In Germany breakfast really is the most important meal of the day so it topped our list of eats and treats. Traditionally it’s halfway between a continental breakfast and an array of sandwich fillings and it includes many of Germany’s most popular food items. Cold meats including sliced salamis and cured hams are laid out alongside cheeses, crusty bread rolls (known as Brotchen), soft boiled eggs, jams and marmalades. If that doesn’t sound quite filling enough then you might enjoy the fact that cereals and fruits are often additional guests at the German breakfast table.
Germany has an impressive reputation for its 200 varieties of breads. One of the most famous breads to come from the nation is pumpernickel, a whole-grain loaf made from coarse rye meal and rye flour. The rye meal was traditionally boiled for several hours before forming part of the bread dough and once baked the pumpernickel loaf would be steamed for as much as 24 hours in order to create a slightly sweet, caramelised taste. Nowadays the steaming time is generally shortened but it hasn’t affected its impressive shelf life – pumpernickel bread can be stored for several months before eating. America makes its own version of this iconic German bread but often uses baking agents to make the US loaves the same colour as their German cousins.
On average one German will consume 67 pounds of sausage a year, but with 1,500 varieties of the porky product available who can blame them? Some varieties are sold fresh whilst others come cooked and are known as slicing or spreading sausages. German’s are so proud of their sausages that there are strict guidelines governing what additives can be added to them. The most popular varieties of sausages include Bratwurst – a sausage made from very finely ground beef and pork often served with mustard, Blutwurst– a blood sausage similar to British black pudding and Weinerwurst – a pork and beef sausage flavoured with garlic and coriander. A very popular dish in Berlin is Currywurst and it involves covering a bratwurst sausage with ketchup and curry-powder and serving it with chips. Yum.
Sauerkraut’s love it or loathe it flavour has helped it to become one of Germany’s top culinary exports. Sauerkraut is simply thinly sliced green cabbage which has been left to pickle and sour in a mixture of lactic acid bacteria. It can be eaten raw or as a cooking ingredient and contains high quantities of vitamins and minerals.
In Germany there are an array of special cakes and pastries made during traditional festivals and Stollen is one of the most popular German celebration cakes. Stollen originated in Dresden and has a bread-like texture. It is spiced with cinnamon and cardamom and filled with nuts and dried fruits/peels before being liberally dusted in icing sugar. Some versions of the recipe call for a thick strip of marzipan to be threaded through the middle of the dough before baking. Stollen is so popular that it even has its own festival where a giant version of the cake is paraded through Dresden before being and distributed to the crowd.
The Italians have pasta, the Chinese have noodles and the Germans have Spätzle. Made from eggs, water, flour and salt, Spätzle has a softer, moister texture than Italian pasta and is usually only shaped one of four ways. The dough can be flavoured with herbs and spices and bought fresh or dried. Spätzle can be used in a huge variety of recipes; one popular example is Käsespätzle in which Spätzle is combined with cheese, breadcrumbs, onions and peppers.
During the 1960’s vast numbers of Turkish immigrants were invited to work in Germany to fill a gaping labour shortage. Some stayed on after their time as a guest worker and opened takeaways/small food shops. After these Turkish immigrants adapted the traditional Doner Kebab recipe to suit German tastes it became one of the nation’s most popular fast foods. In the German version lamb is often replaced with chicken or veal and the meat is served with a mixed salad in a thick flatbread. A choice of sauces usually accompanies the German kebab including garlic, herb and hot.
Germany has one of the oldest beer traditions in the world and a huge variety of beers to its name. There are roughly 1,200 breweries across Germany responsible for producing over 5,000 brands of beer. Most include just three simple ingredients: malt, water and hops. Although Germany started out producing Ale the country has been creating world renowned lagers for 150 years and is a major exporter. Beer also forms the focal point of one of Germany’s most popular festivals – Oktoberfest.