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Poppy Seed Rolls

Poppy Seed - Filled Rolls - Mohnkranzerl

Popular as a filling in baked goods, poppy seeds are a great way to brighten up your breakfast table.

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German Food Spotlight10

German Food

What is a Heideschnucke?

Friday March 21, 2014

sheep in heather neer Schneverdingen

I love the word, "Heideschnucke," because it sounds like "schnuckelig," which means snug or cozy. This breed of sheep is anything but snug, however. The hair is long, but too coarse for most textile applications. They are raised in the northern hemisphere from Scottland to Siberia and are quite lean and easy to raise. The meat has more of a game taste to it which some people like. It had a resurgence in the 1990s which kept the breed from dying out.

Sheep were very important up until the 19th century, especially in the north of Germany, in a special area called the "Lueneburger Heide" or Luneburg Heath. The Heath is a stretch of flat land punctuated by low hills, all of which were created under glacial influence. Parts of the landscape were bogs, from which peat was harvested. The soil is poor and very acidic, which favors the growth of heather and juniper (where "Wachholder" berries come from).

Sheep numbers dropped off by the turn of the 20th century and have been in decline ever since. The Lueneburger Sheep Club believes this was due to the competition from cotton and the new fertilizers which appeared on the market and made it easier to grow crops. During the 90s, however, many small farms throughout Germany started breeding the sheep and saved the German Grey Heath sheep from extinction.

As a side note, most of these sheep have horns which curl back on themselves, like the Rocky Mountain Bighorns. The words "Schnucke" and "Schnecke" (snail) remind me of these horns.

Photo © ArtMechanic GNU FDL

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Friday March 21, 2014

ostersemme from spreewald

Easter bread is a tradition in many different countries. This picture from about 1930 shows a woman from the Spreewald (south east of Berlin) in traditional costume with loaves of their particular Easter bread. Shaped like palm leaves, this bread is given to friends and family on Easter Sunday. It is called "Ostersemme."

Semme or Semmel is usually a type of white bread and since white bread used to be considered superior to brown bread, this is likely a white bread dough with a little rye and probably sourdough. The bread is very flat and large, so expect to double most recipes if you are recreating it. Try this recipe for "Bauernbrot" or this one for "Schwarzwälderkruste."

Also interesting is that the people in the picture are from a Slavic minority living in Germany, the Sorbs. They speak Sorbian and their street signs are bilingual. There is still a Gymnasium (German high school) which instructs in Sorbian.

Photo © Keystone/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Did the Potato Famine affect Germany?

Thursday March 20, 2014


If it's one thing Germany is known for, it's all those many potato dishes. Dampfkartoffeln, Stampfkartoffeln, Kartoffelpuree, Kartoffelklösse, Kartoffelpuffer, Schupfnudeln, Kartoffelgratin, Roesti, Kneedeln: the list is endless. Potatoes were a big part of the diet by 1846, the year of the Irish potato famine. Did the famine reach Germany?

Yes, although the effects were not as dramatic as in Ireland*. Even the poor and the peasants had a more diversified diet than the Irish, so when unseasonal cool and rainy weather hit the whole area of Europe that summer, the potatoes died but the other crops did not. Yields of all crops were lower due to the weather and some unrest came about from the food shortage as well as a cholera epidemic, but that was put to use by the revolutionaries fomenting for a unified Germany in 1848*. This led to the very first German constitution and a very short-lived German Empire from 1849 - 1850*.

There was a potato famine in Germany during WWI. Early in the war, potato harvests were excellent, but in 1916, the potato blight fungus caused a food shortage which led to decreased military morale and took 700,000 lives in Germany. The means to fight the fungus, copper sulfate, was not being produced and used on the potato plants at the time, since the copper was being entirely used for military purposes. This famine helped pave the way for Germany's defeat*.

For more about potatoes in Germany:

*Corrected the date.

Photo of people waiting for potatoes in 1917 in Munich © Getty Images

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Deli Rye Sandwich Bread

Thursday March 20, 2014

deli rye bread

Mmm-mmm, that's good. Here is a bread that has gained a reputation by hopping over the pond. Jewish delis often offer this rye bread for sandwiches like the Reuben or Pastrami on Rye. The onion and caraway, which are unobtrusive, lend a delicious taste which is unbeatable fresh or toasted.

This bread calls for white rye flour, but could be made with medium rye flour. I say this because in some parts of the US, white rye flour is only available online, turning this project into something a bit more complicated. If you want to make it from white rye flour, I ordered mine at King Arthur Flour. Recipe here

Photo © J.McGavin

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