Dine by the Rhine with delicious Spundekäse

Dine by the Rhine with delicious Spundekäse

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Have you tried this creamy cheese that pairs so well with pretzels?

A picnic in the vineyards of the gorgeous Rheingau and Rheinhessen wine-growing regions is a special kind of treat, and for those who live in Hessen or Rhineland-Palatinate, an easily arrangeable outing to enjoy with family and/or friends. With a birds-eye view overlooking the Rhine, its quaint villages and a castle ruin or two thrown in for good measure, a chilled glass of local wine would make this picture-perfect day out complete.

Almost.

For where there’s wine, there shall be cheese. And where there’s cheese, there shall be bread. Or some variation thereof.

For decades already, the locals of these two regions have paired a creamy cheese dip with their wine-drinking sessions. This dip for all seasons is enjoyed as much in Mainz’s cozy wine taverns and as it is in Wiesbaden’s trendy wine bars. This tasty wonder is given away by its cheerful light-orange shade and the shape in which it’s typically served – a conical mound that’s thought to resemble in shape a Spund, the German word for the cork stopper that sits atop a wooden wine barrel.

Every cook seems to have a slightly different take on what constitutes the perfect Spundekäs or Spundekäse (both spellings are acceptable). Most recipes call for cream cheese and high-fat quark seasoned with salt, pepper and sweet paprika powder, which lends the cheese its distinct color. Finely chopped or sliced raw onion rings give the concoction an additional punch and serves as a garnish. Some recipes call for the addition of butter, egg yolks or sour cream to the base, with adds-ins such as garlic and caraway seeds serving as the signature touches of other makers.

Who makes the best Spundekäse? This is such a serious question that a competition titled “RSDS - Rheingau sucht den Super-Spundekäs!” (Rheingau seeks its Super-Spundekäs!) is held annually to crown a Rheingau resident top Spundekäse-maker. This good-natured competition staged in the style of a talent-search show takes place in Oestrich-Winkel. (In non-Coronavirus years, that is. Long-term planners can already mark their calendars for the event’s next edition: April 18, 2021.)

When it comes to the pretzel accompaniment, two schools of thought apply. Sometimes it’s served next to the standard small hard pretzels found in packages, while in other places you can opt to eat it in combination with a soft, freshly-baked pretzel served warm from the oven alongside the dip. Who’s to say what’s right or wrong? When it comes to Spundekäse, everyone’s a winner.

Care to whip some up yourself? My friend Gerda, a Rheinhessen native, tells me this recipe is the real deal:

Mix up 40% quark with cream cheese in a 1:2 ratio and mix it into one single mass. Add just a pinch of salt, and season with both sweet and spicy-hot paprika, along with white pepper. The most important thing for this to come together perfectly is for the concoction to set a while; preferably for a full day. Only after several hours will the Spundekäse achieve its maximum taste-greatness potential. Another important detail is not to serve it too chilled, as in straight from the fridge. Like a fine wine, it needs its time.

Have you tried Spundekäse? What’s your recipe?

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