Occasional musings, Geistesblitze, photos, drawings etc. by a "resident alien", who has landed on American soil from a far-away planet called "Germany".

Thursday, July 31, 2008

German comfort food

Yesterday in an xword blog, some very disparaging things were said about lima beans. This saddens me because Dicke Bohnen mit Speck (lima beans with bacon) is a classic regional dish in the Rhineland, where I grew up--it was one of the comfort foods of my youth. To kick this thread off, I'll start with the recipe in my first comment.

And speaking about lima beans: my wife makes a very good lima bean dip with cumin, a little cream. and butter.


Ulrich said...

Here's the classic, bare-bones version, translated from the German, where you can also find a picture.

1/2 onion, 20g butter fat, 400g lima beans (can or glass), 150g pork belly bacon (whole slab), 20 savory leaves, 20g butter, 20g flour.

Heat butter fat in pot, add diced onion and saute until translucent. Add lima beans, including liquid. Simmer over low heat for about 40 min (make sure beans do not crack). After 30 min, add savory. When beans are done, strain and reserve liquid. Prepare roux with butter and flower and deglaze with reserved liquid (add a little water if needed). Remove bacon and bind beans with roux (no salt will be needed b/c of the bacon). Slice bacon and serve with boiled potatoes.

Variants: In more upscale versions, cream or milk are used, and a pinch of nutmeg for flavoring.

miriam b said...

My late husband used to rave about a comfort food of his childhood: ham hocks ansd butter beans. It's usually considered a Southern dish. His mother came from Missouri, so I guess that's close enough. Lima beans are called butter beans in some areas. The following recipe is rather refined, as the ham is chopped up beforehand rather than being removed from the messy hambone after the whole business has been cooked together.

Here's an American bare-bones recipe (without the bone!):


2 cups water
1 ounce finely chopped lean ham
2 cups fresh or frozen butterbeans or lima beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Bring 2 cups water and ham to a boil in a saucepan; boil 5 to 10 minutes.

Add butterbeans, salt, and pepper; return to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender.

Yields 4 servings

I don't know offhand of any other ethnic variations. Now you've launched me on a search. I betcha there's something similar in one of the Scandinavian cuisines.

BTW, I have a recipe for a dish resembling Boston baked beans which uses dried limas rather than the customary pea beans or navy beans. It's quite good.

mac said...

Ulrich, I'm pretty sure you are talking about broad/fava beans. The Dutch and the Germans don't eat the peeled little lima beans, I've never seen them in either country, and my husband was in the food business when we lived in Hamburg, and I'm a foodie who is always hunting for new, fresh,interesting ingredients.

Ulrich said...

@miriam and mac: It's true, the "fava or broad beans" depicted here look exactly like German dicke Bohnen ("thick or fat beans"), whereas the "butter or lima beans" depicted here do not (they look smaller and greener). But I swear, I bought frozen "lima beans" in the super market that did look like the German type I thought they were. Now, I'm confused.

mac said...

@Ulrich: both beans are wonderful in the Tuscan recipe I talked about (twice) today. The frozen lima beans are available all year, the other ones you may be able to get in jars at Italian Deli's and I get them at the Dutch store in Norwalk (Washington Street, close to the Maritime Aquarium just off I95).

Ulrich said...

@mac: I can't find the Tuscan recipe--would you share it again?

mac said...

Of course, here goes:

I usually get fresh broad beans when I can get them, but you end up with a pretty small quantity when all is done. I sometimes find jars of broad beans at Italian deli's, and the Dutch shop on Washington Street in Norwalk carries them as well, but there they are called tuinbonen.

2 cups of cooked broad/fava beans
some sliced pecorino or Parmesan cheese, to taste
8 large mint leaves, chopped
good olive oil
salt and pepper.

Mix all of the above together, and if you feel creative add some sliced radishes or thinly sliced radicchio.

heika said...

When I lived in Germany, I loved eating something called "Blutwurst." Can you tell me what actually went into this wonderful sausage and is it usually served with sauerkraut? I don't remember what else was on the plate but this wonderful, thick, and yes indeed, kind of bloody looking sausage. However, for anyone who has never eaten it and is planning a trip to Germany, it's a must.

Ulrich said...

@heika: Blutwurst in one of these things that you better not know the ingredients of. But I understand a main ingredient is blood. When a pig was slaughtered in the villages of old, an attempt was made not throw anything away, and this included the blood, which was made into some sort of pudding and then filled into the cleaned intestines (that's what I have been told, anyway).

Blutwurst is a central part of one of the German comfort foods I loved in the old days (before I developed a severe allergy against the meat of four-legged animals--I'm not kidding): Schlachtplatte ("slaughter plate"), which consists of fresh (i.e. non-smoked) Blutwurst, Leberwurst (liver wurst), slab bacon, and some salt-cured rib piece, served on Sauerkraut with boilded potatoes. The trick is that the sausages are simmered on top of the Sauerkraut--this makes them "sweat" and ooze their juices into the stuff, giving it a wonderfully rich flavor (I don't know if the synthetic casings of today can "sweat"). Beer is, of course, the accompanying drink of choice, real beer that is, with a strong hops-and-malt flavor.

Heika said...

Hi, Thanks for the description of blut wurst and you are right, I liked it more when I didn't know. That being said, are there any sources for authentic German sausage in this country. In addition to Blut wurst, I also loved something called Nuremburger Weisswurst (forgive the spelling). I'm sure I'll go back to German but it maybe a while and boy would I like to eat Schlachtplatte again.

Ulrich said...

@heika: No, I haven't found anything here that would come close to German "wurst", like Weisswurst or Bratwurst (the Nurenberg kind actually is a Bratwurst, i.e. it's meant to be sauteed in a pan, not boiled in water). For starters: The consistency is all wrong. The filling in German sausages is less dense and "heavy"--the filling in the Blut- and Leberwurst that come with Schlachtplatte is actually so soft that you squeeze it out of the casing before eating it. And the spicing is uniformly wrong here--much more "in your face", i.e. less subtle.

Ulrich said...

A German friend sent me this by e-mail: Zu den Nürnberger Würsteln sei hinzuzufügen, dass es nicht nur die gebratene Version gibt sondern auch die 'Blauen Zipfel', in einem Wurzelsud mit einem Schuss Essig gegarte blassbläulich aussehende , wohlschmeckende Spezialität aus Franken.

Freely translated: As far as sausages from Nürnberg go, one may mention, aside from the fried variety, the "blue tips", a delicious, pale blue-looking specialty of Frankonia, which is simmered in a root broth [no idea] with a shot of vinegar.

Ulrich said...

Some research on Wurzelsud ("root broth"): It's a vegetable broth made from root vegetables: carrots, leeks, parsley, celery root, and onions.

Those Blaue Zipfel must be some delicacy to warrant that amount of care!

Ulrich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich said...

..and here's a picture and a recipe (in German, though).

Ulrich said...

The NY Times describes in the Travel Section of Sunday, 9/7, the "New German Cuisine" found in Munich, which consists, in part, of re-interpreted traditonal German dishes. Here's the version of Saure Zipfel served at Schuhbecks in den Südtiroler Stuben:

"..a creamy, sweet-and-sour soup with delicate slivers of marinated sausages and diced onions floating in a delicate ceramic cup."

miriam b said...

From CHEFKOCH.DE. This doesn't sound very "delicate" to me. It does sound pretty good, though as I may have mentioned, I'm not very carnivorous.

Saure Zipfel

Zutaten für 4 Portionen

8 Stück Bratwurst vom Schwein
1 Liter Wasser
125 ml Essig (Obstessig)
2 Zwiebel(n)
1 Prise Salz
1 Lorbeerblätter
1 TL Pfeffer, zerstoßene Körner
1 Nelke(n)
1 EL Zucker
2 Karotte(n)

Für den Sud Wasser mit Obstessig aufkochen. Die Zwiebeln schälen, in Ringe schneiden und dazu geben. Alle Gewürze und den Zucker dazu geben, einmal aufkochen, dann herunterschalten und die Würste sowie die geschälten, gestiftelten Karotten hineingeben. Etwa 10-15 Min. durchziehen lassen. Je 2 Paar Würste auf tiefe Teller verteilen und mit etwas Sud und dem Gemüse garniert servieren. Dazu passt am besten ein kräftiges Bauernbrot.

Ulrich said...

@Miriam: You wouldn't post this if you didn't understand it--so, your German must be pretty good.

Re. vegetarianism: As far as my meat-eating goes, it has undergone a dramatic change: Over the last 12-15 years, I've gradually developed an allergy to all meats coming from four-legged animals, starting with veal and then spreading to beef, venison, pork, antelope (tried this in S. Africa). We thought initially that the allergy had something to do with the antibiotics administered to animals in this country (I've been severely allergic to Penicillin forever), but tests as well as experience later suggested that I have become allergic to the thing itself.

This is ironic, given the nature of the food I grew up with. On the other hand, it's much less of a loss than it seems. We had given up eating veal anyway once we saw pictures of how the little calves are raised, and gradually added more items to the list as we learned more about factory farming, one of the true outrages of our times. So, I'm not unhappy with the current situation.

And if we ever go completely vegetarian, we'll go Indian (or with the cuisine of Southern Africa, which has been highly influenced by Indian food). If one takes care with the spices (no prepared curry powder!), the food can be as delicious as anything that you could do with meat--it just takes some time to roast, grind etc your own spices and do the rest. It's also food that goes very well with good, strong beer!

miriam b said...

Yes, Ulrich, I can read German fairly well, and recipes are no problem!

I agree with you on the subject of Indian cuisine. Also, some Middle Eastern dishes are meatless and nonetheless delicious.

Ulrich said...

Miriam: Yes, I should have mentioned Middle Eastern dishes. I was always looking forward to invitations from Turkish PhD students b/c the food, mostly meatless (they knew about my allergies) was so good.

We also had an annual "International Food Fest" where every member of our grad. program, faculty and students, were invited under the condition that they brought a dish from their home country. With 15-20 nationalities represented, we always got quite a feast going. And the dishes brought by Arabs (mostly from Egypt, but also some Saudis), in addition to those by the Turks, were always memorable.

miriam b said...

One of my grandmothers, though ethnically Russian, came from Georgia. Now there's a fabulous cuisine in which meat sometimes (only sometimes) plays a minor rôle. It's very healthful: lots of vegetables, herbs, fermented milk products. walnuts, fruits (including my beloved quince).

Armenian food has much in common with Georgian and is wonderful too, IMHO. Interestingly, the clay oven similar to the Indian tandoor is called a tone in Georgian and a tonir in Armenian. In fact, this word appears in many areas of Europe and Asia. The tandoor originated long ago in Afghanistan, as I understand it.

I'm off to make some kidney bean salad with walnut sauce. Or maybe sour plum sauce.

Thread drift!

Ulrich said...

Thread drift is tolerated on this blog--within limits.

My concern is not so much the drift itself (as it happens, for example, during a lively dinner conversation) but that readers who are interested in the original topic (perhaps b/c they found it through search engines) get disappointed or worse, readers who would be interested in it after the drift will not find it b/c no labels or keywords match. In the latter case, a new thread should be created with appropriate title and labels--I've done this once and plan to do it again should the need arise.

In this particular drift, I'm the guilty party--I wanted to make it clear that in all this talk about meat, I'm speaking from a strictly "Platonic" perspective.

Back to comfort food: I love just about everything that can be made with beans--from cold salads to the white bean dish made with tomatoes and onions that I first had in the former Yugoslavia--after all, this thread started with beans!