The Language of German Food, Drink, and Dining
English may be a Germanic language, but any English-speaking person unversed in German will be bewildered by the culinary words and phrases he or she encounters while traveling about Germany. Lunch and dinner menus, moreover, are often indecipherable, written as they are in angular German script. And as if to muddle things even further, different dishes are often known by different names in different parts of the country. In the north of Germany, for example, dumplings are Klosse. But in Bavaria they are Knodel. And in northern Germany, hard rolls are Brotchen, whereas in Bavaria they are Semmeln.
Strangers to Germany will also be puzzled by the number of French words in the German culinary lexicon. There are two easy explanations for this. First, French became the fashionable language at the German courts during the days of Napoleon. And second, French is the language of cooking.
This glossary is designed to introduce you to common German food, drinks, and menu and culinary terms, “to get your ear and eye in.” We have not included those German words that are identical or similar to those used in the United States (Beefsteak, for example, Karamel, Alkohol, or Aspik) unless there is something unusual or interesting to say about them.
Search for words in the glossary
Aal: Eel. In the old days, eels were taken from the Elbe, Hamburg’s river, which may explain why eel is so popular in that city. However, most of the eels served in Germany now come from the Baltic or North Sea and, according to connoisseurs, the choicest are those caught just as they set out on the two-thousand-mile swim to their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea south of Bermuda. Such eels are fat, firm, and lobster-tender. Some say they taste as much like meat as fish, which prompted one Hamburg chef to remark, “Nobody even knows if an eel is a land animal or a fish.”
Although most north Germans relish fresh eel, smoked eel (gerducherter Aal) is their favorite snack. The way to eat it is cold, with tart pickles to cut the richness. In the U.S., where eel is nearly nonexistent, mackerel makes an acceptable substitute.
We’ve used it in place of eel in the two German eel recipes included in this book. The results, let us be the first to admit, aren’t the same. But they are good.
Aalsuppe: Eel soup. A sweet-sour Hamburg classic made of the oddest mix of ingredients: ham broth, eel, dried apricots and prunes, fresh apples and pears, plus a garden full of vegetables.
Ahendbrot: Light supper; literally, “evening bread.” But broadly speaking, it is simply the evening meal—bread and cold cuts, warm food — whatever you eat.
Abendessen: Dinner. In Germany, the dinner hours extend from about 6:30 to 8:30, and the more cosmopolitan the city, the later the hour. In Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, for example, the pricey restaurants don’t begin to fill up until around 7:30.
Allgau Emmentaler: Ivory-hued Allgau Emmentaler is Germany’s most famous hard cheese, the one with the big holes, and it is every bit as delicious as the more famous Emmentaler made next door in Switzerland. Allgau Emmentaler is made of cow’s milk, molded in wheels or blocks, and depending upon how long it has aged, ranges from mild to moderately strong.
Known for its nutty, pleasantly salty-sweet flavor, Emmentaler is a high-protein cheese
that averages about 45 percent butterfat. It shreds and slices neatly (one reason Germans
slip it into salads and sandwiches).
It melts smoothly, too, and is integral to that glorious German quiche called Lauchkuchen
Alse: Shad. Shad is extremely rare in northern Europe because it doesn’t swim in the Baltic. It is being imported to Germany more and more often, however, and young German chefs are beginning to improvise with it.
Ananas: Pineapple. One of the French food words used widely in Germany today, and one of the lush tropical fruits Germans adore. “We stir pineapple into lots of things,” Hedy says. “Bavarian creams, tortes, even meat and poultry recipes; then we call them ‘Hawaiian.’ ” This fondness for pineapple developed during the American occupation after World War II, when shipments of canned pineapple suddenly became available. Germans even began cooking sauerkraut with pineapple—using approximately equal amounts of each.
“Hawaiian” sauerkraut remains popular to this day.
Anis: Anise. The licorice flavor of these tiny tan seeds is reserved for sweet breads, cakes, and cookies. To heighten the rich, sweet-spicy taste of anise, grind the seeds in a little coffee grinder just before you use them. The difference in flavor between freshly ground aniseeds and commercially packed powders is incredible.
Anschovis: Anchovies. They are also known in Germany as Sardellen. They are not as popular as other fish, but are integral to such classic recipes as Schnitzel a la Holstein (browned veal cutlets topped with a fried egg and a crisscross of anchovy fillets) and Steak Tartare.
Apfel: Apple. Among the more popular varieties today are James Grieve (an uncommonly juicy apple that’s only medium-sweet), Cox’s Orange Pippin (succulently sweet and full of rich apple taste), Gravensteiner, Boskop (a pleasantly sour apple used in cooking), Jonathan, and even Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious. Bratapfel is a baked apple and Apfelstrudel is just what it seems—apple strudel. There’s none better than Bavarian Apple Strudel), which is baked in a casserole with cream.
Apfelmus: Applesauce. A must with potato pancakes, also integral to a creamy horseradish sauce that’s delicious with baked ham, boiled tongue, assorted wursts, and cold cuts. See Apple-Horseradish Sauce.
Apfelsaft: Apple juice. German apple juice is clarified, a lovely rich amber color, and its flavor captures the very essence of the apple. Apfelmosi: is more like our apple cider, but isn’t readily available.
Indeed, it’s considered something of a specialty (one of the driest and best is Viez, produced
along the Moselle). Apfelwein is a sour drink of low alcoholic content that’s drunk mostly in and around Frankfurt.
Then there’s Apfelschnaps, a sweet golden liqueur, savored at meal’s end like a fine brandy.
Apfelsine: Orange. Apfelsine is the old German word; Orange (see below) is more widely used today.
Aprikose: Apricot. Apricots grow well only in the Rhineland, Rhineland Palatinate, and Baden areas, where the climate is temperate. During the summer apricot season, Germans like to eat these sun-ripened fruits out of hand or simmer them into a compote (Kompott) or a voluptuous sauce to ladle over chocolate cake. Germans are particularly fond of apricot marmalade, which they not only spread on bread, but also use in making layer cakes (the marmalade is smoothed on the layers before the final frosting to seal in the crumbs).
Aubergine: Eggplant. Although not a vegetable we usually associate with Germany, eggplant is very popular across the country today. Open-air food markets like Munich’s sprawling Viktualienmarkt sell big, glossy purple eggplants, round white ones the size of grapefruits, lavender specimens as long and slim as bananas, and even egg-size aubergines. And thanks to Germany’s major food magazines — essen u0026 trinken, Feinschmecker, Kochen u0026 Geniessen, Schoner Essen, and Rezepte mit Pfijf, to name a few—home cooks are learning
to cook eggplant just as the French, Italians, Greeks, Turks, and Americans do.
Auflauf: Casserole. It can be sweet or savory, a dessert or a main dish.
Austern: Oysters. A delicacy found only in top restaurants and fish markets. What Germans eat is the European oyster ( Ostrea edulis ), found in offshore waters from Morocco to Norway. French oysters are choicest and these, together with Dutch oysters, are exported to Germany. They are best in the “R” months, which in Germany means from September right through April.
Germans rarely cook oysters, preferring to eat them on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon—nothing more—at the start of an elegant meal. German hostesses usually put out special oyster forks, but it is perfectly acceptable to pick them up and slurp them
out of their shells.
Bachforelle: Brook trout. Because this European trout can survive only in high, clear mountain streams, it is becoming scarce. The rivers around Triberg, in the Black Forest, used to jump with trout and no less aft angler than Ernest Hemingway once went there to fish.
Bachkrebs (also Krebs): Crayfish. Freshwater or river crayfish are growing scarcer and scarcer in Germany and are now a luxury. Even though they’re being farmed in Bavarian lakes, their price isn’t likely to drop anytime soon. Home cooks consider them the province of the professional chef, and most chefs treat Krebse with respect and agree that the best way to cook them is to boil them 3 to 4 minutes — often with bundles of chervil, parsley, or
dill. Once cooked, the Krebse are piled on platters and sent forth. An experienced diner knows just how to attack the scarlet mound. Holding a crayfish in his left hand, he breaks off the tail with the right. He then cracks the back so its meat can be gotten at, and twists off the claws. Next, with a special crayfish knife, he slits the tail open, lifts out the vein, and twists out the meat with a special crayfish fork. Most crayfish fans save the best till last—the claw meat. Depending on the formality of the occasion, they either suck the meat out or go alter it with the crayfish fork.
Backerei: Bakery. The varieties of breads, pastries, cakes, and cookies is staggering, particularly at Christmastime when bakers pull out all the stops and fill their windows with Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Stollen, and Lebkuchen (gingerbread) houses trimmed in stunning detail.
Backpflaume: Prune. German cooks are far more imaginative about cooking with prunes than Americans, who use them mostly for breads and desserts. Northern German cooks like to pair prunes with meat, poultry, and fish. No recipe proves how freewheeling they are more than Eel Soup from Hamburg, an awesome combination of eel, prunes, apples, pears, celery root, leek, kohlrabi, carrot, green peas, and asparagus. Another odd pairing—also a classic from the north of Germany—is a porridge made of prunes, barley, and bacon.
Banane: Banana. Germans are more likely to slice bananas into fruit salads or to peel and eat them rather than to cook with them.
Barsch: Lake perch. A lean white freshwater fish, very good but not as popular as Zander (pike-perch).
Basilikum: Basil. Fresh basil is a comparative newcomer to German kitchens, just as it is here. And German cooks use this aromatic, sun-loving member of the mint family very much as we do — to enhance the flavor of tomatoes. In soups and stews, crumbled dried basil is an acceptable substitute.
Bauernomelett is a farmer’s omelet, also sometimes called Bauernfruhstuck, or farmer’s breakfast. It’s a hearty one-dish meal that begins with potatoes and diced bacon or ham being browned in a skillet, and is then finished off with beaten eggs cooked just until set.
Baumkuehen: Tree cakes. Konditoreien that specialize in making these tall, stately tree cakes often forest their windows with them. The original Baumkuchen recipe comes from Berlin, and even today only professional bakers can make it because it requires a spit with an iron tip shaped like a fir tree. While the hot iron spins slowly, the baker pours a thin stream of yellow cake batter evenly over the iron, a little bit at a time so each layer browns before the next is applied. Baumkuchen are hollow and, when sliced crosswise (the correct way), their dozens of thin layers resemble the annual rings of a tree. Some Baumkuchen are
glazed with white icing, others with chocolate.
Most are sealed in tins or clear plastic tubes and travel well. We’ve brought many of them home to the United States and found them as fresh, moist, and beautiful as the day they were baked.
Beilagen: Side dishes. The ones Germans dote on are potatoes, dumplings, and spaetzle, but Beilagen is an umbrella term that also includes rice, vegetables, even condiments—anything served as an accompaniment to the main dish.
Bierhalle: Beer hall. But if Germans want to go out for beer, they don’t say, “Let’s go to a Bierhalle.u0022 They say, “Let’s go for a beer,” or, “Let’s go to Augustiner or, “Let’s go to the Hofbrauhaus the name of the specific Bierhalle. On the other hand, if they’re headed for one of the big brewery-owned Biergarten (beer gardens), they would say, “Let’s go the beer garden.” As soon as the spring sun appears and it’s warm enough to sit outdoors, people flock to Biergarten, most of which are in Bavaria. Many Biergarten are shaded by enormous chestnut trees and, as Germans sit drinking their steins of beer and chatting with friends, they usually eat soft pretzels and a big white radish, maybe even some cold cuts they’ve brought along (perfectly proper).
Bierkeller: Beer cellar. Smaller than a Bierhalle but larger than a Bierstuhe. Today a Bierkeller may or may not be in a cellar. In the old days it always was — the place, in fact, where the barrels of beer were stored.
Bierstube: Beer tavern. A small and cozy spot, usually without music. In a Bierhalle there’s often an oom-pah-pah band.
Bierwurst: Beer sausage. This bolognasized wurst is not made with beer; it does go well with it — as a cold cut. A Bavarian favorite, Bierwurst is pink, coarsely textured, and heavily flecked with smoked pork and fat.
Birne: Pear. Pears grow best in the temperate lower reaches of the Black Forest, especially around Freiburg. The favorite German varieties are the juicy Clapps Liebling, the sweet and fleshy Alexander Lucas, the buttery but not so perishable Gellerts Butterbirne, and the spicy but sugary Kostliche von Charneux. The most popular of all, however, is the elegant Williams
Christbirne. Germans use pears in eel soup, teamed with green beans and bacon, and not least, in a variety of fruit breads. In Bavaria, where dried pears are known as Kletzen, women also bake a dark, heavy, dried pear bread called Kletzenbrot for the Christmas holidays.
Birnenschnaps: Pear eau-de-vie. A colorless, potent pear brandy much like Poire William that is both drunk at meal’s end and used in cooking. Some of the best comes from the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).
Blaubeeren (also Heidelbeeren): Blueberries. What grows in Germany is the Bilberry, a first cousin to the blueberry so familiar to Americans. It’s a wild berry, smaller and tarter than our commercially cultivated berries (these are now available in Germany, too). Blaubeeren thrive in evergreen forests and in peak season (July and August), whole families take to the woods and fill their baskets. These wild blueberries may be eaten out of hand, mixed with
quark and honey, tossed into a fresh fruit salad, or simmered into a Kompott or jam.
Blaukraut (also Rotkohl and Rotkraut): Red or purple cabbage. The difference in terminology is mostly regional.
In northern Germany, for example, it is Rotkohl or Rotkraut (red cabbage). And in the south, it is Blaukraut (blue cabbage).
German cooks, who cook red cabbage better than anyone in the world, know that adding acid intensifies the rich red color.
Omitting vinegar and/or red wine gives cooked red cabbage a bluish cast.
Blauschimmelkase: Blue cheese. There are two types of German blues, the sharp and crumbly Edelpilz Blue (available in slimmed-down varieties with 26 percent butterfat) and the blander but richer (70 percent butterfat) Creamy Blue, best described, perhaps, as a cross between a blue and a Brie (it has the same white rind and melt-on-the-tongue texture). Both are superb snacking cheeses, delicious, too, at meal’s end with fresh fruit.
Blumenkohl: Cauliflower. The connoisseurs cabbage, the most elegant family member, or as Mark Twain once joked, “It’s nothing but cabbage with a college education.’ As its German name suggests, cauliflower is a “cabbage flower.” Although a Wurttemberg paper included it among a list of new vegetables at the end of the sixteenth century, cauliflower wasn’t firmly established in Germany until the next century. It was an immediate hit, and its buttery richness made it a Lenten favorite. The peak season for cauliflower is between December
and April, but in most parts of Germany it is available year-round.
Blutig: Undercooked. If meat is too rare, it is blutig, or “bloody.”
Blutwurst: Blood sausage. A dark, almost black sausage made of fresh hog’s blood, diced pork and pork fat, salt, pepper, and assorted seasonings. It’s cooked and smoked, then sold as links (about two inches in diameter and six inches long). The classic way to serve Blutwurst is whole, after a brief warming in hot water, with fried potatoes and onions on the side. Sometimes, the Blutwurst is coarsely chopped and fried in lard or butter right along with onions and potatoes (in olden days, when money was tight, this made a frugal but filling meal). There are also blood sausages that fall into the cold-cut category, mostly
coarsely textured, bologna-size links studded with bits of pork fat.
Bockwurst is a short, chunky frankfurter type of sausage, delicately seasoned and always served hot.
Originally, Bockwurst was made only in spring — at Bockbier time, usually May when Germany’s strong, dark bock beer was available, hence its name. Today Bockwurst is available year-round.
Bohnen: Beans. A generic term that includes a large variety of fresh, canned, and dried beans. To get down to specifics, grime Bohnen are green beans; weisse Bohnen, white or navy beans; gelbe Bohnen, wax beans, Puffbohnen, limas, and Kajfeebohnen, coffee beans. In haute German cuisine, green beans are used more than the other varieties, particularly the young, exquisitely tender Prinzessbohnen (princess beans), carefully selected so they are all the same slim size. These fragile green beans are available from July to November and
must be cooked quickly because they’re extremely perishable.
Bohnenkraut: Summer savory. Not so long ago, Germans used savory almost exclusively
to flavor beans—green beans, broad beans, dried beans, every kind of bean — which explains why they call it Bohnenkraut (bean herb). Did they know that the Greeks and Homans used it as an antiflatulent thousands of years ago?
Bowle: Cold wine punch. A Bowle always has additional ingredients — berries or other fruit, for example, or woodruff ( Waldmeister). Germany’s Bowleti season traditionally begins in May (with the woodruff-infused May Bowl) and then lasts through the summer as long as the weather is warm and fresh fruits are available. Most Bouden are made in large glass punch bowls, then kept cool with little sealed containers of ice. This way the ice doesn’t
water down the punch.
Braten: Roast. This may be a roast or pot roast, it may be pork (the most popular), beef (almost as popular), or veal (the most expensive and elegant), but it may also be goose or duck—anything, in fact, that is roasted. To non-Germans, the most famous Braten is probably Sauerbraten, a pot roast of beef that’s sliced and smothered with spicy, brown, sweet-sour gravy. See Rhineland-Style Sauerbraten with Raisin Gravy.
Bratwurst: “Fryingu0022 sausage. Sometimes partially cooked, sometimes raw, this spicy pork sausage link is always browned before it’s served—either in a skillet or on a grill. It is a coarsely textured wurst, traditionally seasoned with caraway, marjoram, and nutmeg.
Braun: Brown. Germans love braune Butter (browned butter), also called Nussbutter (nut butter). This is nothing more than clarified butter that has been heated until it takes on a pale amber color and delicate nut flavor. Once the browned butter is put through a fine sieve, it’s used to brown meats, poured over mashed potatoes, or tossed with dry bread crumbs and strewn over a steamed head of cauliflower or sweet fruit dumplings.
Brei: Puree or porridge. A Brei, something like baby food, is usually fed to infants and invalids. In Bavaria, however, mashed potatoes are called Kartojfelbrei, not Kartoffepuree.
Brezel: Pretzel. Pretzels are more popular in the south of Germany than in the north and they’re quite unlike the crunchy ones familiar to most Americans. German Brezeln are soft (except those served during the wine festivals), usually about four inches across, and they’re eaten as often as we eat bread. Germans nibble pretzels with a glass of beer, for example, they eat them with Weisswurst—a must—and they eat them for lunch, dinner, even breakfast.
Hedy says there’s nothing better for breakfast than a fresh pretzel, split and spread with sweet butter and liverwurst.
Brokkoli: Broccoli. A relative newcomer, despite the fact that Italy has been growing broccoli for years. Although German chefs are adventurous about preparing broccoli, most home cooks prefer to boil it and butter it.
Brombeeren: Blackberries. They’re native to northern Europe as well as to the northeastern United States, thanks to the Ice Age’s massive glaciers. Brombeeren still grow wild in Germany, and in summer Germans go after them*, carefully dodging the briers. The sweetest, plumpest blackberries come from Baden-Wurttemberg, the Rhineland-Palatinate, and Rhinegau. As with most berries, the blackberry season is all too short — from July until September.
Although wild blackberries are sometimes eaten out of hand, they are more often boiled into jams and jellies.
Brot: Bread. When did man first learn to make bread? Probably before he left the cave. But primitive man’s bread was… well, primitive. A thick gruel of crushed grains either baked on hot stones or left to harden in the sun. Historians tell us that the Swiss Lake Dwellers (very near to present-day Germany) were harvesting wheat, barley, rye, millet, and oats by about 8000 B.C. They were also combining some of these crude flours in coarse, unleavened ash cakes and seasoning them with caraway seeds.
The Romans glorified bread, designed mills that could be powered by animals or water, and established commercial bakeries, which by the time of Christ were sometimes producing, 500,000 loaves a day.
As the Roman Empire spread northward into Germany and elsewhere, so did the technology of milling grains and baking bread. Throughout the Middle Ages, coarse, dark, nutritious breads sustained the peasantry while finer, paler loaves embellished the feasts of the privileged. To this day, Germans prefer dark, compact loaves — usually made with rye flour
— almost all of them store-bought. German bakeries are so superior that only recently
have hobby cooks even begun to bake bread—and then mostly for fun, not because they think home-baked breads outclass the mass-produced. The variety of breads produced in Germany today runs into the hundreds (see also specific popular breads — Pumpernickel, Roggenbrot, Schrotbrot, Weizenbrot, etc. — elsewhere herein).
Brotchen: Rolls. These yeast rolls are usually made of refined white flour and are also called Semmeln.
Brotzeit: A Bavarian term for a between-meal snack, often eaten about 11 o’clock in the morning or 4 o’clock in the afternoon. A Brotzeit, never hot food, usually consists of bread and cold cuts, or pretzels or hard rolls, often taken with beer.
Bruhe: Broth. A popular first course made with beef, veal, chicken, even vegetables. German broths are dressed up or down with a variety of herbs and carefully cut garnishes, even plumped into the maincourse category with slivered pancakes or tiny liver dumplings. Bruhe is also used to make a variety of sauces, gravies, and other soups.
Brust: Breast. Huhnerbrust is chicken breast, Entenbrust is breast of duck, Kalbsbrust is breast of veal.
Butler: Butter. Germans prefer unsalted (sweet) butter. Most German markets now also sell little tubs or plastic-wrapped links of Krauterbutter (herb butter), all ready to spread on bread or slice and plop on top of steaks, chops, fish, fowl, and vegetables. Most blends contain onion, garlic, parsley, chives, and salt.
German butters are divided into three categories: Markenbutter (brand-name butter,
strictly top quality), Molkereibutter (dairy butter, the next best), and Kochbutter (cooking butter, the lowest quality). Finally, there is something called Butterschmalz, an almost white, top-quality butter from which the water and milk solids have been extracted. It can take much higher heat than regular butter without burning or spitting, and is thus used for frying, panbroiling, and braising.
Butterkase: Butter cheese. This mild golden cheese contains no butter, but it tastes as if it does. Its extraordinary creaminess hints of butter, too, and yet its fat content is lower than you might think — about 45 percent. Butterkase is loaf-shaped, shot through with small holes, and melts like a dream. Eat it as is, cube it into salads, or melt it on toast.
Buttermilch: Buttermilk. Germans love to drink buttermilk but they also use it in baking, in soups, and to marinate (and tenderize) venison.
Cafe: A German Cafe can be cozy and old-fashioned, but it can also be unabashedly elegant with crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and marble tables. Cafes are friendly places to gather for coffee and cake, to relax, read the paper, and chat. As someone once said of Berlin’s celebrated Cafe Kranzler, it’s known for “the best coffee, the best pastries, and the worst gossip.”
Cervelat: (also Zervelat): Cervelat. A hard, dry link similar to but smaller and finer-grained than salami. Cervelats may be made of pork or a combination of beef and pork. Most are heavily smoked and highly spiced, but do not contain garlic. In nearly every German butcher shop, you see great lengths of cervelat swinging from the ceiling; kept in a cool place, they last for months.
Champignon: Mushroom. A mushroom much like our everyday cultivated variety that’s grown year-round on Plantagen (plantations). Whenever wild woodland mushrooms aren’t available (or within financial reach), German cooks rely on the Champignon. There are three different types: the white, the pink Egerling, and the beige to brown Steinpilzchampignon, a woodsier species that’s a little more expensive.
Chicoree: Belgian endive. Used primarily as a salad green. Whole endives are sometimes braised, often in beef or chicken broth, then sprinkled with crumbs and grated cheese and quickly gratineed in the oven.
Christstollen: Christmas stollen. Germany’s most famous Christmas loaf, a long, flat, oval yeast bread strewn with raisins and minced candied fruits and heavily dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Stollen recipes vary by region and the most famous one is the rum-and-raisin-rich Dresdner Stollen (from the city of Dresden).
Creme: Cream. Creme is always a finished recipe, a cream sauce or soup, a cream pudding or mousse — Zitronencreme, for example, which is a fluffy lemon cream. Whenever creme appears in a recipe title — Tomatencremesuppe—it is a richer version made with cream.
Datteln: Dates. Strictly a winter specialty, dates are usually eaten like candy or incorporated into fruit platters along with oranges, dried figs, and nuts. On St. Nikolaus Day (December 6), it’s traditional for Germany’s “Santa Clausu0022 to leave a plate of dates, dried figs, oranges, and nuts for children who have been especially good during the year. German cooks don’t often cook or bake with dates.
Deutsches Beefsteak: Hamburger. This is actually a “steaku0022 made out of a half-and-half mixture of ground beef and pork with a bit of melted butter, salt, and pepper kneaded in. The meat is patted into steak shapes, bigger and thicker than our hamburgers, not necessarily round, and never served on buns. The classic Deutsches Beefsteak is quickly browned in hot butter or margarine along with plenty of sliced onions. The pan drippings are made into a rich brown, gravy. The traditional accompaniments are pickled vegetables and mashed potatoes for getting up every last drop of gravy. German cooks counting their Deutschmarks often stretch the Deutsches Beefsteak mixture by working in some bread crumbs, or a hard roll that has been soaked in cold water, then squeezed as dry as possible.
Dicke Bohneu: Broad beans. A great favorite in the flat, fertile farmlands of central and northern Germany, where for years they nourished those who couldn’t afford meat. Westphalian women boil broad beans with bacon much as American southerners do green beans. They also simmer Dicke Bohnen into sustaining soups, or bubble them in casseroles with bits of pork — the very sorts of dishes that drove one Westphalian to verse. “Oh, holy broad bean time,u0022 he wrote, “Oh, stomach of mine, be twice as big.u0022 His couplet doesn’t rhyme in English, but the message is clear. Dicke Bohnen (also called Puff-, Acker-, or Pferdebohnen) are pods with very plump white or brown inner beans, file inner beans are
what every Westphalian loves — and the younger (whiter) the bean the better. In season from June to September, dicke Bohnen are perishable and must be cooked as soon after they’re gathered as possible.
Dill. The Romans carried dill to England and, it seems safe to assume, to Germany as well. It was an important medicinal in cloister gardens — a digestif, diuretic, and antispasmodic. Strong infusions of it were even said to induce sleep. In Germany today, dill is integral to the
making of pickles and cucumber salads. But it is not nearly as important a kitchen herb as it is in Scandinavia — except in the northern reaches of Germany that abut Denmark, where it is used in hot and cold fish sauces and to season certain herring salads.
Dorsch: Cod. This is Baltic cod, smaller than those that swim the North Atlantic. Its flesh, however, is equally white, lean, and delicate.
Dunkel: Dark. Usually used to describe beer (see next entry). The word would also be used to describe a dark roux — dunkle Einbrenne.
Durchgebralen: Well done. Most Germans like their meats well done, although if the young chefs now cooking in the country’s one-, two-, and three-star restaurants have their way, this will soon change. The roasts and chops they send forth are often very rare. Even fish comes to table after only a few minutes in the pan.
Eier: Eggs. Like us, Germans differentiate between the yolks and whites. Eigelb (egg yellow) is the more acceptable word for yolk, the one used in cookbooks and magazine recipes; Eidotter also means egg yolk, but is colloquial and confined to southern Germany. All Germans, however, say Eiweiss (egg white). As for the different types of cooked eggs, fried eggs are Spiegeleier (always sunnyside up in Germany), Eier mit Speck (bacon and eggs, an American breakfast innovation available mostly at large hotels), poached eggs (pochierte Eier; less likely to be served at breakfast than as the main course of a vegetarian supper, usually with a tomato sauce), gefullte Eier (stuffed or deviled eggs), and, the breakfast favorite, gekochte Eier (eggs boiled in the shell), either weiche Eier (soft-boiled) or hartgekochte Eier (hard-boiled). Hard-boiled eggs also show up on most cold-cut platters, in many salads, and as popular picnic fare. Salmonella hasn’t yet become a major problem in Germany as it has here, and Germans continue to use raw eggs in many of their recipes to impart singular richness and creaminess. At Christmas time, they still make honest-to-goodness Eierlikor (eggnog), which few Americans would dare do today.
Eingemacht: Canned food. In the old days, every housewife had a pantry full of Eingemachtes, fruits and vegetables she’d put up herself; farm women even preserved
meat. Few modern German women have the time or inclination to do so.
Eintopf: One-dish dinner. Very much like our boiled dinner, an Eintopf always contains potatoes, other vegetables, and meat.
Eis: Ice, also ice cream. Italians are credited with introducing ice cream to Germany. Most German restaurants and Konditoreien feature a special Eiskarte with dozens of ice creams, toppings, cordials, whipped creams, and fruits. You can choose from a variety of inventive or classic combinations, most of which arrive in gorgeous big glasses, fancily decorated, and sprigged sometimes with little paper umbrellas.
Eiskaffee: Not iced coffee but coffee poured over a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream in a tall glass. Topped with whipped cream, Eiskaffee can be taken as a dessert or midafternoon break. It is always sipped through a straw, although spoons are provided for scooping out the ice cream that doesn’t melt.
Elisenlebkuchen: The most famous version of these spicy cookies comes from Nuremberg, where they are baked by the millions, shipped all over Germany, and also exported abroad, often in decorative tins. Elisenlebkuchen are available yearround but the peak season is Christmas.
Ente: Duck. Duck is the finest poultry available in Germany. You can buy junge Ente (young duck only six months old and no more than four pounds), Ente (a sexually mature duck of four pounds or slightly more), and the new leaner, tastier Flugente (flying duck that has been allowed to forage for seeds and corn kernels). Germany’s choicest ducks come from Vierlande, a huge swatch of farmland southeast of Hamburg.
Here the feeding and finishing of ducks has been raised to high art. German ducks, unlike their American counterparts, are lean and tender, so they needn’t be pricked constantly as they roast to rid them of excess fat.
Entenbrust: Duck breast. Like their French colleagues, many modern young German chefs are cooking duck breasts quite rare, slicing them thin, and fanning them out on plates with colorful clusters of baby vegetables.
Erbsen: Peas. The general term for the whole family of peas. The finest grune Erbsen (green peas) are Kaiserschoten or Zuckererbsen (sugar peas), eaten pods and all like our sugar snaps. When the more common green peas are young, fresh, and tender, German cooks may just shell them and saute them in butter. Or they may cook them with diced carrots — a popular duo. As for dried peas, most German cooks boil them in husky soups. But Berliners like to puree them and serve them with boiled pig’s knuckles and sauerkraut.
Erbsensuppe: Pea soup. A porridgelike split pea soup, often studded with frankfurters (Erbsensuppe mil Wurstchen) or cubed double-smoked bacon (Erbsensuppe mil Speck), even potatoes (Erbsensuppe mit Kartoffeln). Whenever the soup contains meat, it is the main course of the meal.
Skiers and winter hikers look forward to nothing so much as a steaming bowl of dicke Erbsensuppe, an especially thick split pea soup. Sometimes—especially if the soup contains some meat — it’s called Erbseneintopf because it’s more stew than soup.
Erdapfel: Potato. Hedy says that her father always used the old-fashioned German word for potato, Erdapfel (earth apple), instead of the more widely accepted Kartoffel.
Erdbeeren: Strawberries. In the Black Forest town of Oberkirch, there’s a medieval square cleaved by a fast-flowing stream and rimmed with tall, half-timbered houses.
Shopkeepers here nestle the famous local strawberries in rosettes of tissue as carefully as if they were truffles. These strawberries (the intensely aromatic Senga sengana) are plump, sugary, and perfectly shaped. Unlike the pithy, mass-produced fruits of America, they burst with flavor. Strawberries have been cultivated in Germany for centuries (by the end of the sixteenth century there were two crops a year). And hothouse specimens today, available from March through autumn, are almost as rich and red as the sun-ripened field berries of June, July, August, and September. Still, Feinschmecker, like gourmets elsewhere, insist that nothing can match wild woodland strawberries, or fraises des bois. As Waverley Root so aptly noted in Food, “The chief gains of cultivation for strawberries in general have been the increase in yields, the lengthening of the season, and the production of bigger (not necessarily better) berries.”
Erdnusse: Literally “earth nuts.” We call them peanuts.
Esront: You might call this cheese the German Port-Salut. Made partly of skim milk, Esrom is the color of country cream and is strewn with tiny holes. Although mild when young, it gathers strength as it ages. It’s a perfect table cheese, best served with apples and pears, pumpernickel or Bduernbrot, robust red wines or good German beer.
Essen und Trinken: (Food and drink). The general term for eating and drinking. An old German proverb goes thus: “Eating and drinking keeps body and soul together.u0022
Essig: Vinegar. The vinegars most commonly used in Germany today are apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar (red, white, and sherry), herb vinegars, and garlic vinegars.
Chefs are fond of berry vinegars, too, especially the fruity red raspberry vinegar.
Esskastanien (also Maronen): Chestnuts. Chestnuts figure prominently in German cooking, although perhaps not so prominently as they do in French cuisine. In his encyclopedic history. Food, Waverley Root writes: “The chestnut passed into western Europe via Castan, a town of eastern Thessaly, hence its generic name Castanea” (from which the German Esskastanie clearly descends). Root further says that the Romans were fond of chestnuts and often tempered the bitterness of wild greens by boiling them with chestnuts. Today German cooks use them in stuffings, as an accompaniment to venison, or purged as a potato substitute.
They even braise kale with chestnuts — an inspired pairing.
Essloffel: Tablespoon. In cookbooks and food magazines this is often written simply Essl, but with the German double S (beta S) that looks somewhat like the dollar sign or a fancy script B. Sometimes tablespoon is even more abbreviated and written El.
Estragon: Tarragon. Germans have never been as passionate as the French about this summery herb with the delicate licorice taste. Even today it is more likely to be used by chefs than home cooks. Tarragon is essential to bearnaise, the French sauce that Germans like to ladle over stalks of ivory asparagus. Mostly, however, it’s stirred into ethereal fish sauces or used to infuse wine vinegars.
Fasan: Pheasant. These are mostly wild birds, still brought down by hunters. They must be hung — with the feathers — before they’re cooked.
Feigen: Figs. Until recently, the only figs available were dried. They would appear in winter on a fruit platter along with dates, oranges, and nuts. Today, fresh imported figs show up in season in fancy big-city markets, also on the menus of restaurants specializing in “new German cooking.u0022 Sometimes the combinations are predictable—fresh figs with tissues of
Westphalian ham. But at other times they’re more off-the-wall—figs with chicken, for example, or figs with chocolate mousse.
Feinschnecker: Gourmet: also the name of one of Germany’s major gastronomic magazines.
Feldsalat: Field salad. Germans prize maehe for its slightly nutty flavor and it is mostly eaten by itself or tossed into green salads. Usually, it is dressed with a cool creamy dressing or a hot bacon one, then strewn with crisp brown bacon bits. In addition, trendy young chefs like to garnish their plates with tiny rosettes of field salad.
Fenchel: Fennel. Also known in the United States by its Italian name, finocchio, this licorice – sweet bulb is sliced raw into German salads or braised as a vegetable.
Fett: Fat. An umbrella term that refers to all kinds of fat—butter, lard, margarine, even goose, duck, and chicken fat.
Feuerzangenbowle: Firetong bowl. The traditional New Year’s toast. But Hedy remembers her family serving Feuerzangenbowle both on Christmas and New Year’s Eves. “It’s a very convivial drink,u0022 she says. “But to prepare it, you need a sugar cone about six inches high and special sugar cone tongs.u0022 Here’s how the Feuerzangenbowle is made: Slowly heat freshly squeezed orange juice, whole cloves, and dry red wine (preferably a German red such as a
Spatburgunder or a Trollinger) in a big copper pot or chafing dish just until the mixture steams. Center on a large table and ask everybody to gather round. Next, pour dark rum over a large sugar cone, place it in its metal holder, and lay across the chafing dish. Turn off all the lights and blaze the rum-soaked cone with a match so it melts and drips down into the bowl. “You keep pouring rum over the sugar cone, using about a pint in all,’’ Hedy adds, “until all the sugar has dissolved. It’s quite a show.u0022
Fischbruhe: Fish broth or stock.
Fladle: Thin pancake strips. Fladen is the Swabian word for pancake, Pfannkuchen the broad German one. When either is applied to soup, it’s understood that the pancake is cut into strips. Frugal German cooks let nothing go to waste. Any cold leftover pancakes are slivered, then floated in clear broth (usually beef) and sprinkled with freshly snipped chives. In Swabia (Baden-Wurttemberg), it’s called Fladlesuppe, elsewhere, Pfannkuchensuppe.
Flambiert: Flambeed. Like the French, from whom they learned the art, Germans are fond of flaming dishes — dessert pancakes, for instance, and also meats and fruits. But they are just as likely to blaze their alcoholic drinks.
Fleisch: Meat. A broad term that refers to all kinds of meat — beef, veal, and pork but not ham, which is Schinken.
Fleischbruhe: Meat broth. Usually, this is made of beef or a combination of beef and veal.
Fleischklosschen: Meatballs. These are also called Klopse in the north of Germany. Fleischklosschen, made of ground beef and/or pork, are often cooked and served in clear broth. Germany’s lightest meatballs come from the Rhineland and none are more beloved than “Palzer Fleschknepp,u0022 made with ground pork, veal, and beef.
Flunder: Flounder. Germans are partial to the whole family of flatfish to which flounder belongs. They can be quickly filleted and cooked, they are supremely sweet and tender, and not least, they are uncommonly versatile.
Forelle: Trout. Much of the trout swimming in German rivers and streams is rainbow trout, introduced from America many years ago. It’s able to survive in high-tech times far better than Bachforelle.
Frankfurter. The wurst that started it all, the wurst that Germans — from the North Sea to the Bavarian Alps have made their preferred snack. They like it hot, usually with a slice of bread, a good German mustard, and beer. True Frankfurters must be made in the Frankfurt am Main region and adhere to strict quality controls laid down by court order in 1929.
They must be 100 percent pork (the best are made from the leg meat of well-fattened hogs). The meat must be devoid of fat, tendons, and chemical additives, then minced in special machines according to prescribed recipes. There’s more: The Frankfurter mix must be stuffed into natural sheep casings, smoked according to traditional methods, then sold in pairs attached at one end. Despite all the restrictions, genuine Frankfurters are mass-produced, with some factories turning out as many as fifty thousand pairs of them a day.
Frankfurter Kranz: Frankfurt wreath. A light and airy butter cake baked in a ring mold, split two to four times, then sandwiched together with a rich rum-flavored buttercream and apricot marmalade. The finished cake is frosted with more of the buttercream, then sprinkled with a mixture of finely chopped ground almonds (or other nuts) that have been browned in butter with a little sugar.
Frikadelle: Meat patty. The generic term for a meat patty that’s not only smaller than Deutsches Beefsteak (they average 2,5 to 3 inches across and an inch thick) but also more complex and highly seasoned.
Called Fleischpfanzel in southern Germany and Buletten in Berlin, these beef-pork or all-beef patties (sometimes made of leftovers) also contain a hard roll wrung out in cold water, chopped onion, egg, salt, pepper, and possibly a little nutmeg or other seasoning, too. Usually they’re fried and served hot—traditionally with mashed potatoes, and often a pan-drippings gravy as well. But Frikadellen are also eaten cold.
They’re perfect for picnics because they can be made ahead and are eminently portable. In Berlin, they’re popular bar food. Bierstuben there often set bowls of cold Buletten on the bar for customers to eat out of hand with beer (they’re not free, however — someone keeps tabs and you’re assessed for each one you eat).
Frisch: Fresh. Given a choice, Germans will choose fresh food over frozen or canned. They certainly use much more of it than we do.
Frischkase: Fresh cheese. An umbrella term that includes a variety of fresh cheeses: quark, ricotta, and cream cheese, to name three.
Fruchte (also Obst): Fruit. Obst, the all-inclusive term for fruit, includes the fresh, the preserved, and the dried. Fruchte is also generic but only a German knows the subtle difference.
Fruchtsaft (also Obstsafl): Fruit juice. This is a broad term that refers to all fruit juices. Specific juices have specific names — Apfelsaft (apple juice), for example, and Orangensaft (orange juice).
Fruhstuck : Breakfast. In Germany, breakfast is served between 6 and 10. And what a meal it is! There are platters of cold cuts and cheese, fresh fruit or juice, an assortment of breads and rolls (even soft pretzels in southern Germany), a variety of marmalades and honeys, and often softboiled eggs, cereal, and yogurt, along with plenty of freshly brewed coffee. The breakfast buffets laid on by Germany’s big-city hotels are guaranteed to convert the most
Fullung: Stuffing. A Fullung can be savory or sweet, and it’s used to stuff everything
from poultry to Rouladen (meat rolls) to dumplings to scooped-out fruits and vegetables.
Gans: Goose. During the 1980s, goose was out and turkey in because Germans were concerned with health. Today, goose is reappearing on restaurant menus, particularly
at Christmastime. Usually it is baby goose (Fruhmastgans, 6 to 8 pounds and no more than 5 months old) or young goose (junge Cans, 8 to 12 pounds and from 5 to 9 months). Older birds rarely make it to market.
Gansebraten: Roast goose. The traditional winter holiday bird throughout Germany. Goose is served first on St. Martin’s Day in November, and then again as the centerpiece of the midday Christmas feast. On Christmas Eve, it’s carp.
Ganseleber: Goose liver. Like the French, Germans are fond of Ganseleberpastete (goose liver pate). Theirs, however, is usually softer, spicier, and devoid of black truffles.
Garnelen (also Krevetten): Shrimp. These are what we call “brown shrimp,” sweet-meated little crustaceans averaging one and a half to two inches in length. They’re netted from Norway south to the Mediterranean. Germans like shrimp cocktail almost as much as we do, but are more likely to accompany it with a creamy fresh horseradish sauce than a ketchup-based one. They also grill shrimp, toss cold shrimp into salads, garnish fish platters with hot boiled or steamed shrimp, and even scatter them on pizza.
Garniert: Garnished. This may mean more than garnished, however, and include the artful arrangement of vegetables on the plate with the meat. In Germany’s better restaurants, chefs send no plate out that isn’t colorfully garnished. And some of them, like Eckhart Witzigmann of Munich’s Aubergine Restaurant (a Michelin threestar), have ennobled the art.
Gasthaus (also Gasthof and Gaststatte). Rustic inn specializing in the regional food. Usually they are where the locals hang out, eat and/or drink beer, and discuss the ways of the world. The only difference is that a Gasthaus and Gasthof may have rooms to rent. The Gaststdtte just serves meals.
Geback: Baked goods. Feingebdck are fine cakes and pastries, Weihnachtsgeback, Christmas cookies.
Gebacken: Baked. Anything baked — a savory as well as a sweet.
Gebraten: Roasted. More accurately, perhaps, “browned.” Gebratene Ente is indeed a roast duck, but gebraten can also refer to Schnitzel or, for that matter, to any steaks, chops, fish, even mushrooms or potatoes browned in a skillet on top of the stove.
Gedeck: Prix fixe. A meal—usually three courses—listed at a fixed rate. Cocktails, wine, and beer are extra.
Geflugel: Poultry. All farm-raised fowl—chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea hens—but not wild game birds, which are called Wildgeflugel.
Gehackt: Minced. Also finely chopped or diced, but the word applies primarily to meat and nuts.
Gekocht: Cooked. Kochen means “to cook” and gekocht means anything that is cooked, whether hot (as in gekochte Kartoffeln, or boiled potatoes) or cold (as in gekochter Schinken, or boiled ham).
Gemischt: Mixed. An adjective used almost exclusively to describe salads, which may be a mixture of greens, or greens plus tomatoes, radishes, carrots, or other vegetables.
Gemuse: Vegetables. The umbrella term that includes them all.
Gerauchert: Smoked. As in geraucherter Lachs (smoked salmon) or geraucherter Schinken (smoked ham).
Gerieben: Finely ground or grated.
Gerste: Barley. Germans are fond of vitamin-B-rich whole grains and use them in a variety of whole grain breads, soups, and porridges. A particular favorite in the north of Germany is a mush made with barley, prunes, and bacon.
Geschlossen: Closed. Whenever you see this posted on a door, it means the shop, restaurant, bakery, bank, or whatever is not open for business.
Getranke: Drinks. This one word embraces the whole spectrum of beverages, including coffees, teas, and soft drinks (Alkoholfreie Getranke), plus all beers, wines, brandies, liqueurs, schnapps, cocktails, and highballs made with spirits (Alkoholische Getranke).
Gewurze: Spices. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, curry, and ginger are all Gewurze. A Gewurzkuchen is a spice cake. And the popular German white wine, Gewurztraminer, is so named because of the spiciness of the grape from which it’s made.
Glas: Glass. Glas is the material itself, also the collective word for all drinking glasses. To get down to specifics, a wineglass is a Weinglas, a champagne glass, Sektglas, and a juice glass, Saftglas.
Glasiert: Glazed, iced, or frosted. Glasiert can mean glazed meats or candied or crystallized fruits. But it is used most often to describe cakes, cookies, or other baked goods.
Gluhwein: Mulled wine. The classic winter punch. Anytime its cold, Germans drink Mulled wine.
Granat: Prawn. Bigger, sweeter, and more tender than shrimp, prawns are scarcer, too. They’re a luxury found mostly on pricey restaurant menus.
Gratiniert (also uberbacken): Gratineed. Whenever a dish is gratiniert, it is topped with crumbs and/or shredded cheese and quickly browned in the oven.
Griess: Semolina. Known in the United States as couscous, this is a fine meal ground from the hard, golden heart of durum wheat. In Germany, there are two types of Griess, one made of wheat, and another of corn (what Italians call polenta). Germans prefer wheat semolina and can buy it in three different grinds: coarse, medium, and fine. Griess makes splendid
dumplings as every good German cook knows.
Griessnockerl: Semolina dumplings. In southern Germany, these dumplings are floated in clear, rich beef broth. They are served exactly the same way in the north of Germany, where they are called Griessklosschen.
Grim: Green. Germans are quite precise about food names. Green beans, for example, are grune Bohnen, and the green sauce for which Frankfurt is famous is Frankfurter Grune Sauce, a creamy sauce thickened with a garden of chopped greens (sorrel, watercress, chives, chervil, parsley — and more, too, if the cook has it). Its the traditional acompaniment
to boiled beef and pates.
Grunkohl: Kale. The original cabbage, according to most food historians. This dark green, nonheading variety may not be fancy, but it is a nutritional powerhouse (just one cup of cooked kale provides more than the USDA Recommended Dietary Allowance for both vitamins A and C, and plenty of iron, too). Kale thrives in the cool German climate and, as cooks and farmers there both know, it shouldn’t be gathered until after the first frost. As for cooking kale, Germans are the masters. There’s Kale with Bacon, or Christmas Kale, for
example, and Kale with Chestnuts and Glazed Potatoes, even Kale Soup, which our very American taste-testers proclaimed the best soup they’d ever eaten.
Gugelhupf: Bundt cake. This is not just any Bundt cake. Its a tall gold cake dotted with dried raisins and/or dried currants. Sometimes, how’ever, it may even be made with fresh red currants.
Gulasch: Stew. Although we tend to associate Gulasch with Hungary (where it’s spelled Gulyas), it is equally popular in Germany. What distinguishes it from the average stew is the quantity of paprika stirred into it—enough to redden both meat and gravy, also the fact that it contains no vegetables other than onions and, maybe, green peppers. Hungarian Gulyas may be made with different kinds of meat — beef, pork, even sausage. But in Germany, beef
and veal are preferred.
Gulaschsuppe: Goulash soup. Nothing more than a watered-down Gulasch. Don’t misinterpret “watered-down” to mean insipid. German goulash soups don’t lack for flavor. They are simply thinner than stews and usually contain fewer chunks of meat but more vegetables. With a cool, tall glass of beer, they make a filling but frugal lunch. After a night on the town, Germans often stop by a Bierkeller for a bowl of Gulaschsuppe.
Gut durchgebraten: Well done. If meat is gut durchgebraten, no trace of pink shows.
Good appetite! Bon appetit! Have a good meal!