>Of Deutschland, edelweiss, and wurst.


multi mosaic2

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.

For me, this story starts in high-school when, as freshmen, we had the opportunity to choose a foreign language.  Most girls chose French, because it was pretty (and wouldn’t it be fun to study abroad in Paris!?).  I chose German.  I don’t really remember why I chose it, but for four years, I took German.  And I was good at it. I had a knack for the grammar (which is remarkably similar to English) and pronunciation, and those guttural German sounds were just so much fun to make.  I went on to major in German in college. I tutored other students in German and was a TA for my German Professor, with the idea that one day I might even become a German teacher or professor myself. 

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.

I also have a classic symbol of German chivalry tattooed on my upper left shoulder.

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:

According to Alpine folklore, suitors proved their
love by climbing high crags of the Alps in search
of the flower….

Suffice it to say, there was a time in my life when my world centered on all things German.  I spoke the language, I read the books, I watched the films.  But, it’s been more than 12 years since I last spoke German.  I rarely ever use my knowledge of the language, except to read the occasional news article in Der Spiegel.  And I miss it.  I want to go back to Germany – Heidelberg or Weimar in particular – and spend a good long time there.  For the time being, though, I’ll use this challenge as an excuse to bring Germany into my home in an epicurean manifestation.
Additionally, it’s prime Oktoberfest season (having officially kicked off on September 18 in München), and what better way to celebrate than with some German classics?

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.

I didn’t want to just head down to the grocery store and buy some Johnsonville® Brats and some canned sauerkraut and call it a day.  No, I wanted to do it right – ferment my own sauerkraut, stuff my own sausages, and bake an authentic Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte from scratch.   So that’s exactly what I did.
I started with the sauerkraut, looking around in my cookbooks and on the ever-knowledgeable interweb for information on making sauerkraut at home.  There were lots of different versions, some which used whey to speed fermentation, some which just used cabbage and salt, and some that were somewhere in the middle.  I ended up adapting a few of them for my version.  The most important thing to remember in all of this is to make sure that all of your utensils and your fermentation vessel are super clean, since you’ll be leaving this out on your counter for a couple of weeks.
prep time – 10 minutes
fermentation time – 2-3 weeks
serves – a lot of people
2 heads of cabbage (approx. 5 lbs), shredded
3 Tbs.Kosher or Pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
water to cover

  1. Begin by shredding your cabbage – quarter it, core it and use a knife, food processor or mandolin to shred it very finely
  2. Wash whatever vessel you choose to use (I used a large glass bowl) very thoroughly in HOT soapy water, and rinse it well.
  3. Begin layering your cabbage in the bowl/crock/whatever you choose.
  4. Sprinkle each layer with some of the salt and some of the other seasonings
  5. Thoroughly smush (that’s a technical term) each layer with a wooden spoon, bruising the cabbage to help it release some of its juice
  6. Continue this process until you have filled your vessel.
  7. 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.
  8. Place in a cool area of your kitchen where it won’t be disturbed.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. After a week or two (or three), you’ve got sauerkraut!

For a printable version of this sauerkraut recipe, click here.

    To go along with the homemade sauerkraut, I felt compelled to make homemade bratwurst.  This meant, of course, sourcing some sausage casings.  Hog casings, a.k.a. the submucosa of a hog’s intestines, to be exact (see, this is where the “out of your comfort zone” portion of the challenge really kicks in) . Luckily, I was able to find a very friendly and very helpful butcher in Canton, GA (The Corner Butcher Shop) who readily sold me enough hog casings to make upwards of 75 pounds of sausage.  
    I ended up adapting a recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  It called for pork shoulder, veal and fatback, but I omitted the fatback and just used extra pork shoulder.

    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.

    prep time – 1.5 hours (depends on the speed of your grinder/stuffer)
    cook time – 20 minutes
    makes 5-6 pounds of sausage
    5 pounds boneless pork shoulder/butt, diced
    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
    1. Toss your diced pork and veal. Using a meat grinder, grind all of it up together.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
      cake mosaic

      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.


      Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte
      prep time – 30-45 minutes
      bake time – 30 minutes
      serves – 8-10
      for the cake
      3/4 cup flour
      1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
      1/4 cup  sugar
      6 eggs
      3/4 cup sugar
      5 1/3 tablespoons butter, melted
      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      for the whipped cream
      2 cups heavy cream
      2 cups creme fraiche
      5 tablespoons sugar
      2 teaspoons vanilla extract
      for the moistening syrup
      1/2 cup sugar
      1/3 cup water
      1/4 cup Kirschwasser liquer
      for the chocolate cream
      6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
      1/4 cup boiling water
      for the cherries
      2 10-oz bags frozen cherries

      1. Preheat your oven to 350F and grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably with 2 1/2 – 3 inch sides)
      2. Sift together your flour, cocoa and 1/4 cup sugar three times.
      3. 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).
      4. Remove the bowl from the water and immediately beat on high speed until they become light in color and have trippled in volume
      5. Melt your butter in a small saucepan
      6. 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.
      7. 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.
      8. 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
      9. Allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert and removed from the pan.  Slice into three layers
      10. To make the moistening liquid – dissolve sugar in water over low heat and add Kirschwasser liquer
      11. For whipped cream – beat together the cream, creme fraiche, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form
      12. 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. 
      13. 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

      Guten Appetit!


      33 thoughts on “>Of Deutschland, edelweiss, and wurst.

      1. >You did an amazing job with this challenge. I absolutely love how you made your own sauerkraut and everything looks SOO good!I was hoping someone would make German food. My best friend from high school was from Germany but sadly passed away almost exactly 6 years ago. So I have a love for all things German as well and reading your post brought back so many good memories for me. Thank you! :)Good luck with the 2nd challenge, you're going to do wonderful. Congrasts on making it through to the 2nd round!

      2. >Hi Lindsey -Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm sorry about the loss of you friend, but glad that my walk down memory lane brought good thoughts for you as well.Your sticky buns on Top 9 looked amazing, by the way!

      3. >I love that you made your sauerkraut and stuffed your own sausages. Yay for you! I am not a German cook by any means – but my father is 1/4 Austrian and every October we celebrated with Sauerbraten. Really good sauerbraten. I adore German sausages and it never dawned on me to make sauerkraut – kudos to you on all accounts. and for picking up a past love.

      4. >You must have been planning this meal for a while to get the sauerkraut fermented in time. I just got the Charcuterie book and I can't wait to dig in. I was just thinking about making sauerkraut. I love Michael Ruhlman! You did a great job. Best of luck with everything!

      5. >Thanks all for your lovely comments!@Casey – you're right, I've been planning this meal since they announced the various challenges (on the off chance that I advanced to the 2nd round). It definitely takes time to get it just right (mine could still use another week or so to mellow a bit, but it tastes like sauerkraut nonetheless)

      6. >You must be totally insane to make all those things right from the start. But your food looks absolutely great and so delicious. I would love to have it here right now. – Best whishes from Cologne/ Germany!

      7. >This whole menu is fantastic! I am super impressed that you went the whole nine yards and even made your own sausages. Can I come over for dinner next time? Yum!

      8. >Wonderful post! I didn't make it to the second round but I posted what I would have entered anyways. Zwiebelkuchen and federweisser. Guess we both had Germany on the mind. You got my vote!

      9. >Beautiful job. I love that you didn't take the easy route, and made things from scratch. I think that's the way to truly understand a new dish–when you start from the beginning, you really know what that dish is all about!

      10. >Ohhh how I love this post! I'm German, and have been living in the states since I was 6. I went back briefly after graduating from high school, but came back here to attend art school. After the World Cup.. I just felt my nostalgia to be unbearable. I love that you decided to take this step into expanding your culinary endeavors 🙂 And what a great choice for a cake. I noticed that when I moved to the states I no longer was a "cake person", and I think it's because deep down I feel like I was spoiled by the cakes in Germany.. which the ones here pale in comparison. You've got my vote!XOXO best of luck!

      11. >You really went above and beyond with this challenge! I have always wanted to to go Germany after taking German for a few years in college. I haven't made it there yet but it's still a dream of mine. This whole meal looks fabulous, and you've definitely earned my vote!

      12. >Really love that you can use the whole width of your blog page to post things. I've been trying to figure out how to do that on my own blog and have not had success yet. Very nice post. You have my vote. Good luck!

      13. >@Artistta – I did it in the HTML of the blog design on blogger. I just went in and changed the width of the wrapper, the sidebars and the body. I just sort of played around with it one day until I figured it out. Make sure you save your original code, though (copy and paste it somewhere for safe keeping) in case you accidentally mess something up and can't remember exactly what you did (I speak from experence).Thanks to everyone for all your wonderfully positive comments. I feel like everyone is being so supportive!

      14. >Having come from a German family I can appreciate just how much effort this was and I am so impressed. This is a fabulous entry, and such a tribute to true German food! Absolutely got my vote, and looking forward to seeing your entry for challenge #3. 🙂

      15. >Started shuffling through the round 2 winners (congrats!) and stopped here when I saw someone had done Deutsch essen! I've been living in Mainz since February (sadly, only one more week until I leave and go back home to the States). I plan to make my own Bratwürste someday, so I'll be bookmarking you. Also, in terms of your Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte, a cafe in Triberg claims to have the original recipe – I couldn't get it from them, but I did get some tips, and to be fair, original or not, it's hands down the BEST I've ever had!

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