Category Archives: Food and Drink

Forget the #Oktoberfest, it’s Bergkerwa in #Erlangen!

 

I pass on the Oktoberfest. Who wants to sit in some smelly beer tent in Munich with second-rate German celebrities who compete with each other for the pitiful press coverage? To really experience the German beer-fest-thing, it is advisable to start with the less-commercial fests and work your way down to the smaller, more obscure ones.
 
The Erlanger Bergkirchweih is one of the five largest beer fests in Germany. Starting on the Thursday before Pentacost, the fest spans twelve days and marks the so-called ‘Fifth Season’ in Erlangen. Over a million visitors are expected each year, ten times Erlangen’s population. The Festplatz is on the Burgberg, the hill on the city’s northern side. With seating for 11,000 people, it is considered Europe’s biggest beer garden. 
 
Bergkerwa or Berch, as it is sometimes called, is the result of a resolution set in place by the city magistrate on April 21, 1755 to revive the Pentacostal market. Beginning on the Pentacostal Tuesday, (today a highly-revered holy day in Erlangen because all the shops and firms and workplaces are closed and everyone is at the Bergkirchweih), the market in the Altstadt lasted three days and soon after incorporated the city’s beer cellars in the sand stone Burgberg, where a cool beer could be enjoyed.

The rest is history. And, guess what? You’re in luck! You still have time to get over here for the Bergkirchweih (well, only if you are reading this in May!)

Here’s the official Bergkirchweih Website: https://www.berch.info

Bergkirchweih in Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bergkirchweih.erlangen/

 

 

Magic Me a Meal #history #food

book promo 3 square kitchen lores

What’s for dinner tonight?

Have a look in the pantry, see what you have, what you’re hungry for, and throw together something delicious. There’s a German idiom for just this situation that goes: schnell ein Essen zaubern! And that more or less means: magic me a meal! Let’s go back to the 17th century, specifically in Franconia, Germany: the absence of mod-cons, the hardship and toil and war, and eating whatever one is offered. How can we make a days-old leg of mutton or an old rabbit and some shriveled root vegetables edible let alone taste good? Magic me a meal!

Before we even think of cooking, we have to get this kitchen warm. Unfortunately, we used all the wood during the night because it was chilly and we have to find more wood. And if the fire went out altogether, we need either some embers from another fire or some dried straw, a flint stone, and a knife to get one going. Lug the firewood, light the fire, sit by until it’s burning. Once the fire is going we need water. The buckets are empty. Lug the water from the well, enough to cook with, and for whatever else we may need water for.

Looking in the cellar, I have carrots, onions, and some parsley root that has been stored in dry sand since September. They have shriveled up but they aren’t rotten. Once they are cooked they’ll taste good. A skinned wild rabbit has been hanging here for two days. It smells a bit gamey but it still looks useable. The cellar has a constant temperature summer and winter. (If I had a thermometer, it would probably be around 8° C or 45° F.) We still have some winter apples. These apples store nicely and are also a bit shriveled. In the garden I can dig up a horseradish root. Some kale is still standing in the garden because the spring hasn’t been that warm yet. Kale can stay out in the garden all winter.

We are lucky enough to have a master who is a traveling merchant, so we have pepper and cinnamon. And salt. We would die without salt. Not only does the body need salt to function, we need salt to preserve food. Last autumn, we dried salted deer meat and carp meat. We used all the grain last week and won’t have any more for another week or more. All we have left is old dried bread and ground acorns. The wine is sour but it actually tastes good in the cooking. The chickens have finally started laying again now that it’s spring so we have eggs. Lots of eggs. And the goat is still giving milk.

The fire is burning nicely atop the open hearth and all the chores are done so we can start cooking without being drawn away. Embers are gathered under a metal tripod and small pots set on top. The large iron pot can be hung from the chain rammed into the stone wall if we needed to cook a big meal but it won’t be necessary today. The smoke from the fire goes out the open flue but our eyes are still stinging and watering. The only outside light comes from a small window on the other side of the kitchen.

Chopping onions really makes our eyes water now. We chop some dried deer meat as well and then heat some fat in the pan, throw the onions and the deer meat into the pan, and let it fry. After it browns, we pour a half a bottle of that sour wine over the top. Zisch! Fumes from the sizzling wine and onions fill the kitchen and our mouths water! We sink the rabbit into the Sud, the stock. The sour wine will hide the gamey taste. Add salt, pepper and some cinnamon. In the garden, we pick sage leaves, just a few, some lavender, and a bit of rosemary that survived the winter. And we just gathered some Bärlauch, or wild garlic. This tasty herb can only be found in April and May, so we need to make the most of it. We can preserve some for later but it tastes best when it’s fresh.

Our main course is simmering away and we can think about side dishes and maybe even a dessert! So, carrots, old bread, ground acorns, eggs, milk, apples, cinnamon. Fresh kale and horseradish. Do we have any honey left? We decide to make a savory porridge out of water, carrots, onions, and ground acorns, salt and pepper. That will fill the belly. There will only be a mouthful of meat per person anyway. We put all of it in a pot and allow the savory porridge to simmer along side the rabbit. And how about a handful of chopped kale fried in fat with a bit of salt and topped with some freshly grated horseradish and a spoonful of rare goat’s cream?

Dessert: just because this is historical doesn’t mean we have to suffer! Old bread, milk, yes we have honey, apples. Let’s make a pudding. We heat the milk and apples and add the honey. The master also knows a beekeeper who is high up in the guild so we can get honey. It seems to disappear rapidly though. (I love honey.) Whisk in two eggs and watch it thicken. Then pour it over the pan filled with dried bread, set the pan on top of the hearth in a warm spot and hope it thickens more. If we had a fire in the oven we could bake it. But the oven is outside and we only stoke that up when we’re baking bread.

The rabbit should be done by now so we thicken the stock by crumbling the old bread into it. After spending the last two hours cooking, we are tasting our dishes more than we have to. The people we are cooking for hover around the kitchen like wolves who have smelled blood. We settle at the table and after a prayer of thanks to those forces we believe in, the room quiets at the task of devouring our delicious meal! Magic *

(I wrote this article for Donna Huber’s Girl-Who-Reads blog. Check out her site!)

The Wild Kitchen #amcooking #herbs

Picture courtesy of http://www.kraeuter-verzeichnis.de/

Bärlauch: ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaf garlic, bear garlic, or bear leek

This time of year, the days are discernibly longer and in the evening, the blackbird sings alone on the rooftop. I watch the plants grow day for day, like my patch of Bärlauch. I stop by every morning to see how it’s coming along. This is going to be a good year for Bärlauch.

     Native to Europe and Asia, ramsons or wild garlic (Allium ursinum) was used by the Romans as a healing herb. The sulfurous substance Alliin oxidizes when the leaves are chopped, forming the medically effective Allicin, a naturally occurring antibiotic.

     The leaves need to be picked before they get too old. Once the plants bloom, the leaves lose some of their healing properties. But we have a few weeks until that happens. Actually, in Germany, wild garlic is on the Red List of endangered plants and it’s not really legal to pick it if you come across it alongside a creek. The leaves also bear a strong resemblance to the poisonous Lily of the Valley, so please be careful if you are out on a nature hike.  

Lily of the Valley
     Last year, stores were carrying fresh wild garlic. It’s hard to cultivate and it is expensive. In the garden, you need an undisturbed area, shady and damp, where leaves have settled over the winter and no overzealous gardener has been hacking with their hoe. No problem, we have lots of ‘undisturbed areas.’ 
     The saying goes that bears come out of their winter hibernation and search for wild garlic. They eat the leaves and dig for the roots. After a long winter sleep, wild garlic regulates digestion, is used to counter flatulence, stimulates appetite, and sinks the blood pressure. Traditionally, wild garlic was used to treat intestinal parasites: worms. 
     What do I do with it, then? The leaves are chopped and used fresh, like you would use chives. I’ve read that the leaves can be frozen, but I haven’t tried that. In order to preserve them, I chop the leaves and add and ample amount of cold extracted olive oil and some salt. That keeps in the refrigerator for quite some time, usually until I can’t bear to eat anymore of it. We top noodles with this like pesto, or mix it with cream cheese for a lovely dip with some roasted red pepper. A tablespoon can be stirred into a beef stew or vegetable soup. Or smeared on the bread of your ham sandwich. (Only if you don’t have to work the next day.) 

I’m all ears (or eyes). Share your favorite recipe with me!

The Green Fairy #absinthe

Albert Maignan La Muse Verde, 1895

 

     Swallows dive, dip and dart back into the misty-blue evening sky, dive again and sail over the juicy green grass. A nightingale practices her tune, loud and distinct over the lonely blackbird’s melody. The starling sustains one shrill, bending tone. Black cherry trees drench the air with their sweet fruity scent. Dandelions gone to seed, silky-yellow buttercups and the blood-magenta clover blossoms wave in the breeze. Blades of grass stand spear-straight in between the dark yarrow plants that hang their heads under the weight of their flower buds. How many shades of green can one count in a wildflower meadow? 
     Pale-yet-succulent young leaves of the hydrangea and the green-black growth of the ivy contrast against the misty-grey green of the wormwood bush. And another wormwood bush. And another. What am I going to do with all this wormwood? Pull it out like a pesky weed? 
     Wormwood, the great star that fell from the heavens, Artemisia absinthium. Bitter, acidic wormwood plants deter insects. They prefer a dry, sunny spot and happily multiply. When consumed, they gladly engage the human body in all sorts of purging and healing processes. Wormwood has high concentrations of bittern and this can help with stomach problems like gastritis. The notorious active ingredient is thujone and is most unpopular with the American authorities. Banned in 1912, a popular drink containing this extract from the wormwood plant threatens to make a come-back. Absinthe.
     The Absinthe sold in stores today is usually an anise-flavored distilled spirit, much like anisette but stronger, 150 proof. A thujone level of 10% is allowed. But why all this fuss about thujone? Isn’t it found in sage, too? Well, it earned its notoriety in the 19th century, rumored to have psychoactive effects, heightening clarity as well as sexual appetites. Some would say you could go mad and hallucinate. Or just end up very drunk.
     My science project–Absolute vodka, wormwood and anis and fennel, melissa, peppermint, maybe some yarrow and sugar all dumped into my ceramic rum pot, covered and left to stand in a cool corner for a week or so. Let those green fairies fly!
     (By the way, the online community of Absinthe fans in enormous. Just click here Absinthe and you’ll come up with an overwhelming number of informative blogs and web sites.)
     Please consume alcohol in a responsible way. There are many of us who cannot do that. If you think your life has become unmanageable because of the drink, you can turn to a number of places for help. Just ask. It could change your life for the better.

Magic Mushrooms #MondayBlogs

 

image by Alan Rockefeller

 

     The tree line glows a warm golden brown in the late afternoon sun. A hawk calls as he sails over the tops of the spruce trees. The smell of fallen leaves and fungi make me leave the path and venture into the brush. This is the season for a popular German pastime: Volkssport Pilzesammeln.
     Collecting mushrooms is a learned talent. Either you’ve had some guidance or you don’t touch the things. Many varieties are edible and downright delicious. I have a colleague who finds Boleus (Steinpilz) the size of a baby’s head when she jogs in the woods. She jogs home and fries them in butter with a bit of onion and garlic.
     But for every edible mushroom, a poisonous doppelganger exists. I bought a book to try to learn to tell them apart. The differences are so minuscule that a mushroom hunt on my part would be preprogrammed for disaster.
     Now here’s one mushroom I can always identify:
original photo by Laura Libricz
     These were beauties. I was so pleased that I had my camera in my pocket.
     The fly agaric. German: Fliegenpilz
     The name comes from its use as a pesticide. They were crushed in milk and used to kill flies. Yes, they are toxic, but no deaths by ingestion have been reported. And they can be eaten. The Chinese remove the red covering from the meat, marinate overnight and then sauté in butter with few side effects.
     Siberian shamans used the mushroom to travel ecstatically into a godly world. After he consumed the mushrooms, tribal members were known to drink the shaman’s urine, because the active ingredientsof the fungus practically passed through the body  unchanged and in the form of urine, still retained the  intoxicating effects.

Greetings from the Chaos Kitchen #ambaking

Tear-and-Share Vegan Bread by TheVeganWoman.com

Laura’s Chaos-Cooking Tip #1: 

     Beat the winter blahs with bread baking.

     Yeast dough smells yummy when it’s rising, kneading dough is a fun way to let off some steam and you get to punch the daylights out of something!

     But isn’t bread baking hard? No, not at all. All you need is yeast, flour, water and salt.

     First, skim some sort of recipe. Just look one up on the internet. I found a vegan recipe, just follow the link up there, by googling ‘vegan bread recipes.’ Ok, flour, salt, powdered yeast, soy milk and something else. After skimming the recipe, go into the kitchen and see what you have in the pantry. Well, I don’t think we can buy powdered yeast, but I have these little 40 gram blocks of fresh yeast. Is that still vegan? Yeast, check. Flour, check. I don’t want to use soy milk in bread, how about olive oil? Check. Doesn’t yeast need sugar to feed on? I read that somewhere. Sugar, check. Water, duh. This is the twenty-first century.

     Dump the flour in a bowl and make a depression in the middle. I don’t know why, just do it. Mix the yeast with lukewarm water and a teaspoon of sugar and stir it until it dissolves. This part has to be right. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die! And I just throw the whole block in because what am I going to do with a half a lump of yeast?

     Now you may open the wine bottle.

     Pour the yeast mixture into the flour. Throw in some salt. A teaspoon looks about right. Pour the olive oil over the top. Maybe four tablespoons. I don’t like to dirty a spoon, so I count. One banana, two banana, three banana, four…tablespoons. Then get your hands in there and mix it up.

     Man, this looks really dry and crumbly. How much flour is in a bag? I already threw the empty bag in the fire. Checking a pizza dough recipe, I notice that 500 grams of flour would have been enough. And looking in the drawer at another bag, I notice that the bag was a whole kilo.

     Pour a big glass of wine, get out the half a lump of yeast that is still in the fridge (oh, that’s what you can do with that!) Mix with water, who cares how hot, get out the oil and one banana, two banana…

     Sip wine.

     Get your hands back in there. Mix it around until it starts to look like dough. Ok, this looks better. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let stand for about an hour and a half in a warm, draft-free corner of the kitchen where no mice will go. Grab the wine and get out of the kitchen.

     Don’t panic when you come back coz it’s ALIVE! Now picture someone who you might have a beef with and punch that sucker in the face. Funnily enough it feels like flesh. Punch punch punch punch! Take it out of the bowl and throw it onto a floured board and punch some more. Some may call this kneading, but I call it stress-management.

     Now, there’s lots of turns this scenario could take. One could slice the dough into small handfuls and make rolls. Maybe stick some of those big Spanish olives inside or some fresh chopped herbs and sautéed garlic. Or some vegan cashew cheese. One can bake half of the dough and put the rest in the fridge for the next day.

     Punch punch punch sip gulp.

     One could roll the dough out flat and put some tomatoes on top, maybe some homemade pesto, fresh chopped red pepper, sliced mushrooms, onions, garlic. Then throw it in the oven and make pizza (since this is probably a pizza dough.)

     Punch punch punch gulp.

     OR…I can see an evil twin moment coming…the situation gets out of hand…

“Ein Bier, bitte!” #germanhistory

The Beer Purity Law from 1516

     In April 2016 the German Beer Purity Law celebrated its 500th birthday. This law, decided by a committee in Ingolstadt headed by old Herzog Wilhelm IV, stated that beer brewed in Bavaria was allowed only to contain barley, hops and water. This makes the Purity Law the oldest valid, still-enforced food statute in the world.
     Before hops was used to conserve the beer, all sorts of herbs and other ingredients were used, some quite harmful, actually. There have been notations of brewers using fly agaric mushrooms, ox bile, sloe, oak bark, thorn apple, wormwood (absinth) among other things as a preservative.
     Over the years the Purity Law had been expanded to include yeast, because the function of the yeast was not known back then. The term barley has also been clarified as barley malt. Today, German beer is required to use no other ingredients than malt, hops, yeast and water. No artificial flavors or additives. Over the years, many foodstuffs have suffered negative press releases. German beer brewers are proud to say that because of the  Reinheitsgebot (this link goes to the the purity law translated into English) from 1516, their beer is guaranteed to satisfy every time!
     √     Here’s a link to a virtual brewery tour:  Brewery Tour  
To start the tour, click on  ‘Zur virtuellen Brauereiführung’
Then click on the brewery doors to enter. ‘Weiter’ means ‘to continue’ and ‘Schliessen’ means ‘to close.’ 
     √     Here’s a link: How to say, “One beer, please,” in 50 languages:
     √     Have a great weekend and don’t drink and drive!