We had a few tiny flakes of snow last week here in Wiesbaden. I’m grateful it tried: it would be wonderful to have a blanket of the white stuff covering the ground, but this being one of the warmest parts of Germany – and one of the warmest years on record – I’m not holding my breath for a white Christmas. But it’s cold, if nothing else, and for me that’s excuse enough for putting a pot of stew on the hob or roasting winter roots (or Brussels sprouts!). Rather than focus on seasonal vegetables this month, I thought I’d cover some of the meat options traditionally eaten during the winter instead. So, with apologies to the non-meat eaters amongst you, for my last Seasonal Eating Guide of the year, here’s what to eat in December…
Germany has the most miraculous array of festive treats available in the run up to Christmas. There’s the beautifully-packaged sweet treats on offer at the Christmas markets, of course, plus the supermarkets are filled with mountains of cakes and chocolates and there are even pop up shops dedicated to seasonal foodstuffs. So now’s the perfect time to wrap up a small selection of edible treats to send to your loved ones, or to take back home after your visit here.
However, there are so very many edible treats – and brands thereof – that the choice can be a little overwhelming, so I thought I’d put together a quick guide to the very best of the foodie Christmas treats that Germany has to offer; ones that happen to be inexpensive, handily-sized and (mostly) non-smashable for shipping off to your loved ones or for squeezing into your suitcase. There’s nothing included that might be tricky to get through customs or liable to go off in the post – if you want to post some mountain cheese or a wild boar pâté to your mum, you’re on your own!
Last week, I mentioned I had a ball of vanilla-flavoured dough sitting in my fridge. Ten days and another two balls of vanilla-flavoured dough later, I feel I’ve been well initiated into the world of German Advent biscuits, or Plätzchen, and I wanted to share the recipe for the ones I’ve been making: Vanillekipferl, or vanilla-flavoured crescents.
In the market squares of towns and villages all over Germany, fairy lights are twinkling on the branches of towering Christmas trees and the roofs of little wooden huts beneath them. Tall, thin streams of hot, Glühweiny steam rise from between mittened hands and the scent of Lebkuchen and roasting chestnuts fills the air. It’s a pretty magical time of year round here, and you’d have to be a bit of a Scrooge not to get caught up in the seasonal cheer.
The first time I ever tried Stollen was in my brother’s flat in Paris, in 2003, where he served me a slice with a spoonful of creme fraiche, and it was love at first bite: a heavy, bread-like loaf, it’s the only fruitcake I’ve ever liked – and I don’t even mind the marzipan in the middle. Now, each Christmas I get to watch everyone else eat mountains of it (my mother-in-law made me a gluten-free one last year but it fell apart before the knife even touched it), as at the start of every December my mother-in-law bakes two: one to be eaten with my husband’s in front of the fire on Christmas eve; and another for me to put in my suitcase to take to my family for Christmas Day in London. I can’t say packing a weighty Stollen does much to help me stay within my luggage allowance, but it does do wonders for inter-familial relations.
In 2011, I marked the start of Advent by making my husband a calendar filled with his favourite winter beers (I know. 150 wife points for me). I hadn’t celebrated the four weeks that lead up to Christmas since gradually emptying chocolate-filled calendars as a child, but it’s a bit of a big thing here in Germany, so I just wanted to make a rather untraditional attempt at getting involved.
I’d be lying if I said that recently, it’s been lovely weather for wandering around the farmers’ market. It’s hasn’t. It’s been the opposite of lovely weather: grey and wet and miserable for days and days on end, yet it somehow fits with the produce on offer: the potatoes and carrots and pumpkins, countless sorts of cabbage and all manner of knobbly rooty things covered in earth. They’d look all wrong in the sunshine, I think. Plus they taste all the better when it’s cold and damp outside. So, in my penultimate seasonal eating guide for 2014, here’s what to eat in November…
Happy Halloween, folks! No photos of spooky cupcakes here, I’m afraid – I never celebrated this particular holiday growing up in England, and I’ve never been caught by the Halloween bug since. So, there’ll be no pumpkins chez Dietz tonight: instead, I shall be celebrating the pig, with friends coming round to sample an enormous selection of artisan British sausages sent over for tasting by Britwurst Vienna (thank you!!). I’d love to know what your plans are for tonight though – anyone off out trick or treating?
The sun has finally deserted us here in Wiesbaden, and we’re left with cool air, grey skies and some very wet pavements. It’s perfect weather for curling up on the sofa with a large mug of hot chocolate and a good (cook)book, or for holing up with friends in a cosy café or Weinstube (wine tavern). I’ve been picking up earthy roots and tubers from the market to make soups and stews, and I love peeling and chopping them in the kitchen while it grows dark outside. I like making all manner of things with the rather ugly, knobbly produce on offer in the Autumn, both savoury and sweet, so here are a few suggestions for some truly delectable treats to eat in October.
Well, not all of it… but you can now read a series of some of my favourite posts, translated into French, in the online newsletter of the German Embassy in Paris, starting with my guide to some of Germany’s favourite cakes.
So, whether you fancy reading about German food in French yourself or you have French-speaking friends who you think might be interested in learning more about Germany’s best-loved afternoon treats, it’d be wonderful if you shared the Eating Wiesbaden amour by passing on the news. Merci beaucoup!
p.s. In case you missed it, here’s the original English guide to Germany’s greatest cakes.