Recap of October 2011 Potluck Dinner Meeting: German Night!

by Karen Voelkening-Behegan

Thanks to everyone who attended German Night, our first evening devoted to one ethnic culinary tradition. The first of many, I hope. As your chapter leader, I thought I’d kick off this new tradition by starting out with my own heritage from Germany. My father, Burkhard Wolfgang Völkening was a German immigrant, and my mother, Barbara Richter Völkening was 100% 3rd generation German. When I was a child, we used to travel to Germany every year to visit my dad’s side of our family, so I became very familiar with German culture and culinary traditions.

Wanting to bring back some delicious smells and flavors from my childhood, I sought out some classic recipes for some old German favorites:
– Kaesespaetzle mit Speck (homemade Swabian noodles with cheese and bacon)
– Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut und Kartoffeln (potatoes)
– Rotkohl (sweet-and-sour warm red cabbage)
– Samples of several popular spreads to put on delicious German rye & black breads:
– Gewuerzquark mit Röstknoblauch (homemade cheese spread with roasted garlic & herbs)
– Griebenschmalz (lard & duckfat spread with bacon, ham, apples, onions, & herbs)
– gehackter Rindfleisch Tartar (steak tartare with egg, gherkins, anchovies, shallots, sea salt, & herbs)
– Desert Quark with berries and cream.
With German folk music playing in the background, a smattering of German conversation in the air, and the sights and smells of German food, the atmosphere was set. Based on everyone’s reaction, I think we all enjoyed the food. Visitors from Germany and others in the know commented that the foods were very authentic. One couple who had never tried German food before seemed pleasantly surprised that it was so good! A visitor from Germany was overjoyed to have some Quark again, and commented that Quark was the one thing that she and her friends always miss whenever they leave the country. (In Germany you can buy Quark in stores, but here, little do they know, you can also make it yourself out of fresh raw milk with a buttermilk culture!)
This time around, since there were 2 cooking demos scheduled, I did the first one right before dinner: the art of making homemade Spaetzle. I think most people didn’t know that you could put a loose & sticky dough made with plenty of eggs into boiling water, and instantly form fresh noodles, ready within one minute of boiling. Once the noodles rise, scoop them out of the water, strain and toss them in a pan with freshly cooked bacon bits and plenty of raw butter from grass-fed cows. Mix in some freshly grated raw cheese (and some crème fraiche, if you’re lucky enough to have some around – thanks Elaina!) and Guten Appetit! Kaesespaetzle mit Speck ist fertig! (The noodles are ready!) So we enjoyed that with dinner. For the sake of the gluten-free crowd, I made it with Red Mill Gluten-Free bread mix for the best representation of the traditional sprouted wheat version. And seriously, I don’t think even an expert could have discerned the difference!
After dinner, I attempted to show the gang how to make sausage. We took the ground meat (pork, grass-fed veal, and smoked bacon) and with the help of a couple assistants, seasoned it with a long list of herbs and spices. Then we threw in some sea salt and some fresh Amish lard, and put it through the meat grinder! At long last, once we were done, we fried up a batch while I attempted to demo how to get the meat into fresh natural casings. The sausage tasted great, but the casing process could have gone a little smoother. I’m no expert, so we did our best. It was pretty funny!
But the main lesson here is that anyone can make sausage with a simple meat grinder. You don’t even have to use casings if you don’t want to. Most importantly, this is a great way to incorporate wonderfully healthy organ meats from pastured animals into your meals. Just throw in a little heart, liver, or kidney, add your favorite meat, grind, season, mix, and you’re done! It’s that simple. The whole process makes great breakfast sausage! Or even ground meat for chilis and stews. And if you’re so inclined (and have a few interested children to entertain), go ahead and try to make some links! The possibilities are endless!
Thanks to everyone who attended our first ethnic night, and helped make it informative, fun, and tasty!
Your Chapter Leader,
Karen Völkening-Behegan
PS – Please stay tuned for the November meeting notice. Another fun potluck evening is in store as several of your fellow members will be sharing reports from “Mythbusters!,” this year’s 12th annual Wise Traditions Conference in Dallas, Texas.

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