extensively decorated with flower wreaths and in the olden days butchered for the festivities. piepmc3a4tze-zu-pfingsten-11Doves are the image most referenced and in some regions you will find roasted pigeons or ox on the menu. Some bakeries might also have a traditional yeast bread in the shape of a dove. Look for a “Wecken” or “Hefezopf” on the shelves.

 

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Wine tasting along the Moselle

Panorama_neumagen_dhronI wonder if the Romans had known two millennia ago the hype their occupation of Europe would create and places vying for the titles of the oldest place on record for winemaking, sausage selling or lead casting, if they would have been a bit more meticulous about their record keeping?! 1280px-Neumagener_WeinschiffToday’s place of interest is one these: Neumagen-Dhron laying claim to being the oldest winemaking village in Germany. The Roman settlement Noviomagus Treverorum ( Latin for “new market of the Treviri”) was destroyed by Germanic tribes around 200AD. Several archaeological finds from the region can be viewed at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, in particular the famous Neumagen Wine Ship, replicas of which can be seen in several places around the region.

Neumagen Wine Ship

1280px-Nachbau_Neumagener-WeinschiffThis elaborate tomb was for a roman wine dealer from the period of the first settlement around 200 AD. Specialists have been able to ascertain that the particular design of the boat and the wine barrels meant it was transporting a locally produced wine to be sold at distant markets. This find – supported by others – form the base of the claim of being the oldest wine making village in Germany. The relevance to the region was recognized and honoured in 2007 by the local Chamber of Crafts having a real-life replica crafted by its apprentices. The working ship is well and truly seaworthy and can be hired. It is powered either by two 55 HP diesel engines or rowed by actual man and woman power!

Hub of wine growing region

moselle-valleyAlong the Moselle River approximately 9000 hectares are planted with grapes, which makes the Neumagen-Dhron region with its 247 hectares the fifth largest community along the river. The Moselle river wine growing region is subdivided into 6 regions. The area along the Saar river is part of the Upper Moselle region, the produce of which you were able to savour while travelling from Saarbrücken. As you approach Neumagen-Dhron you’re in the Bernkastel-Kues region, the Middle Moselle. While we stop for a break in Neumagen-Dhron you will have ample opportunity to taste the local wines and discover the subtle differences between individual vineyards and cooperatives. In another article we will talk about some of these individual ones and try to prepare your taste buds.

Author: Petra-Alsbach-Stevens

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Seasonal idiosyncrasy

StrausswirtschaftAs Kiwis we all recognise the PYO signs on the side of the road and know what the term honesty box implies. But did you know that in some parts of Germany one can buy wine and something to eat in a not-licensed premise?! Like the pop-up shops in cities, during summertime a range of signs pop up at the side of the road, indicating that HERE you can consume locally produced and made wine and other regional delicacies. Depending on the region it can be a broom, a brightly coloured flower bouquet or a stylised hedge. Which are all regional terms for this particular enterprise: a Strauss– (Bouquet), Besen– (Broom) or Heckenwirtschaft (Hedge inn).1280px-Heckenwirtschaft-01

Open for business: part time only

Each state in Germany has its own detailed regulations regarding this particular trade, but they all have a few points in common: only during 4 months of the year, you can have two opening times during the day, minimum of hygiene, no other alcohol to be sold – except home-made spirits(!) – and only very basic simple food. Like the Flammkuchen for example, a delicious Alsatian kind of pizza.1280px-Tarte_flambée_alsacienne_514471722

Due to its seasonal character, the range of locations where the wine is sold vary greatly. In the olden days it was quite common for the winemaker to just clear part of his house to accommodate the paying guests or just add a few hay bales to the courtyard! Others built little stalls with walls that would open to serve the general public. Either way, they are an interesting display of the commercial habits of the wine growers in Germany’s wine growing regions. And a unique way to sample local wines and cuisine!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Starting your tour in Saarbrücken

Our Saar Moselle Bike Trail starts in Saarbrücken, a city with beginnings in Roman Times and an eventful history since then. For those of you having arrived early for the tour you will be spoilt for choice where to go for sightseeing.1024px-Schloss_Saarbruecken,_HDR

History on display

Even though the area was only sparsely populated during the roman occupation, there are a couple of sites worthwhile discovering: the Mithras Temple near Halberg and the Museum of Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology in the city. If you’re more interested in ‘modern’ history the “Saarlandmuseum’ combines three localities and displays a range of art and architecture throughout the past 5 centuries. And the Heimatmuseum in St.Arnual gives you an insight into the local history from a socio-economic perspective.1280px-Mithrasgrotte_Halberg_Saarbruecken

These are just a few of the museums in Saarbrücken, depending on how much time or inclination you have you can spend all day sightseeing. Or you could enjoy the multi-faceted food culture present in the city.

The Best of two nations

Due to its location, Saarbrücken has been a part of the German and French states at some time or another in its history. In fact, the last time that it was affiliated to France was from 1947 – 57 as part of the zoning of post-war Germany. A 1955 referendum resulted in the return in 57, which was called a ‘little reunification’. Since then the settled times have encouraged the development of regional cuisines that reflect both the German and French heritage and love for food. In the city center you will find loads of restaurants catering for every aspect of food culture, with one thing in common: the typical French love for enjoyment of it. On top of other French classics as snails, pate and an assortment pre-dinner drinks like pastis and kir of course! Or try one of the local specialities: Dibbellabbes! And no, I did not make that up. It’s kind of a hash brown, usually served with Sauerkraut.dibbellabbes

Get into the spirit…

… and enjoy the proximity of ancient history with the amalgamation of two nation’s food history before we head out to discover more wonders and pleasures along our trip.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Fastenzeit – Lent

Wolfach_FastnachtAs Germany quietens down after the raucous antics of Karneval those following the religious traditions are preparing themselves for Easter by observing the rules of Lent. Another German word for Karneval “Fastnacht” gives us a hint to its historical and religious background: Fast(ing) Night. The night or nights before the fast! It seems to be in human nature to indulge oneself in limitless debauchery and excess before restricting one’s lifestyle for a certain amount of time.

In general a fast is intended to draw one’s spirit closer to God and gain clearer insight and faith. Even though the term is mainly used in the Christian context, other faiths practice it too (Ramadan [Islam], Baha’I Faith [month of ‘Ala] and Judaism [on Yom Kippur day e.g.] to name a few).

Scrummy fasting meals

While all these religions have different rules for the fast, they have one thing in common: staying away from animal products, especially red meat. For some molluscs and fish are acceptable, but most will recommend vegetable and fruit based recipes. As Germany and the northern hemisphere are still in the grip of winter, most of the dishes are hearty, warming ones.

Rezept "Miesmuscheln Rheinische Art"But I remembered a well-loved classic that could be a nice one to try during summer time here: ‘Muscheln auf Rheinische Art’, mussles Rhine style. In Germany ‘Miesmuscheln’ are the preferred variety, due to their bite size. But I would guess any bite sized mussel or shellfish would do for this recipe.

For four adults as a main:

Ingredients

1kg fresh mussels ( less if Greenlipped ones are used)

1 leek (white part sliced in thin rings)

½ celeriac (diced, you can substitute celery if you can’t find celeriac)

1medium onion (finely diced)

2 medium carrots (finely diced)

1 garlic clove crushed

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bottle of dry Riesling or cab sav (alternatively use 700ml vegetable broth)

Butter

2 baguette sticks

Method:

Sautee carrot, onion, celeriac and leek in butter until soft.

Add fluid, bay leaf and cloves and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Bring to boil and add cleaned mussels. Mussels NEED to be closed before cooking, they should open during cooking. Discard any that haven’t.

Take of the boil once most are open. Serve with some of the broth and the vegetables and use the baguette to mop up all the yummy flavours!

This definitely qualifies as finger food and you should try using the first set of cleaned shells still attached to each other as a set of tongs for getting the flesh out of the others.

cremige_brokkolisuppe_mit_kaeseFor the vegetarian palate:

Creamed Broccoli Soup

Ingredients:

For four adults as mains:

2 medium/ 1 large broccoli

6 medium potatoes

½ small onion diced

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tbsp sour cream or ¼ cup of whole milk

Grated parmesan and salt&pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and slice potatoes, trim stems of dried up ends and cut into chunks, dice onion.

Place all in saucepan with enough salted (1tbsp) water to cover and bring to boil.

Cook until potatoes are falling apart and broccoli is softish. Don’t cook it too long, it will lose its colour.

Place the pine nuts with a bit of the stock and some veges in the blender and zap until smooth and silky. Decant into another saucepan and continue to blend the rest of the stock and veges. If you prefer the soup a bit more chunky, zap less. Add the sour cream OR milk and give a good stir and a quick reheat.

Serve with fresh bread, some grated parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Hope you enjoy these little treats and if you’d like to find out more about Germany and its history and traditions join us on one of our tours. Let us know what you want to discover and we will put you on the right track.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Marmite Deprivation

marmageddonSince the destruction of the Christchurch Sanitarium Marmite factory in the 2011 earthquake, New Zealanders have been meticulously storing adequate supplies to avoid future shortages in cases of emergencies. And the good news for future Germany and Europe visitors: you will be able to get your yeast-spread fix without having to carry dubious looking containers worrying they might open and spill in your luggage!

History of Marmite

120320042145-new-zealand-marmite-short-story-topWhile Marmite is a staple bread spread in many kiwi and aussie households, not everyone is aware of its origin in Europe. In the late 19th century the German scientist Justus Liebig discovered that brewer’s yeast – a by-product of beer brewing – could be concentrated, had a long shelf life and was reasonably edible. By 1907 it was successful enough in England to warrant the construction of a second factory and Sanitarium Health Food Company acquired the sole distribution rights for New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. They set up a factory in Christchurch and created the kiwi version of the English Marmite: weaker, less tangy flavoured and made with sugar and caramel! By 1912 vitamins and their relevance for human health were discovered and many important ones were found to be in it. Therefore it became part of the soldiers’ rations in WWI. Since then other beneficial components have been discovered, folic acid for example, and it maintains its popularity amongst the savory and economical options for school sandwiches.

What to look for

0_bigIf you happen to encounter a major craving for the beloved Marmite while traveling through Germany and continental Europe, look for Vitam-R (Germany) and Cenovis (Switzerland) in health food shops or supermarkets. ZweimalCenovisThey might not necessarily taste exactly like Marmite, but they should do the trick. And while there browse their range for organic vege spreads: just a quick look around the Vitam-R web site had me yearning for a shopping basket full to take home. While we’re on the topic of bread spreads that might need getting used to – or as the American kids in this video who don’t recommend Vegemite – try out a Spanish or Italian version of anchovy paste (Sardellenpaste). When I was a kid in the 70’s it was a special party treat served on deviled eggs.pd_fc_sardellenpaste

Food History

Exploring Europe should not just focus on the architectural wonders and amazing landscapes, but also incorporate getting to know the local food history. As our tour guides take you to all the known and unknown sights, they will be more than happy to introduce you to regional German food and drink specialties. Bottoms up and enjoy!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Germany’s traditional wines under threat

On our Rhine and Romans tour  you have a chance to see some of Germany’s oldest wine growing areas located on some of the world’s steepest slopes. These vineyards are in danger of being abandoned due to the hard manual labour and their maintenance costs. While one hectare on flat ground requires around 180 hours of labour, the equivalent slope hectare requires up to 1500 hours AND abseiling knowledge. Since 1970 the area of commercially used vineyards on “true” slopes (> 60% incline) has decreased from 12,000 hectares down to less than 8,000 hectares. The costs will be even harder to justify once the European Union stops the restrictions on the size of wine growing areas for each country. Each country will be able to increase its area by one percent per year, which will create more competition for the already pricey specialty wines.

Romantic views succumb to wilderness

But this is not just a problem for the wine growing industry, the tourism industry would suffer heavily as well. As readers of our tour blogs might remember, the Moselle and Rhine region are particularly picturesque and on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The description mentions “…the vineyard terraces that define this prosperous and picturesque stretch of the Rhine valley and encompass all the key views that influenced writers and artists.”

Traditional wine makers given a helping hand with modern technology

So, for the past ten years a dedicated team of researchers and technicians of the Geisenheim University have been working on a solution: “Geisi”. Looking like a cross between Fred Flintstone’s family car and NASA’s Mars rover the prototype has been making its way around some of the steeper slopes (>80%) and trying it’s “hands” at viticulture. Even though its current size is not quite right yet for the old fashioned narrow rows of the vineyards, the team is confident that the next model will be a bit skinnier and still be able to do all the necessary jobs of pruning and harvesting.Geisi03_1023

Market potential

At a recent trade show in Stuttgart they could have sold at least 10 models already, which is encouraging for the developers.  But, they’re not just working on a mechanical help for these vineyards, they are also developing new growing strategies, which would reduce the necessary labour and still produce good to excellent quality wines. One of these strategies comes from Australia and has already produced interesting results: smaller grapes, but less loss from mould damage. And the bottled wine, a tangy dry Riesling “Kauber Rauschely”, will be evaluated by the concerned and interested vineyard owners. Nothing proves a point like a perfect product.

On that note, Prost!

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Kneipen

800px-Das_kleine_Museum_Eckkneipe_Grotestraße_10_Hannover_Ecke_Ahlemer_StraßeThe German word ‘Kneipe’ has its origin in the 18th century term for a place where people had to squeeze together for drink and food. ‘Kneipschenke’ denotes the place, and “kneipen” is the verb for squeezing in! So be aware, a lot of Eckkneipen – corner pubs – will be tiny!

The practice of drinking, and drinking heavily, was tolerated, as long as it was conducted within the carefully structured cultural norms and didn’t interfere with a man’s responsibilities for his household. If it got too much for him to work or he started abusing the wife, she could deploy public powers to impose and enforce limits! As the cities and the neighbourhoods have grown since the 18th century, this aspect has unfortunately disappeared. But quite often you will still find the regular patrons of a Kneipe to be protective of its reputation and curb any antisocial behaviour!

Local brews

While some pubs are locked to one brewing company, others can offer the local brews. Most street signs indicate which beers are served, on tap of course. Ask your tour guide while travelling through Germany with us and they will advise you if a pub serves the local brew. So, while you’re here, get down to the Eckkneipe, enjoy a cool draft and get to know some of the locals!Sven Lambert

For our first time visitors who might like to find out more about beer and its history, check out our other blog entries here, here and here!

 

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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