• Germany's news in English
 

Traditional Christmas recipes

Published: 22 Dec 2009 10:13 GMT+01:00

For many Germans, Austrians and Swiss, a traditional recipe is as essential to Christmas Eve as saying “Amen” in church. They often cook on Christmas Eve what their grandparents ate as holiday food. Christiane Keders peered into six Christmas pots.

When it gets dark on December 24, the streets empty and people celebrate behind their windows the most important family party of the year: Christmas. Nearly 80 percent of Germans celebrate Christmas with their relatives. Every family has its own rituals. For the children Christmas Eve gifts are certainly the most important. For many adults something else is almost more important: Christmas dinner. Many recipes that come to the table on Christmas Eve have been enjoyed in the family for generations.

Roter Heringsalat (Red Herring Salad), Gerrit Beyer (31), Bremen

In Gerrit Beyer’s house a fish dish is eaten on Christmas Eve: herring salad. Gerrit Beyer comes from northern Germany. For generations the women in his family have made the herring salad on the day before Christmas Eve. “It is always made by the oldest in the family,” the business manager reports. He finds it a very practical recipe for Christmas: “Even though there is too much chopping involved, it is easy to prepare and also keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week—that way you can have it for longer!”

Ingredients (for four people): 3 pickled herrings, 300 grams potatoes, 2 apples, 2 red beets, 2 onions, 2 tablespoons capers, 3 pickled cucumbers, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, 2 eggs, 2 baguettes

Preparation:

1) Wash, fillet, and dice herring.

2) Boil, peel and dice potatoes and red beets. Dice apples and pickled cucumbers. Finely chop onions. Mix herring, potatoes, red beets, apples, pickled cucumbers, onions and capers in a large bowl.

3) Mix oil, mustard, vinegar, pepper, sugar and a small amount of salt. Pour over other ingredients and mix well. Season once more to taste and place in refrigerator.

4) Hard-boil eggs, chop in quarters and lay decoratively on salad. Serve with baguette.

Weihnachtskarpfen Blau (Blue Christmas Carp), Ursula Detering (66), Düsseldorf

According to Christian practices, the week before Christmas was once a period of fasting. December 24 was also a fasting day, so fish was eaten. For several hundred years carp has been a popular holiday food. A particular tradition is to put a scale from the fish in one’s wallet after dinner. This supposedly brings money to the wallet’s owner in the New Year.

Ursula Detering is also familiar with this tradition. Her family has eaten carp for Christmas since she was a small child. She didn’t like the meal when she was a child, the 66-year-old says, but “because one eats so many sweets during Christmas, it isn’t so bad then!” She can still remember the smell of sour vinegar coming from the kitchen. And she remembers something else: “Christmas was always associated with tears for us,” she says - not because the family always fought with each other, but because of the horseradish. As soon as the freshly-grated horseradish came to the table, tears came to everyone’s eyes.

Ingredients (for 8-9 people): 15 litres water, 2 carp (2-2.5 kilograms each), ½ litre white wine vinegar, 5 large onions, at least 2.5 kilograms potatoes, 8 tablespoons salt, 4 teaspoons juniper berries, 375 grams butter, 4 tablespoons black peppercorns, 9 bay leaves, 2 stalks horseradish

Preparation:

1) Buy carp on morning of December 24 and place in refrigerator. Only work with wet hands so that mucus does not get damaged.

2) Bring water with salt, pepper, juniper berries and bay leaves to boil in large pot. Let simmer one hour to make strong stock. Stock should taste slightly over-salted.

3) Heat vinegar to near-boil und pour on carp so that carp takes on a blue colour. Place carp in lightly simmering stock; do not boil. Let simmer 20-30 minutes. When dorsal fin comes out easily, fish is fully cooked.

4) Serve with boiled potatoes, melted butter and freshly-grated horseradish.

Kartoffelsalat mit Würstchen (Potato Salad with Sausages), Elke Schamberger (47), Munich

This classic among typical Christmas dishes is surprisingly simple: potato salad with sausages. This recipe is particularly popular in Germany, and is also very practical because it can be prepared quickly. It is a simple food that should remind one of the poverty of Mary and Joseph. Whether the potato salad is made with mayonnaise, as in the north, or with oil and vinegar, as in the south, is as variable as the type of sausage.

Elke Schamberger has a delicious recipe from her mother, who made the potato salad with mayonnaise. Because Elke Schamberger now lives in Munich, she makes it with vinegar.

Ingredients (for four people): 1 kilogram potatoes, 2 onions, 4-6 pickled cucumbers with liquid, 4 boiled eggs, ½ litre meat broth, salt, pepper, 8 sausages (Wiener sausages or others)

Preparation:

1) Boil and slice potatoes.

2) Dice onions, pickled cucumbers and eggs.

3) Mix potatoes, onions, pickled cucumbers and eggs. Pour meat broth and liquid from pickled cucumbers over mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let marinate two hours.

4) Heat sausages in hot water and serve with potato salad.

Selchwürste oder Selchrippen (Smoked Sausage or Smoked Pork Ribs), Bettina Brandstätter (31), Dellach im Drautal (Kärnten, Austria)

In Austria as well as Germany there are as many Christmas recipes as regions. There is meat or fish, fondue, large menus or simple salads. A typical Christmas food in Kärnten is smoked sausage or smoked pork ribs with sauerkraut. Bettina Branstätter cooks this meal for her family according to a recipe from her grandmother: “The recipe is rather simple and fast,” said the mother of a small daughter.

Ingredients (for four people): 1 kilogram sauerkraut, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/8 litre broth, 1 teaspoon juniper berries, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove garlic, 4 tablespoons diced toasted bacon, 8 smoked sausages or smoked pork ribs, salt, caraway seed

Preparation:

1) Boil sauerkraut, bay leaf, caraway seed, juniper berries and pressed garlic clove 20 minutes in as little salt water as possible. Pour mixture through sieve and set aside in large bowl.

2) Heat butter in pan and briefly roast flour in butter. Dice onions and add to pan. Roast onions until they take on the same colour as the flour. Gradually add broth while stirring. Let cook 15 minutes, then lightly salt. Stir in with sauerkraut and diced bacon.

3) Place sausages or ribs in boiling water and cook 15-20 minutes.

4) Serve sausages or ribs and sauerkraut together with dark and white bread, mustard and horseradish.

Gefüllte Gans (Stuffed Goose), Heike Weelborg (36), Velbert (North Rhine-Westphalia)

After a simple food like potato salad with sausages, many families eat the famous Christmas goose: the fasting period is now at an end. In Heike Weelborg’s family there is already goose on December 24. She buys the goose at a nearby farm. “It's a bit strange,” the social education worker says, “when I go for a walk in the fall with my small son, and we pass by the field where the geese graze. Then I always think that one of them will end up in my oven.” It tastes good to her anyway. This year her one-and-a-half-year-old son Lucian will try goose for the first time.

Ingredients (for 4-6 people): 1 goose (gutted), 4-6 apples (russet), 3-4 tablespoons curry, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, crushed juniper

Preparation:

1) Rub outside of goose with salt and pepper.

2) Peel apples and cut into small pieces.

3) Mix curry, salt, pepper and juniper and fill inside of goose with mixture.

4) Add apples and close cavity. Stab breast and thigh with needle.

5) Place 1 cup water in oven dripping pan beneath goose. Lay goose breast-up on baking pan and roast at 220° Celsius.

6) Reduce temperature after one hour to 180° Celsius. Turn goose and roast approximately three hours.

Rehrücken (Saddle of Venison), Heidi Lüdi (59), Zurich

When Heidi Lüdi cooks for her family on Christmas, there is always a full menu: Flädlesuppe (pancake soup) with bread, Nüsslisalat (lamb’s lettuce), Rehrücken (saddle of venison), Rotkraut mit Kastanien und Spätzli (red cabbage with chestnuts and spaetzle), and for dessert, fruit salad with whipped cream, coffee and a baked Christmas treat. The Swiss woman cooks everything herself. With that she has too much to do: at least twelve people come to her Christmas parties. “The good thing about it is that there are always a lot of people able to help me,” she says.

Ingredients (for 6-8 people): 1 saddle of venison (approximately 2.5 kilograms) without skin, 400 grams bacon strips, 2 onions, 2 carrots, ½ bunch parsley, 50 grams butter, 300 millilitres cream, 5-6 pears, 1 small jar cranberries, 250 millilitre wild game stock, 1 tablespoon flour, salt

Preparation:

1) Rub salt and pepper well into saddle of venison and garnish with bacon strips.

2) Chop onions, carrots and parsley into small pieces and lay with roast on baking pan.

3) Preheat oven to 180° Celsius. Brown roast 40-50 minutes; inside should be pink. Periodically pour hot water over roast while in oven. Remove bacon in last ten minutes and let back of roast brown. Pour cream over saddle of venison.

4) Carefully cut small and large filets from bone. Collect flowing juice and mix later with sauce. Place bones on hot plate and lay meat once again on top.

5) Cook pears in hot water until they soften. Cut in half and fill with cranberries. Place pears decoratively around saddle of venison. Cover with aluminium foil until serving.

6) To make sauce, collect roasted vegetables and remaining contents from baking pan, place in pot.

7) Season with salt, pepper, and cream to taste. Add wild game stock and let boil well. Mix flour with water and add to sauce. Cook until sauce becomes creamy.

8) Serve with parsley, cranberries, fresh spaetzle and red cabbage with chestnuts.

Click here for more from Deutsch Perfekt - a magazine that helps you learn German.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims
Photo: DPA

Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel's office Thursday asked the US ambassador to discuss new allegations about NSA spying, a German government source said. READ  

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar
Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-490-3270-06A/Wikimedia Commons

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar

Police searched a villa in a wealthy suburb of Kiel on Wednesday and found a Second World War tank, a torpedo and other weaponry in the cellar. On Thursday they were still working on removing the tank. READ  

Google game slammed over use of death camps
Dachau concentration camp. Photo: DPA

Google game slammed over use of death camps

News that Google is using the sites of Nazi concentration camps as elements in an "augmented reality" project - an online game linked to the real world - has caused extreme upset to Holocaust survivors' organizations. READ  

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye
A Soviet Cosmonaut mosaic in Potsdam. Photo: Digital Cosmonaut

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye

It took a German who spent much of his early life abroad to document some of the hidden, abandoned, or forgotten-about corners of Berlin in English. The Local meets "Digital Cosmonaut", one of Berlin's best-loved bloggers. READ  

Greek President cancels Berlin visit
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos(l) with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Photo: DPA

Greek President cancels Berlin visit

Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of Greece, has cancelled plans to visit Berlin next Tuesday, German media reported on Thursday. READ  

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future
Photo: DPA

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future

UPDATE: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said Thursday that Bastian Schweinsteiger holds his future in his own hands amidst reports linking the Germany captain to Manchester United. READ  

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers
The accident happened on the Autobahn near Dortmund. Photo: DPA

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers

A truck driver crashed his vehicle into a stationary police car on the Autobahn in North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday, killing the two officers inside. READ  

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine
A breast augmentation operation in progress. Photo: DPA

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine

A French appeals court on Thursday found German safety standards body the Technische Überwachungsverein (TÜV) had "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were later found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare. READ  

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal
The RWE brown coal plant in Niederaussem. Photo: DPA

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal

Germany's governing coalition came to a major new agreement on carbon emissions on Wednesday evening. But the reported deal has left environmentalists feeling betrayed. READ  

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice
A photo used by police to track alleged kidnapper Mario S. Photo: DPA

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice

Thai authorities will deliver a man to Germany later this week to stand trial on accusations of kidnapping the wife of a Bavarian banker to finance his lavish lifestyle abroad. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,949
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd