A roast dish that is now usually made with beef, but was once traditionally
made with horsemeat. The joint of meat is steeped for several days in a marinade of vinegar, water, vegetables and spices. This process makes it beautifully soft and will result in a tender, juicy roast. The sauce almost always contains raisins and sweetening agents and is thus sweet-and-sour. The sweetening agents
are usually sugar beet molasses, sugar beet syrup and/or gingerbread or simply
plain sugar. Gingerbread, special ‘sauce gingerbread’ and even pumpernickel bread are used to bind the sauce. In many places Rheinischer Sauerbraten
is traditionally served with potato dumplings and apple purée, but boiled potatoes, pasta, Spätzle and red cabbage with apple are also common.
“Kuchen” means ‘cake’, but don’t be deceived: this dish is a hearty potato casserole that is traditionally made with smoked belly of pork, onions, eggs and
bread rolls soaked in milk. The raw potatoes are grated, well seasoned, and
mixed with the other chopped ingredients. The mixture is transferred to a
cast iron casserole and baked in a hot oven for about two hours so that a delicious brown crust is formed. On the Rhine this traditional autumn/winter dish is served with apple purée, but everyone has their own, special ‘Dippekoche’ recipe.
The Swiss have their Rösti and the Rhinelanders have their Reibekuchen.
Potatoes have played an important role in the rural diet ever since the days of Frederick the Great and people on the Rhine also appreciate the potato’s
health-giving qualities. Reibekuchen are particularly delicious potato pancakes
made from grated raw potato. This is mixed with eggs, onions, spices and a little flour and then fried in little round cakes until golden brown and crispy. The pancakes are served with apple purée and are highly addictive - there’s always room for another one!
‘Dippe’ is local dialect for a pot or pan. Pieces of hare or rabbit, pork, carrots,
onions and smoked belly pork are combined in one of these pots. They are arranged in layers and seasoned with bay leaf, pepper, nutmeg and salt before
being covered with a mixture of wine and stock. The lid is closed and the hare, snugly tucked up in his pot, is now cooked in a hot oven.
The people of the Rhineland love to drink and be merry. And so a certain
amount of ‘greasy’ food is traditionally served during the most important
festivals such as Carneval or Fastnacht. This includes deep-fried pastries. Balls
of yeast-dough are filled with jam and deep fried in oil. These hot ‘Kräppel’ or
Berliner Pfannkuchen bear no resemblance to ordinary pancakes.
Rhineland Style Mussels
Although the German Rhine is a long way from the sea, mussels have always
traditionally been eaten here. In earlier times there was a flourishing wine and
timber trade with the Netherlands. Relieved of their heavy freight, the barges
stocked up on goods from the coast before embarking on their homeward
journey, which is how Matjes herrings and mussels arrived at the Middle Rhine. For ‘Rhineland-style‘ mussels the mussels are first cleaned and then boiled in a stock of root vegetables and wine.
Himmel und Erde – „Himmel un Äd“
“Himmel un Äd” is the local dialect for “heaven and earth”, two elements which
form an easy alliance in the Rhineland. This down-to-earth dish contains ‘heavenly’
apples and ‘earthy’ potatoes. The two ingredients are cooked and puréed
separately and are later reunited on the plate. The dish is crowned by fried slices
of Blutwurst or black pudding which are spiced up with a crunchy mixture of fried bacon and onions. A classic Rhineland dish!
When the days start to grow shorter and November is not far off, the season of the Weckmann has arrived. Little men are formed from yeast dough and
decorated with raisin eyes and buttons. To complete the effect, each is given a
white clay pipe to hold. From now on they start to fill the bakers’ shelves, especially around St. Martin’s Day on November 11th which is celebrated in the
Rhineland with lantern processions. All the children who take part in these night time lantern festivals are sure to get a Weckmann.
Spundekäs is a soft cream cheese that originates in northern Rheinhessen. Its traditional conical tapering form is reminiscent of the bung or Spund - used to seal the hole in the top of a wine barrel - which gives the dish its name. Spundekäs is normally served as a snack with pretzel sticks or bread pretzels (as a dip) or with some hearty bread (as a spread). Spundekäs goes perfectly with white wine and is thus served in virtually all the wine taverns and Strausswirtschaften in Rheinhessen and the Rheingau.