Oktoberfest History and Traditional Foods
When Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Theresa invited the citizens of Munich to join in their 1810 wedding celebration, they had no way of knowing that festival would begin a tradition of food, beer and revelry that continues to celebrate German culture into the twenty-first century.
Spit-roasted chickens, ducks and geese, roasted pork, and steamed sausages are the main fair at traditional Oktoberfest celebrations. Served alongside these heavy entrees are equally satisfying dishes like potato soup, potato dumplings and potato salad. Rich, honey soaked pastries and fruit strudels are typical desserts, served to anyone wise enough to have saved room for something sweet. In fact, not only is 1.5 million gallons of beer consumed at the annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, but according to the website Vista Wide, nearly half a million chickens and 400,000 pork sausages are also enjoyed during the 16-day celebration.
Oktoberfest Recipes for the Home Cook
Authentic Oktoberfest recipes rely on the savory taste of meats cooked without a lot of fuss, creamy red potatoes prepared in a variety of ways, an occasional sharp bite of vinegar or stone-ground mustard , sugary-sweet desserts and of course, plenty of dark German beer. Each of the following recipes is easy to cut in half for a smaller family or they can be multiplied to feed dozens of guests at your Oktoberfest party.
German Sausage on a Bun
2 pounds (or 8 links) German sausages, such as bratwurst or bockwurst
4 (12 ounce) bottles of dark beer
8 sandwich rolls
Slice the onions thin and place it in a heavy stock pot or large skillet (such as a deep, cast-iron skillet). Add the sausages, beer, 6 to 8 pepper corns and a large pinch of mustard seed. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the sausages from the liquid and place them in a sandwich roll slathered generously with stone-ground mustard. Serve with pickled red cabbage and German-style potato salad.
Oktoberfest Side Dish Recipes
Quick Pickled Red Cabbage
1 head red cabbage
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon pre-packaged pickling spices
Peel and core the cabbage. Cut into thin slices. Place the other ingredients into a pan and bring to a boil. Stir well to dissolve sugar and salt. Add the sliced cabbage and bring the mixture back to a boil. Turn off the heat. Place a lid on the pain and allow the cabbage to pickle for 15 to 30 minutes. Strain and serve warm or place the refrigerate overnight and serve chilled.
Hot German Beer Potato Salad
(Serves 8 )
3 pounds red potatoes (small to medium sized)
1 bottle of dark German beer
1 red onion, halved and sliced thin
½ pound bacon, chopped
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup vegetable or canola oil
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
Wash and scrub the potatoes and place them in a pan with the beer. Add enough water to the pan to cover potatoes. Boil until fork tender, drain and cool. Cut them into slices approximately ¼ inch thick and place them in a serving bowl.
Chop and cook the bacon while potatoes are boiling. Scoop bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and cook the sliced red onion in the bacon fat until soft and translucent. Pour the vinegar into the cooked onions – use caution as fat may sputter. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the warm dressing over the potatoes and fold gently, making sure each slice gets coated. The potatoes will absorb the warm dressing. Top with parsley and serve immediately.
Oktoberfest Dessert Recipe
Strudels, and kuchens (German cakes) are typical and delicious Oktoberfest desserts, but there is one sweet treat that is “as ubiquitous as the Bier at Oktoberfest” according to the website The Oktoberfest. It is the heart-shaped gingerbread cookie called lebkuchenherzen or lebkuchen for short. Unless you are a lebkuchenherzen aficionado, your favorite gingerbread cookie recipe will suffice. For an authentic touch, decorate the cookies heavily with icing swirls at the edges and sweet sentiments written in the center.
German Gingerbread Cookies
(Yield depends on the size of your cutter – approximately 24)
½ cup dark molasses
½ cup butter
¼ cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh ginger and juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
Stir molasses, butter and brown sugar together over low heat until butter is melted. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove syrup from heat and cool.
In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Lightly whisk egg into completely cooled syrup mixture and add to flour. Mix all ingredients until the syrup is well incorporated. Turn out dough onto a well-floured board, one half at a time. Roll to approximately ¼ inch and cut into heart shapes. Bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly golden at the edges. Decorate the lebkuchenherzen with white icing after they have cooled.
Vista Wide: Oktoberfest www.vistawide.com
The Oktoberfest: Lebkuchenherzen (Gingerbread Hearts) www.theoktoberfest.com