German Cuisine Made Simple:
Culinary History & Recipes
You don’t have to be a professional chef to cook delicious German-style cuisine. Foods like sausages and salads can be prepared in minutes, and don’t require any special cooking methods or ingredients. Follow these simple recipes and read up on their histories, so you can bring the flavors of Germany to your dinner table.
Beer Glazed Brats and Sauerkraut
Image via Flickr by peter pearson
Beer, bratwurst, and sauerkraut are all German favorites, and can be prepared in less than an hour. And really, what could be more German than bratwurst and sauerkraut? It’s arguably one of the most beloved traditional German dishes.
In fact, the earliest documented evidence of bratwurst dates back to the early 14th century in a region of what would become eastern Germany near the present-day city of Nuremberg. And while it’s likely that bratwursts are much older (possibly dating back to the Celts), the oldest known recipe for Thuringian bratwurst shows that the Germans had very strict guidelines for their sausages as early as 1432.
As a food product, pork is almost as popular as beef is in the U.S. To this end, there are more than 40 distinct varieties of Bratwurst in Germany. So for German Americans, this dish likely has particular significance. Particularly in parts of the country like Wisconsin, brat and sauerkraut is seen as a cultural touchstone of older times.
If you’re looking to cook up your own version of this iconic German dish, here is a simple (yet delicious) recipe:
- 1/8 teaspoon celery seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 lb. fresh bratwurst sausages
- 12 oz. beer
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon dried dill weed
- 1 lb. sauerkraut (preferably barrel-aged), drained
- Add bratwurst to large skillet over medium heat.
- Mix beer, sugar, spices, and ground seeds, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over bratwurst. Heat to boiling level and then reduce to a simmer; cover for 10 minutes.
- Uncover, raise to medium heat, and boil about 20 minutes until sauce thickens. Coat bratwurst in sauce. Transfer bratwurst to a plate, and cook sauerkraut 5 to 8 minutes in leftover sauce.
- Top sauerkraut with cooked bratwurst.
Image via Flickr by N1NJ4
Rice is one of the simplest foods to prepare, yet many dishes would be utterly incomplete without it. In the confines of German cuisine, it can be cooked in any number of ways to go along with other delicious fare like sausage and sauerkraut.
Although it’s believed that rice was first introduced to Europe by Alexander the Great’s returning armies, large deposits of rice have been unearthed from ancient Roman military camps in Germany. So it’s likely that this grain made its way to Germany during this time, if not earlier.
And while rice is largely used in Germany for puddings and as sweet rice, it also has some more conventional uses with which American diners might be more comfortable. This recipe makes a German rice dish similar to the ones served in Germany hotels and dining rooms throughout the country:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs. fresh bratwurst links, casings removed
- 1 onion, halved, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fennel seed
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can Bavarian-style sauerkraut, un-drained
- 3 cups uncooked white rice
- 1 tablespoon chicken soup base (paste)
- 6 cups water
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Cook and break up bratwurst about 10 minutes, until browned.
- Add garlic and onions. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions translucent.
- Add fennel seed, sauerkraut, and sauerkraut juice. Fry without stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add soup base and rice.
- Add raisins, black pepper, and water; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes while stirring. Reduce heat, and simmer about 30 minutes, until most water has absorbed.
Hot German Potato Salad
Image via Flickr by alanagkelly
Potato salad makes a simple side dish for almost any kind of cuisine, and today they’re a staple to many different types of cooking. However, when the potato first came to Germany, it was considered a food fit only for peasants, prisoners, and livestock. This was partly because the first domesticated potatoes to be grown in Europe simply weren’t very good. It wasn’t until sometime later (more than 200 years, in fact) that the potato was finally cross-bred into the form we know today.
However, thanks to this act of homologous recombination, the modern potato does indeed exist, and it’s a major part of German cuisine. Aside from the seemingly omnipresent potato pancake, hot potato salad is perhaps the most popular dish from Germany’s culinary idiom that utilizes this versatile plant. And while many Americans probably are more used to cold potato salad, this particular dish has been in the country since German immigrants first crossed the Atlantic.
Earliest versions of this dish were probably something like a “leftover gumbo” that combined old roasted or boiled potatoes with ham or German bacon. In any case, this German twist on the classic recipe uses hot ingredients served straight from the skillet:
- 4 potatoes
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes until firm, and chop.
- Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, until brown. Crumble and place aside. Reserve fat.
- Cook water, vinegar, sugar, and flour in bacon fat over medium heat, until thick.
- Add remaining ingredients to skillet, and coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.
So hopefully after reading these short histories, you now feel compelled to cook your own versions of the aforementioned dishes. But that doesn’t mean you should stress out the next time you want an authentic German meal; recipes like these are quick, delicious, and simple enough for anyone to make.