Weisswurst…knackwurst…leberkaese…YUM! We had a German feast for dinner the other night. No, it wasn’t the standard bratwurst most people associate with German food, but rather some of the traditional meats that are more difficult to find in the U.S. We’re fortunate to have an authentic European meat market, bakery, and deli here in Minnesota. Kramarczuk’s is over 50 years old, and they sell just about anything you can imagine in the way of European sausages, meats, and baked goods. They even have a small grocery section with imported items like Milka chocolate bars, Haribo gummy candies, and Bavarian mustards.
Weisswurst are white sausages that hail from the Bavarian region of Germany. These sausages are made with veal, pork, and parsley and are typically made fresh in the early morning and eaten by Germans no later than mid-day because they are highly perishable. To eat them, Germans will either cut them in slices and remove the skin or cut the ends off and suck the meat from the casing…a honed skill known as “zuzeln”. No weisswurt meal is complete without some sweet Bavarian mustard (weisswurstsenf), a tall weissbier, and a pretzel on the side. We like ours with spaetzle!
Knackwurst are short, fat sausages with a deep orange hue that taste quite similar to beef hot dogs. They are traditionally made from veal, pork, garlic, and other spices and are often served with sauerkraut and potato salad.
Leberkaese is basically German meatloaf, and it’s DELICIOUS! The name literally means liver-cheese, although it contains neither. It typically is made with corned beef, pork, onions and spices baked in a loaf pan. When I lived in Bavaria, I ate this just about every day, and it’s by far the food I miss most from there. A thick slice of Leberkaese on a Kaiser roll (Leberkaese Semmel) is the much tastier Bavarian version of our fast food hamburger. Leberkaese can be served warm or cold. I typically slice it and fry it for a few minutes on each side until slightly browned. Then we’ll eat it with a crusty loaf of artisan bread and a side of spaetzle or a German mixed salad.
Your Turn: What’s your favorite German food? Where do you find it in the U.S.?
Looking for a good spaetzle maker? If you’re serious about spaetzle like I am, you may want to buy a spaetzle maker. They aren’t a common item to find in a typical retail store. You might find one at a fancy cooking store, but it would probably be pretty pricy there. I stumbled across mine years ago in the kitchen section of TJ Maxx. They are pretty inexpensive and can save you a lot of time.
Here’s one for less than $10 on Amazon which is very similar to mine and is well reviewed. It’s the Norpro Spaetzle Maker with the hopper design which makes quick work out of cutting the noodles and dropping them into the steaming pot of water below. Amazon gives this one 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of time and patience…and coordination, you can give the traditional German method a try, which involves laying the spaetzle dough on a cutting board and then chopping small bits of dough with a sharp knife while angling the board over boiling water so the bits drop into the water to cook as they are chopped. While the traditional method takes plenty of practice, many German households even today consider it the only way to make spaetzle. I’ll stick with my spaetzle maker. Whatever method you choose…Guten appetit!
When I think of German food, I think of three things: pretzels, wurst, and spaetzle. All three conjure up memories of the months I spent studying in Bavaria as an exchange student, where I lived in a town on the Inn River in the Alpine foothills. Each day, I’d stop for a fresh roll from the local baker on the way to school. My friends and I would often pick up a schinken-kaese-bretzel (a pretzel sliced width-wise and stuffed with ham and cheese) or a butter bretzel (a butter slathered pretzel) for lunch during the school day or a quick snack in the train station on our frequent trips to Munich. Dinners with my host family were always hearty with plenty of meat – typically some sort of schnitzel or wurst. My favorite was weisswurst…a white sausage stuffed with veal, pork, and parsley..which was typically only eaten in Bavaria, south of what was known as the Weisswurst Equator. On the side, we always had a tall glass of weissbier and bowl of warm, buttery spaetzle.
The wonderful thing about spaetzle is that it uses ingredients that everyone has on hand – milk, eggs, salt, and flour. That’s it.
The trick to making the spaetzle noodles is to pass the dough through small holes into a boiling pot of water. If you don’t own a spaetzle maker, a cheese grater will work just fine for starters. A potato ricer will work, too. If you do make spaetzle frequently, you might want to buy an inexpensive spaetzle maker, preferably the kind with the basket or hopper that slides across the holes. Most are about $10 – $15. Mine was $3.99 at a local discount store.
Make the spaetzle in batches. Don’t crowd the pot. Last night, we ate spaetzle with venison polish sausage. The buttery noodles were a nice offset to the spicy sausage.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
½ teaspoon salt
Beat eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Stir salt into flour. Slowly alternate between adding flour and milk while mixing. Dough will be thick and sticky. If the dough is too thick, add a teaspoon of water. Balance spaetzle maker over pot of boiling water. Scoop dough into spaetzle maker basket with a spatula. Move basket from side to side – this will push the dough through the holes, cut it, and drop it into the water below. Cook for a few minutes until the spaetzle begin to float. Remove first batch with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Add more dough to the basket and repeat steps for next batch. When all spaetzle is cooked, stir in a pat or two of butter and a dash of salt and serve.