For centuries, Germany’s fertile farmland has provided a high yield. Storing excess produce has made the smoking and pickling of meat and vegetables an integral element of German cuisine. Sauerkraut is a well-known ambassador for how wonderful pickled vegetables can be. Lactic acid from a process of fermentation is the key to turning a humble cabbage into this delicious, piquant dish. Another food with a long shelf life is the versatile, smoked favourite speck. This dry-smoked belly of pork is used widely in German cooking to flavor dishes including soups, legumes and cabbage.
The sausage maker holds a very special place in every German’s heart. There are hundreds of different sausage types, for every region and occasion. The three major categories of German sausage are: Bruhwurst (parboiled sausage made from finely chopped meat, for example the frankfurter and wiener); Rohwurst (raw sausage made from meat that’s been cured, for example Mettwurst) and Kochwurst (fully cooked sausage, for example Lebewurst). Arguably the most famous, and certainly the oldest sausage in Germany is Bratwurst. Commonly sold on the streets in a bun with lashings of mustard, it is the perfect fast food.
And let’s not forget the drinking. Aside from some excellent wines, German beer is world famous and a key part of the country's history and culture. With over 1,200 breweries, from the North Sea to the Alps, 5,000 different kinds of beer flow on tap. For devotees, German beer needs to be drunk from specific glassware to retain its purity – and is always better when accompanied by some food. In Bavaria, bar food might consist of a salty pretzel, elsewhere you might get a smoked sausage or a selection of cold cuts, known as Aufschnitt.
Germany is also a cake-loving nation. Every afternoon around three, torte or kuchen is a ritual pick-me-up, and the most famous of all is the legendary Black Forest cake. Known in Germany as Schwarzwälderkirschtorte, historians believe the cake had its beginnings in the late 16th century in the Black Forest Region of Baden-Württemberg. This province is known for its sour cherries and kirsch or kirschwasser (a double distilled, clear cherry brandy made from the sour Morello cherry). Combine these cherries with rich, dark chocolate, add a lashings of cream and it’s a dessert-lover's dream come true.
View our German recipe collection here.
Sauerbraten (sour roast) is said to be Germany’s national dish. It’s a long-marinated meat dish that uses some of the great flavours of German cooking – juniper berries, allspice and red wine. Detlef likes to use star anise and the redcurrant jelly, sour cream and sultanas are added for a slightly sweet finish. This recipe is very yummy and the bread dumplings are worth the work!
This German favourite, which translates as "hunter's schnitzel", consists of veal fillets in a creamy mushroom sauce. Serve it with mashed potato or käsespätzle for a warming, hearty meal.
A favourite all over Germany, these pork knuckles (otherwise known as hocks) are the perfect mix of crunchy crackling and tender meat – and they’re so easy to cook. Here they’re infused with garlic and caraway and served with delicious potato dumplings and slow-cooked red cabbage. For a really deluxe meal, add some fried onion rings and apple sauce. A perfect recipe to prepare on lazy winter days.
Smoked pork belly or hock is the basis of the stock used to make this hearty soup. Celery, carrot and parsnip are also used, although any other good stock vegetables can be included. Traditionally eaten during the autumn harvest in the wine region of Germany, this soup recipe can be stretched depending on how many people you’re feeding. This version feeds six people. You can happily make more than you need as the soup keeps well and gets better with time, simply freeze or store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Fermentation is the alchemy that makes the cabbage in this sauerkraut recipe sing. Sauerkraut is finely sliced, salted, fermented cabbage that is then cooked. It’s served in Germany with a variety of dishes including sausages, smoked pork loins and roasted pork. It is thought that the lactic acid in the sauerkraut assists digestion. In Alsace it is known as choucroute.
This version of the classic German dessert black forest cake, by chef Martin Boetz, makes your knees go weak. Martin uses a chocolate mousse recipe from Heston Blumenthal’s book In Search of Perfection (but any basic mousse recipe is fine) and likes to garnish the cake with fresh cherries that have been marinated in kirsch for one week.
This is carbohyrdrate heaven – a mix of flour, eggs and semolina that is flicked into boiling water to cook like pasta. In fact the word käsespätzle translates as little cheese sparrows, each piece of pasta a different shape. When cooked it’s mixed while still warm through a mountain of grated cheese and a generous amount of fried onion rings cooked in butter. The result is warm and wicked, full of stretchy cheese. Expatriate Nanna Dorn-Zachertz says while the dish is high in fat, its something that Germans hanker for when they've been away from home for a while. Nanna practiced her recipe on her fellow German expatriates in Sydney to rave reviews.