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Tag Archives: German American cuisine

German Food in the United States

Where most German Americans live.

By most accounts, approximately one-fourth of the American population is of German descent. At one time, German restaurants were found in most major cities; today they are hard to find even in traditionally German cities like Cincinnati, St. Louis and Milwaukee. Nevertheless, both the hamburger and the frankfurter, sausages and cured meats of many varieties, egg noodles and countless other American dishes have German origins. Among popular American foods, sauerbraten, a sweet and sour pot roast, retains its German name as do sauerkraut and the sausages knackwurst (often called knockwurst), leberwurst (slightly changed to liverwurst) and the popular bratwurst. Americans are comfortable using these terms whether or not they are of German background.

German immigrants photographed at Ellis Island in 1931. (German Federal Archives)

German language names have not always been retained over the generations: breaded veal or pork cutlets are no longer called Wiener Schnitzel; the Rouladen is now better known as a “roll up;” the Knödel is a dumpling; Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte is better known as Black Forest chocolate cake; Berliner Pfannkuchen are now just a type of doughnut; Kartoffelsalat became German potato salad (the kind served warm, made with vinegar). The German language was alive and well in the United States until an anti-German reaction set in during the First World War; menu names changed (sauerkraut was referred to as “Liberty Cabbage” for a time), but the food kept its appeal.

Helga’s German Restaurant & Deli in Colorado

In 1931, Irma von Starkloff Rombauer put out her first edition of The Joy Of Cooking which is still one of the most influential cookbooks in the country.. Rombauer’s choice of dishes also reflected a strong bias toward the southern end of the German-speaking regions: Austria and Bavaria. The American connection of German food with Bavaria may also have to do with the fact that U.S. soldiers occupied the area immediately after the Second World War. German restaurants in the United States tend toward heavy Bavarian cuisine and decorations like cuckoo clocks. Munich’s famous Oktoberfest celebration is mirrored hundreds of times over by mini-Oktoberfest promotions in American restaurants and communities.

In the Amish and Mennonite communities, Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine (the people are actually of German descent) keeps alive food traditions, and many food names, that reflect the cooking of the Rhineland Palatinate and nearby regions of several centuries ago.

Lager beer, the predominant form of beer consumed today in the United States (and the world) was brought to the country by German immigrants and popularized among the general public by beer companies like Schlitz, Pabst, Stroh, and Busch The Beck’s brand, from the north German port city of Bremen, is the most popular imported German beer, accounting for a full 60% of the German beer sold in the United States. Its sister brand, St. Pauli Girl, has also many American fans.

German Beef Rouladen

Beef Rouladen are called Rindsrouladen or Rinderrouladen in Germany.

Ingredients

One 2 lb round steak or the equivalent of round steak cutlets
Salt and pepper
Paprika
8 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 slices bacon, cut in half
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
8 slices sweet pickles, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the gravy:
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

To thicken the gravy:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

For garnish:
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the steak lengthwise into four equal pieces and pound the beef slices until they are 1/4 inch thin and about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long. Cut each steak in half (4×6). Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika. Spread each piece of beef with 1 teaspoon mustard.. Scatter each with diced onion, dividing evenly between the 8 pieces. Place half a strip of bacon on each piece of beef. Place two pickle pieces down the center of each piece of beef. Take the end closest to you and fold it up and over the pickles. Continue rolling by lifting and rolling until it is completely rolled. {lace a skewer and secure the end of the roll to the main part of the roll, so it doesn’t unroll. Roll up the remaining beef pieces similarly.

Stir together the gravy ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed, ovenproof dish with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef rolls to the pan, skewer/seam side down. Sear for a few minutes until lightly browned, then flip over and sear the other side. Place the rolls on their sides if necessary to sear the entire outside of each of the rolls.

Once the beef rolls are browned, add the prepared gravy mixture to the pan. Bring liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pot and place in the preheated oven. Cook, covered in the oven until tender, about 2 hours (depending on the size of the rolls), turning them over a couple of times during the cooking period.

Remove the pot from the oven and use tongs to remove the beef rolls to a plate. Carefully remove the skewers from the rolls and discard, then cover the plate loosely with foil while making the gravy.
Place the pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and add to the liquid in the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, until thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Garnish the beef rolls with chopped parsley.
Serve with the gravy, braised red cabbage, and mashed rutabaga.

German Braised Red Cabbage

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter)
Half a red onion, diced
Half a large head red cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Directions

In a large deep skillet, sauté onion in the bacon fat.
Add the red cabbage. Continue to sauté for several minutes, stirring. When the cabbage has softened, add a 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and the honey. Stir.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. Add water as necessary to keep the cabbage from sticking to the pan and stir occasionally during simmering.

Add the vinegar. Stir and heat for a few minutes before serving.
This goes really well with almost any German meat recipe. It is traditional with rouladen or schnitzel.

Mashed Rutabaga with Sour Cream

Ingredients

One 1 ½-2 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into small chunks
Salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Directions

Cover the rutabaga with about 1 inch of cold water in a large saucepot and bring to a boil.

Add a generous pinch of salt and boil until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towels.
Return the rutabagas to the pot.

Place the heat on low and let the rutabaga steam for a minute or two. Mash with a potato masher.

Add the butter, sour cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, mix in the chopped chives.

 

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