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Lora Wiley-Lennartz

Lora's German Food Blog


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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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Bread Spice - Brotgewuerz

Thursday March 20, 2014

bread spice mixture with rolls rising

"Brotgewürz" is a bread spice mixture often mentioned in German bread recipes. It is used most often in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland in rye breads. Although bread has a higher percentage of rye flour in northern Germany, they do not contain either bread spices or whole caraway seeds, and if you are not used to it, you don't always like the taste right away.

The spices in "Brotgewürz" are easy to find and can be mixed at home. Some people keep the spices whole and others grind them. Recipe here.

Photo © J.McGavin

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Mashed Potatoes

Thursday March 20, 2014


If you like mashed potatoes for dinner, you should learn about the types the Germans talk about. Like the Eskimos having 20 words for snow (I think that's an old-wives tale, actually), German contains many words for mashed potatoes. "Kartoffelpueree" and "Stampfkartoffeln" are two. The first is the very smooth kind; peeled, boiled potatoes ("Salzkartoffeln") are sent through a potato ricer or food mill, stirred with butter and thinned with hot milk or cream until fluffy. "Stampfkartoffeln" are the chunky kind of mashed potatoes, mashed with a masher or fork, butter and milk. Both kinds are flavored with freshly ground nutmeg in addition to salt and pepper.

"Kartoffelpüree" is also called "Kartoffelbrei," "Kartoffelmus," "Erdäpfelpüree" (Austrian) or "Kartoffelstock" (Swiss).

"Stampfkartoffeln" are also known as "Quetschkartoffeln" in Berlin.

Another kind of mashed potatoes is known as "Zamet" and comes out of the Thuringian Forest in Central Eastern Germany. It is made with Potatoes, milk and potato starch with no additional fats. It is stiff and served with Thüringer Rostratwurst, Leeks or Mushroom soup. It is also eaten sweet with browned butter and pear compote.

Also, in Upper Lusatia (partly in Saxony, Brandenburg and Poland - See also "Spreewald"), they make something called "Abernmauke." It is made with potatoes mashed with melted butter, sauteed onions, browned bacon, milk and nutmeg. "Teichelmauke" is potatoes mashed with beef broth or milk and served with a ladle of beef broth in a well made in the potatoes.

Photo Eisbein with Kartoffelbrei © Winfried Gänßler CC BY-SA 3.0

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Bergkaese and Alpkaese

Thursday March 20, 2014

piece of Tessiner Alpkaese

When you buy cheese from Switzerland, one of the marketing terms they like to throw around is that it's from the mountains, or "Bergkaese." You can find Bergkaese all over the world, as opposed to "Alpkaese," which is sold mostly locally.

Alpkaese is cheese from cows which graze in the Alps during the summer. The dairy is also in the Alps and the cheese is made locally. The cows do not eat anything but meadow grass and herbs, except that hay from the same meadows is allowed, if necessary. They say that the milk and cheese from this kind of animal husbandry is higher in unsaturated fatty acids and conjugated linolic acid than other cheese.

Bergkaese must also be from a mountain area (not only Alps), and 70% of the fodder must come from the mountain area. This allows for some silage and compound feed. The cheese can be made all year long and in large quantities, since the cows do not need to be pastured.

For more about different types of Alpkaese, check this out.

Photo "Tessiner Alpkaese" © Flickr user rfarmer CC BY-ND 2.0

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Friday February 28, 2014
Amerikaner cookies

Amerikanern are cake-like cookies you find in German bakeries for after school snacks. They are vanilla flavored, with icing on the bottom of the cookie and served upside-down.

There are two theories of how they came to be named Amerikaner. Either they were brought to Germany by the GIs after the war, or they were named "Ammoniakaner" for ammonium hydrogen carbonate, or "Hirschhornsalz", which was used as a leavening agent. This seems like a stretch to many people.

It is known that New York City has the same cookies called "Black and Whites" and they might first have traveled to the US with Jewish immigrants before traveling back to Germany. In the last decades they have dropped the chocolate glaze in favor of an all white glaze.

Buy Black and Whites online.

Photo © J.McGavin

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German Proverbs and Soup

Thursday February 27, 2014
pancake soup

A popular proverb in Germany, this is often embroidered onto tea towels.

"Fuenf sind geladen,
Zehn sind gekommen,
Giess wasser zur Suppe,
Alle sind willkommen."
"Five were invited,
Ten have come,
Add water to the soup,
All are welcome."

Pancake Soup

Photo © J.McGavin

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Fennel Gratin

Wednesday February 26, 2014

Fennel Gratin on plate.

Fennel is related to celery but has a distinctive anise taste and aroma. Fennel goes well with tomatoes, in soups and raw in salads. This side dish recipe is a nice addition to a simple meal. Mustard and white wine give this fennel side dish a tangy taste.

Learn more about the spice here.

More recipes: Winter Fennel Salad and Carrot and Fennel Soup.

Photo © J.McGavin

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