German Food Schmeckt Gut!
Autumn in Texas is sometimes more a state of mind than an actual change in the weather. "Oh, we have a nice Autumn here," natives comment with a wry grin, "It usually falls on a Thursday."
But there's one way Texans can be sure Fall has arrived -- when the Oktoberfest celebrations are held in the Central Texas Hill Country.
This part of the state was settled by German, Polish and Czechoslovakian immigrants in the mid- and latter part of the Nineteenth Century, as town names like Fredricksburg, New Braunfels and Bucholtz will attest. These settlers had a pretty good eye for real estate in that their choice of areas includes excellent farm and ranch land, as well as what many people regard as the most aesthetically pleasing part of the varied Texas landscape.
Probably the largest of Texas' Oktoberfests is staged in Fredericksburg. Since these folks have been putting on quite a show over the first weekend in the month of October. From Friday through Sunday you can get your fill of music and entertainment (4 stages with twenty-three -- that's twenty-three bands, three dance groups), including Polka and Waltz contests. They provide a special children's area complete with a carnival, face painting, clowns, puppet shows and more.
There are over 50 booths offering handcrafts of wood, pottery, fashion, stained glass and jewelry.
And, of course, there is the incredible food. German cuisine, to be sure, is well represented (sausages, kraut, potato salad, excellent pastries), and Mexican, Cajun and other ethic foods are wisely given the nod by the sponsoring organization, the non-profit Pedernales Creative Arts Alliance. Admission is $10 for adults and $3 for children (children under 6 are admitted free).
This page, however, is going to deal with the preparation of some classic German dishes. Making the selections is difficult because there are so many mouth-watering choices, but we came up with the following:
- Beef Rouladen (Rindsrouladen)
- Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)
- Potato Pancakes (Kartoffel Puffer)
- King's Cake (Knigskuchen)
- Coconut Macaroons (Kokosnuss Makronen)
Here are the recipes:
- 1 Rump roast (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
- 1-1/2 C Apple cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 C Water
- 2 Bay leaves
- 10 Whole peppercorns
- 6 Whole cloves
- 1 C Chopped onion
- 1 t Salt
- 1/4 C Olive or Canola oil
- 1-1/2 C Warm water
- 1/2 C Cold water
- 1/3 C Flour
For the Marinade:
Three days before serving, combine vinegar, water, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, salt and chopped onion in a deep non-metallic container (a one-gallon heavy-duty ziplock bag is even better). Set the roast into the marinade and refrigerate. Each morning and evening, turn the roast so that it is evenly marinated (if you're using a plastic bag, just turn the bag over).
Remove the roast from the marinade and dry it well. Discard the marinade, but retain 1/2 cup of the liquid.
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the roast and brown well on all sides. Position roast with fat side up. Lower heat, add the 1/2 cup of reserved marinade, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the warm water, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until roast is tender. Carve the roast and put on a heated platter.
For the Gravy:
Mix the 1/2 cup of cold water with the 1/3 cup flour and mix until smooth. Add several tablespoons of the pan liquid to the flour mixture, a spoonful at a time, and mix well. Slowly pour flour mixture into pan juices while stirring. Continue stirring over medium heat until gravy is thickened. (If you've got a few flour lumps, don't despair; just strain the gravy into the container in which you will be serving it.) Pour some of the hot gravy over the sliced roast before bringing it to the table.
You may wish, as some cooks do, to enliven your gravy by adding a tablespoon or so of butter, some cream or a little red wine; and it's nice to do that, but the gravy will be terrific without it.
The three days of marinating is essential, as far as I'm concerned. It deepens the flavor and contributes greatly to the tenderness of the roast. It's no trouble, really; a lot less hassle than a virtual pet.
- 2 lb. Top round steak (may be several ounces shy of 2 pounds)
- 1-1/2 T German or brown mustard
- 2 Slices thick-sliced bacon
- 1 C Finely chopped onion
- 2 Plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped
- 2 Medium (or 4 small) sour or dill pickles
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 C Beef stock
- 1/2 C Dry red wine
- 1 T Butter
- 1 T Canola oil
- 1-1/2 T Cornstarch
- 3 T Water
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Trim fat from steak and divide into 4 equal portions. With a meat mallet, pound each steak until about 1/4" thick. Cut bacon slices in half, crosswise.
Spread 1 rounded teaspoon of mustard evenly over each steak. Place a half slice of bacon over mustard. Then, sprinkle each piece of steak with approximately 1 tablespoon tomato, 1-1/2 tablespoon pickle and 1 tablespoon onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll up each piece of steak tightly and secure with string or toothpicks. [Note: String really works better than toothpicks, but if you don't have any clean cotton kitchen twine, get out your toothpicks -- you'll need quite a few.]
In a Dutch oven, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the Rouladen and brown quickly on all sides. Pour beef stock and red wine over Rouladen, and add leftover chopped tomato, pickle and onion. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, until tender.
Remove Rouladen from Dutch oven and keep warm. Blend cornstarch with the 3 tablespoons water until smooth. Stir into hot pan juices. Simmer sauce until it thickens, correct seasonings, if necessary. Return Rouladen to Dutch oven until heated through and well coated with sauce. Serve at once.
This recipe can be a little tedious, especially the first time you make it. All the pounding, chopping and sprinkling, however, can be done several hours or even a day ahead of time. Just go ahead and assemble the Rouladen, tie them up securely, wrap well in plastic wrap so they don't dry out, and refrigerate until time to cook.
Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)
- 2 lb. Red cabbage
- 1/4 C Canola oil
- 3/4 C Finely chopped onion
- 3/4 C Cooking apples, peeled and diced (Golden Delicious, Granny Smith)
- 5 Whole cloves
- 3 T Red wine vinegar
- 1-1/2 C Water
- 1/2 t Salt
- 1 T Sugar
Wash cabbage, core and shred.
In very large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil. Add onions and saut until just starting to brown. Add cabbage, apples, cloves and vinegar. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove cover and stir cabbage. Add water and salt. Simmer for 1-1/4 hours. Add sugar, stir well, and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Potato Pancakes (Kartoffel Puffer)
- 3 Medium potatoes, peeled and grated
- 1 Small onion, finely chopped
- 1 Egg, lightly beaten
- 1 T Flour
- 1 t Salt
- 1/4 t Freshly ground pepper
- 2 T Butter
- 2 T Olive or canola oil
Grate potatoes by hand or use a food processor, but remember that more coarsely grated potatoes will absorb less oil than those that are finely grated. Remove as much moisture from the grated potatoes as possible by pressing between layers of paper towels.
Put the grated potatoes in a bowl and add the chopped onion, egg, salt and pepper, and sprinkle in the flour. Mix well.
Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon each of the butter and oil in a large skillet. Pack a 1/4 measuring cup with potato mixture and put into the pan (you can comfortably fry 4 pancakes at a time). Press each little mound into a 3" to 4" pancake with a pancake turner. Brown on both sides. Remove, place on paper towels and keep warm.
Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and repeat the procedure for the remaining pancakes. If you need to add a little more butter and oil, do so. The pancakes won't turn that lovely golden brown in a dry skillet. (It's also a good idea to stir up the raw potato batter between batches so the liquid doesn't accumulate in the bottom of the bowl.)
Serve at once. Makes 8 or 10 pancakes.
King's Cake (Königskuchen)
- 1/2 C Butter, softened
- 1/2 C Shortening
- 5 Eggs, separated
- 1-1/2 C Sugar
- Juice and grated peel from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 C Rum (Dark rum like Myers's is best)
- 1 t Salt
- 3/4 C Raisins (I like to use light raisins)
- 2-3/4 C All-purpose flour
- 1 T Cornstarch
- 1/2 C Grated almonds (whir in the blender or food processor, or buy Almond Meal)
- 1/8 t Almond extract
- 1 t Baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°F, and grease a 10" tube pan.
Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar with an electric mixer. Add egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Add lemon juice, lemon peel, rum and salt. Sift together flour and cornstarch. With mixer running, gradually add the sifted ingredients and mix well. Fold in grated almonds and almond extract. Beat at medium speed for about 10 minutes. With mixer running, add the baking powder and raisins until well mixed. Turn off mixer.
Carefully fold in the egg whites. Pour batter into the tube pan, and bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of cake.
When cake tests done, remove from oven and invert on rack immediately. While you're not looking, the cake will drop from the pan onto the rack.
This is the cake that finally killed my old Mixmaster. The batter is very thick, but the cake is surprisingly light with a dense, smooth texture. Lightly toasted slices are really good.
Coconut Macaroons (Kokosnuss Makronen)
- 5 Egg whites, stiffly beaten
- 1 C Sugar
- 1 t Almond extract
- 1-½ C Shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Fold sugar, almond extract and coconut into stiffly beaten egg whites. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Many German dishes and foods have become so ingrained in American culture (the hot dog is a good example) that we tend to forget their origin. This cooking is good, simple and wholesome, and the flavors are often a combination of piquant and mellow that both whet and satisfy the appetite. You will do well to add a few of these dishes to your repertoire (if I may be allowed to use a French word under these circumstances).