Germany top 5: Holiday foods

Germany top 5: Holiday foods

by Courtney Woodruff
Stripes Europe

Closing my eyes to recall holiday memories from my childhood, the moments that stand out the most come alive with scents and flavors I can almost smell and taste right this very second, many Christmases and decades later. I remember the mouthwatering aroma of the turkey roasting in my grandma’s oven; I remember the spicy bite of the cinnamon candy we used to decorate the tree-shaped Christmas cookies my mom, my sister and I made together; I remember the sweet, syrupy flavor of my Dad’s favorite pecan pie.

What we eat over and over again on special occasions is important to the traditions we build and the memories we create for our families through the years. Does your go-to menu include any of the top five holiday foods prepared in Germany each winter?

1. Roasted game

If you want to celebrate the holidays the German way this season, consider skipping the Butterball and visit your village butcher (or "Metzgerei") to pick out the perfect Christmas roast for your dining room table. Even though goose ("Gänsebraten" or "Weihnachtsgans") is most popular, duck and rabbit are common alternatives. The meat dish is traditionally baked with apples and/or chestnut stuffing. Not a fan of roasted game? Many local nationals alternatively enjoy suckling pig and even carp ("Weihnachtskarpfen").

2. "Rotkohl"

Braised red cabbage, or "Rotkohl," is the traditional, tangy, lip-smacking accompaniment to a savory holiday roast in Germany. Known as "Rotkraut" in the north and blue cabbage Blaukraut in southern regions, the cabbage is boiled in vinegar to preserve its purplish color. Traditional Christmas recipes call for apples, red wine and plenty of spices, like cloves, peppercorns, juniper berries and bay leaves, for a punch of flavor.

3. "Kartoffelknödel"

What’s a holiday feast without spuds? Potato dumplings ("Kartoffelknödel" or "Kartoffelklösse") are another go-to recipe at Christmas-time in Germany. "Kartoffelknödel" is most often made to complement a roast with gravy alongside a hearty helping of "Rotkohl." The side dish begins as a dough made from potatoes, flour and bread. It’s seasoned with nutmeg, rolled into a ball, and boiled or steamed in saltwater. Day-after-Christmas leftovers are said to be just as delicious when sliced, pan-fried and slathered with butter. Yum!

Kale cooked in fat | Photo by elvinphoto

4. "Grünkohl" 

Curly kale cooked with pork fat, bacon or sausage is the perfect comfort food for cold winter days, which is why it is another popular side dish for holiday meals in Germany. To prepare "Grünkohl," fresh kale must be rinsed well, as it can be rather sandy. Once the leaves are clean, they are dropped in blanched in boiling water, then chilled in cold water before they are chopped, seasoned with salt and spices and boiled with meat over a period of several days. The wait is worth it when a hearty helping is paired with a delicious Christmas roast, a side of Rotkohl and a couple of potato dumplings.

5. "Christstollen"

Ready for dessert? Bring out the "Christstollen!" This German fruit cake is far from the dense, sticky, molasses-colored Christmas confection that is known to be re-gifted over and over again in the States; "Christstollen," or "Weihnachtstollen," is not as sweet as its American counterpart. The dough is low in sugar, sweetened with candied citrus peels, raisins, nuts and chopped dried fruit. Cardamom, cinnamon and rum add a subtle kick. Often, a rope of marzipan is added so there is a hint of almond flavor in every slice.  As soon as the loaf comes out of the oven, the top is dusted with powdered sugar so that it appears to be covered in a layer of fresh snow.  

When you gather around the table this holiday season, consider adding one or two of these dishes to your traditional menu. Immersing yourselves in local customs is a great way to learn more about your host nation. You never know – you just might stumble upon a new family favorite that you’ll continue to prepare for years to come.

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