The second challenge for Project Food Blog is to recreate a classic dish from a culture other than our own – something with which we are relatively unfamiliar and that might be out of our comfort zone. We are charged with being as authentic as possible, and we’re asked to explain how we reached our decision.
I’ve traveled to Germany a number of times, falling in love with the country, its architecture, its history and its inherent order and cleanliness. And, of course, with its beer. My husband and I have even discussed buying property there so that we can visit anytime we wish.
Before you begin your corny rendition of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic, let me assure you it’s not because I’m a fan of The Sound of Music (although it is a good show). No, it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic, and the legend associated with edelweiss is quite lovely:
love by climbing high crags of the Alps in search
of the flower….
You’d think that with this mild obsession over the culture of Germany, I’d feel right at home with German cuisine. You couldn’t be further from the truth. Despite having spent much time immersed in the language and literature, I never acquired much of an appreciation of the cuisine. So, this is my chance to broaden my horizons on the culinary front.
- Begin by shredding your cabbage – quarter it, core it and use a knife, food processor or mandolin to shred it very finely
- Wash whatever vessel you choose to use (I used a large glass bowl) very thoroughly in HOT soapy water, and rinse it well.
- Begin layering your cabbage in the bowl/crock/whatever you choose.
- Sprinkle each layer with some of the salt and some of the other seasonings
- Thoroughly smush (that’s a technical term) each layer with a wooden spoon, bruising the cabbage to help it release some of its juice
- Continue this process until you have filled your vessel.
- Cover the bowl with a plate that fits down inside the top of the bowl, thoroughly covering the cabbage and weight it down with a can or something else heavy.
- Place in a cool area of your kitchen where it won’t be disturbed.
- Check it after a couple of days. If it hasn’t released much liquid (which mine hadn’t) add some water to cover the cabbage and replace the lid. NOTE -when I added the water, my plate no longer sufficiently covered the ingredients, so I placed a loosely fitting piece of plastic wrap over the top of the cabbage and used my plate and can to weight that down.
- You should see bubbles forming in the water, and you might see a little mold or “scum” form on the top – just scrape it off.
- After a week or two (or three), you’ve got sauerkraut!
For a printable version of this sauerkraut recipe, click here.
In addition to sourcing hog casings, I also needed to invest in a meat grinder. I debated the merits of getting a full-on meat grinding machine (either hand-cranked or electric) versus simply getting the attachment for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. I ended up with the attachment, even though I’ve read mixed reviews, simply because it was less expensive and takes up less room in my kitchen cabinets. I suppose if I become a habitual sausage maker, I’ll invest in the larger capacity grinder, but for now this will suffice.
I purchased a pound of veal and a 6.5 pound bone-in pork shoulder. After cutting the meat off the bone, I ended up with just over 5 pounds of pork.
To prepare your casings, remove them from the brine in which they are packaged and flush them with warm water. Then let them soak in warm water for 30 minutes while you prepare their stuffing.
1 pound boneless veal shoulder, diced
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons ground caraway seed
2 teaspoons ground mustard powder
4 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh grated nutmeg
2 cold beaten eggs
1 cup cold heavy cream
10 feet of clean, soaked hog casings
- Toss your diced pork and veal. Using a meat grinder, grind all of it up together.
- Combine all the ingredients with the ground meat/fat mixture. Use your hands to do so. It should be a bit sticky. Test a bit of the meat by cooking it in a pan to check for seasonings. Adjust if necessary. Chill in a bowl in the freezer for a half hour to ensure it is VERY cold for sausage stuffing.
- Add the sausage attachment to your mixture and put some butter or oil on the nozzle. Slide the hog casing on to the sausage nozzle until there is only a 2-inch piece hanging on the end. Tie a knot in the end piece of the hog casing.
- Turn your Kitchen Aid on a medium speed and start stuffing your very cold meat mixture into the sausage maker and watch your hog casings fill up! Using your hand “work” the casings so they don’t get over-filled as they can burst. We had some issues with air building up in the casing at first, but after a while we got the hang of it. Every six to twelve inches (depending on how big you want your brats), twist the hog casing into links. Continue stuffing until meat mixture is gone. At this point, you can cook them immediately, or freeze them in small batches for later use.
For dessert, I went with the classic German Black Forest Cake, and let me tell you, it was not easy to find an “authentic” recipe out there. I even emailed my old German professor because I remembered his wife making a wonderful version one time when I was at their home for dinner. He let me know that she used a Betty Crocker German Chocolate Cake mix, so all my illusions were shattered (it really was quite tasty, though, from what I remember).
I ended up adapting a recipe out of the Joy of Cooking, baking a chocolate genoise and using a mixture of heavy cream and creme fraiche.
- Preheat your oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably with 2 1/2 – 3 inch sides)
- Sift together your flour, cocoa and 1/4 cup sugar three times.
- Bring a skillet with 1-inch of water in it to a simmer. Whisk your eggs and remaining sugar together. Sit the bowl with the eggs in the pan of simmering water and wisk, allowing the eggs to warm to about 110F (they should feel warm to the touch).
- Remove the bowl from the water and immediately beat on high speed until they become light in color and have trippled in volume
- Melt your butter in a small saucepan
- Sift your flour mixtuer over the egg mixture in three parts, gently folding in each addition before adding the next – try to retain as much volume as possible.
- In a medium bowl, pour your warm melted butter and add 1/3 cup of cake batter along with 1 teaspoon of vanilla and fold together. Add this mixture back to the main batter mixture and fold together.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake in a preheated oven until the cake pulls away from the sides and top springs back when touched
- Allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert and removed from the pan. Slice into three layers
- To make the moistening liquid – dissolve sugar in water over low heat and add Kirschwasser liquer
- For whipped cream – beat together the cream, creme fraiche, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form
- For chocolate whipped cream – pour 1/4 cup boiling water over chopped chocolate and stir to melt. Allow to cool. Fold in 1/3 cup of whipped cream, then fold in another 1/2 cup.
- To assemble:
- place one cake layer on a cardboard cake round and brush with moistening liquid
- spread chocolate cream on top of this layer
- brush a second layer with moistening liquid and place this, moist side down, on top of the chocolate cream.
- moisten the top of the second layer
- place cherries on top of this layer – you will have some cherries left over
- spread 2 cups of whipped cream over and between the cherries
- moisten third layer and place it, moist side down, on top of the whipped cream.
- refrigerate the cake, the remaining whipped cream and the cherries for thirty minutes, just to firm it up
- after the cake has cooled frost top and sides with remaining whipped cream. decorate with cherries and shaved chocolate if desired