Last year we have spent more than 4 months in Germany and Austria. One of the highlights for us had been – you guessed right! Food!
We always enjoyed this one region of Europe much more than others, especially since Winfried and I first met there 27 years ago. We renewed our love for this region, and also for each other, and we loved to be able to celebrate our 25th anniversary there last year.
So Europe has a heart of stone – granite and limestone, among other things: the Alps! Here are countless native plant and animal species, there are plenty of mountain peaks and dozens of dialects in three language areas. In this variety, it is clear that the Alpine cuisine has a lot to offer. So we would like to present to you the classical alpine cuisine!
Culinary diversity of the mountains
Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, France, Germany, Liechtenstein and Monaco – eight countries with eight different cuisines combined together in the traditional alpine cuisine. The result of this summit is a harmonious combination of the delicacies of the respective regions: united for example, in South Tyrol (Alto Adige), the Austrian country cuisine with Mediterranean influences from Italy.
Alpine cuisine was formerly cooked with a lot of milk and little meat, we consumed primarily what forest, field, garden and farm animals provided. Even today do the inhabitants of the Alpine regions prefer to use the natural resources on their alpine pastures, on the mountain and in the valley: Therefore you’ll find juicy apples, grapes and cherries and chestnuts, mushrooms, honey and venison on the menu of the Alpine kitchens.
The Alpine cuisine has preserved much of its originality even in this age of ultramodern supermarkets: It is especially popular for lovers of organic food due to its natural ingredients. Meanwhile, many mountain farmers supply wholesalers in Germany with products of their organic farms.
The classic: dumplings
“If you do not eat dumplings, you will be hungry all day,” is a saying in Austria. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the Alpine cuisine without the round classic: There are sweet and savory variations, large and small dumplings, served as a side dish, dessert, soups or main course. The ingredients are variable, and the remains of the previous day are used for dumplings. You can roughly say for this classic from the Alpine Kitchen: stale bread, potatoes, flour or semolina are molded together with cheese, game, truffles, spinach or fruit into balls and poached in salt water or fried in fat.
Delicious cheese from happy cows
In many areas of the Alps, an agricultural development is not possible, which is why it is used as pasture. This opens the way for delicious cheese in the Alpine kitchen! The higher the pasture is, the richer are the herbs and the better the milk. And this is where the aromatic Alpine cheese comes from . In contrast to the mountain cheese which is produced all year round, the alpine cheese is produced only in the summer months before the “Almabtrieb” (at the end of the summer when the cattle is driven down into the valleys).
The Alpine cuisine offers classic cheese such as the holey Emmental, the Tilsit with the red bark and the hard cheese Gruyere and many more. We can hardly imagine a “gemütliche” evening in the Alps without the Swiss national dishes raclette and fondue, both having a long history: Formerly the shepherds took the nutritious and long-lasting cheese as provisions to the pasture and roasted it in the evening by the fire.
The peak of the sweet delights: Schmarrn, Germknödel & Co.
The Alpine cuisine is not only known for its hearty meals: The “Kaiserschmarrn” that was scorned for a long time as a poor man’s food is now an integral part of the sweet mountain cuisine and together with the Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel not only a treat as dessert.
No wonder that those treats with yeast dough, “Germteig” called in Austria, are so popular in the ski huts: sweet “Germknödel”, “Dampfnudeln” and savory stuffed “Palatschinken” are easy to prepare and filling you up fast enough before going back on the ski track.
On the subject of sweet treats, the Swiss Alpine milk chocolate must not be forgotten, and by the way, it is only allowed to bear that name if the milk is proven to originate from the Alpine or Alpine foothills.
Specialty: bacon from South Tyrol
Lightly smoked and air dried: The original South Tyrolean bacon is another highlight of the Alpine cuisine. Over the centuries the Alpine farmers refined their smoking methods to preserve the meat and to be able to consume it even in winter.
It is evident that in the meat dishes of the Alpine cuisine culinary specialties of different countries meet: So are Hungarian goulash and classic Wiener Schnitzel next to Brathendeln and Bavarian white sausage in high demand. Tender boiled beef, hearty pork knuckles and fresh trout from the mountain streams of the Alps complete the kitchen menu.
The “Brotzeit” in the Alpine Kitchen
Those who work hard, also deserve a break: The “Brotzeit” was originally used as a refreshment during the field work, but has since found its way into the restaurants. Traditionally served on a wooden board it usually consists of pithy bread combined with aromatic cheeses such as Limburger, different types of sausage and camembert cream “Obazda” and Radi, a spicy radish. It is rinsed down of course with a good beer. In the Austrian Alpine cuisine this snack called “Brettljause”, whereas the meal between meals in South Tyrol is known as an “Marende”.
Basic recipe for “Obazda”
Mash 200 grams of soft Camembert with a fork, mix with 2 tablespoons of butter and a chopped onion. Stir in paprika, cumin, salt, pepper and a little sweet cream and 4 tablespoons “Weissbier” (wheat beer). Let it rest for about an hour and before serving, garnish with chives and onion rings. Tastes especially good on dark rye bread and pretzels!
Part of this article was taken from the website www.livingathome.de and freely translated to English. The translation was done solely by me and any error is exclusively mine.