It’s time for Oktoberfest
By KAREN K. WILL
It was 1810 when Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria honored his bride, Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, with a wedding day festival in Munich, inviting farmers, merchants and villagers to celebrate the fall harvest. Through the years, horse races, agricultural fairs, performers and beer pubs were part of the festivities as a way to draw tourists to the town and educate them about Bavaria and its people. Little did Prince Ludwig know that the tradition he started would continue for centuries to come, not only in Germany, but around the world.
Today, the Munich Oktoberfest is held in September because the weather is milder than it is in October. In Munich, the festival lasts for 16 days, beginning on a Saturday in September and always ending on the first Sunday in October.
In the late 1800s, lederhosen and dirndls became the traditional garb of Oktoberfest attendees. The fest traditionally begins with a parade featuring the mayor and other civic leaders, followed by horse-drawn brewer’s carts, bands, and townspeople in costumes. The parade ends at the oldest private tent at Oktoberfest, the Schottenhamel tent, where the mayor taps the first keg of beer, and the toasting begins. More than 7 million people attend the festivities each year.
Beer takes center stage at Oktoberfest. Munich’s six major brewers of the Oktoberfest beer, Marzen or Maerzen (named after the month in which they were brewed March, or Marz in German), keep the brews in cold storage through the spring and summer months. Maerzen is full-bodied, rich, toasty and dark copper in color. This Oktoberfest beer may be found in the seven halls where there is live music throughout the day and evening, and is the same beer that was served at the Crown Prince’s wedding in 1810. Outside the beer tents, visitors will find music and dancing, sideshows, carnival rides and, of course, German food of all types wursts of beef, chicken, veal or pork, as well as slices of beef, pieces of chicken, sauerkraut, potato salad, cabbage and onions. And don’t forget soft pretzels, which are often enjoyed with mustard and cheese, and a stein or two of beer.
This fall, consider hosting your own Oktoberfest-themed shindig. The following recipes will bring traditional German foods into the fold.
German soft pretzels
Yields 8 pretzels.
1 1/2 cups, plus 1 gallon, plus 1 tablespoon warm water, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
Coarse or kosher salt
In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups warm water with yeast and sugar, and let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy.
In separate bowl, combine flour and salt, and whisk to evenly distribute salt. Add to yeast mixture, and blend until mixture comes together. Use your hands to form into ball.
On lightly floured work surface, knead dough until a smooth, sticky dough forms, a few minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 45 minutes.
On lightly floured work surface, divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into rope 18 to 20 inches long. (Don’t over-flour hands or work surface, as this will make it more difficult to roll.) Twist each dough piece into pretzel shape by placing arc of pretzel at bottom (closest to you); next, round the two ends so they’re facing the arc and twist them around; then “paste” them to opposite sides of the arc, using a little water if necessary. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Prepare water bath by combining 1 gallon warm water with baking soda, and bring to boil. Once boiling, use slotted spatula and transfer each pretzel into water; let boil for 3 minutes, flipping halfway through boiling. Drain on cooling rack, then transfer parboiled pretzels back to parchment-lined baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Make egg wash by beating egg with remaining warm water. Generously brush egg wash over each pretzel, then sprinkle with coarse or kosher salt.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Obatzda (spiced cheese-butter spread)
This dish is not for the faint of heart. Obatzda is made out of stinky white cheeses and spicy paprika, with a good bit of raw onion thrown into the mix. It’s perfect for Oktoberfest, served with soft pretzels and washed down with good German beer. Yields about 11/2 cups.
4 ounces ripe Romadur 60 percent (Belgian soft cheese), rind removed, or cream cheese
4 ounces ripe Camembert (French soft cheese) or Brie, rind removed
4 ounces butter, softened
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon spicy Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground caraway
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons beer
In bowl, mash cheeses and butter together. Add onion, paprika, caraway, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in enough beer to achieve desired spreading consistency.
Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let flavors meld together. Serve with additional onion, pretzels, bread and beer.
Note: For a smoother spread, blend all ingredients except onion in food processor, and then stir in minced onion.
Whether you are barbecuing at home or at a tailgate, boil these brats ahead of time for a German flavor that’s a bit Americanized an intense beer flavor with a little bite. Serve these brats over sauerkraut, or on potato rolls topped with spicy hot German mustard, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.
Yields 4 servings.
1/8 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 can or bottle (12 fluid ounces) lager beer
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 pound fresh bratwurst sausages
1 pound sauerkraut (homemade or store-bought from the refrigerated case), drained
Crush celery seeds and caraway seeds in mortar and pestle until ground; set aside.
Mix beer, brown sugar, mustard powder, onion powder, black pepper, dill weed, and ground celery and caraway seeds in bowl, stirring until brown sugar is dissolved.
Place brats in large non-stick skillet over medium heat; add beer mixture. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove brats and set aside.
Increase burner temperature to medium. Bring sauce to boil, and continue boiling until mixture reduces to thick, syrupy liquid, about 20 minutes. Stir in sauerkraut, and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to serving platter or portable dish for serving.
Grill bratwursts. Serve over sauerkraut, or on potato rolls topped with sauerkraut, spicy mustard and Swiss cheese.
Recipe by Ms. Erika Beckman of Fallbrook, California. She says, “This is common in Germany and for Oktoberfest.”
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
3 to 5 whole cloves
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon peppercorns
Beef bottom round roast (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
In large dish, mix together apple cider vinegar, water, salt, cloves, bay leaves, onion and peppercorns. Add roast, and make sure all sides are immersed. Cover and marinate in refrigerator for 5 days.
After 5 days, remove and set meat aside. Strain marinade; set aside.
In large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add meat, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes, basting meat as it browns. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until meat is tender.
Transfer meat to platter or carving board. Let rest for 10 to 20 minutes, and then slice.
Meanwhile, continue simmering marinade liquid in Dutch oven.
Place flour in measuring cup, and add just enough marinade liquid to make smooth paste. Gradually add to liquid in Dutch oven, whisking until smooth gravy forms. Serve gravy over sliced beef.
Traditional German rotkohl (sweet and sour red cabbage)
Recipe by Kimberly Killebrew
This is a beloved side dish found in virtually every restaurant and home throughout Germany. Here is a thoroughly authentic recipe for this wonderful way of preparing red cabbage. Rotkohl has been around for, well, forever. Great dishes stand the test of time. Rotkohl takes the humble red cabbage and transforms it into a dish that traditionally accompanies beef roasts, Rouladen and Sauerbraten. For any of you who have traveled to Germany, you’ll remember this delicious dish.
1/4 cup butter
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 pounds red cabbage, very thinly sliced
1 large Granny Smith or other semi-tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
3 whole cloves
3 juniper berries
2 tablespoons red currant jam or cherry preserves
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add and cook onion until caramelized and just beginning to brown, 7 to 10 minutes.
Add cabbage, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add apple, broth, bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries, red currant jam, red wine vinegar, sugar and salt.
Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, and add more broth if needed.
In small bowl, stir together flour and water, and stir into Rotkohl. Simmer for 1 additional minute. Taste, and adjust salt, sugar and vinegar, if needed.
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