Top Five Christmas Dinner Recipes From Germany
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTOS: UNSPLASH
In need of inspiration for this year’s Christmas dinner? Or travelling to Germany in December and need to know what to order? Just in time for the festive season, we have asked the Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria team what the tastiest Christmas recipes are. Here are their favourites.
First things first. Whether you will like the German Christmas dishes or not, there is one big advantage to all of them: although some need more preparation and skill than others, none of the food is that unusual. In fact, all of the meals will sound familiarand you have probably even eaten most of them on occasion.
In most German households, the same dish is traditionally served at Christmas. According to the Holiday Special of the Statista Global Consumer Survey, potato salad with sausages (36%) comes first among people surveyed in Germany, but ducks (27%), raclette (23%) and geese (20%) are also popular, closely followed by fish (16%) and fondue (14%).
Here are our favourites explained:
1. Potato salad with sausages
Sounds simple? Well, this is why it’s so loved on busy Christmas days. This is indeed one of the number one favourite meals for a German Christmas Eve. One-third of the population serves potato salad with sausages. This perfectly demonstrates the saying that less, in this case, really is more. Simple in preparation and execution and always fantastically delicious and perfectly suitable for larger groups, potato salad is just an all-around treat.
Complemented with wieners, bratwurst, schnitzel or meatballs, the recipes for potato salad are as diverse as their cooks. Effectively every German family is following some kind of traditional, years-old recipe, that has always worked and, of course, produces the best salad in the whole world. Some people use beetroot, some gherkins, most people onions, some apples and eggs. Some serve fresh bread or crispy toast, others do not. Naturally, the ingredients are always bought at the same store and have to be produced by the same companies.
All of this makes the potato salad game easy for newcomers. You should not look online or in a cookbook for the perfect recipe. Just ask a German friend about their way of doing it.
Another firm favourite of Germans around Christmas is the roast duck, another beloved duck that is served during the festive season. Think crispy skin, and tender, juicy meat. What’s not to love?
The custom of filling loved ones’ bellies with duck and goose at Christmas dates back to around 700 AD. Back then, people fasted during the entire Advent season and so no meat – apart from fish – was eaten. Lent ended on December 24th, which wealthier families celebrated with a pig roast on December 25th. The meat was refined with spices and served with apples. The poorer population served liver sausage or black pudding instead of a roast, which is why sausages with potato salad are still on the Christmas menu in some families to this day. Lent began and later ended with the roast goose – the traditional St. Martin’s goose – on November 11th, which is why the goose increasingly became a common alternative to pork.
Getting into the numbers, studies underline the main trend. Coming in third in the ranking of most popular food for Christmas Eve is Raclette. Originally from Switzerland, Raclette allows for unique individualisation and creativeness while minimising the overall preparation time.
The modern way to serve Raclette is an electric tabletop grill with small pans in which the special Raclette cheese and other ingredients are heated. The advantages are overt. Everyone can choose their own ingredients in accordance with their taste and also guests can easily participate in the preparation by bringing certain garnishes. Furthermore, Raclette is also a slow meal that, due to the cooking times, can stretch over the entire evening, allowing for conversations and a gregarious time.
4. Roasted goose
One of the all-time favourite dinners at Christmas tables around Germany has always been the delicious roasted goose or ‘Weihnachtsgans’ as Germans tend to call it. Statistics from 2015 show that Germans tend to eat 23,000 tonnes of goose annually, while most of these geese get purchased between October and December, in time for Christmas and New Year’s. The origins of this traditional meal are still unclear but various theories exist. One says that Queen Elizabeth I decided to eat goose when the British defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. She then apparently told the entire population to eat the same meal as her at Christmas. The Germans then copied the tradition and it stuck. Another theory says that Medieval Christians had goose before and after feasting between St. Martin’s Day on November 11 and Christmas. Whatever the explanation for this longstanding tradition, we can probably all agree that goose is the perfect item for a feast. It’s rich in fat and smells and tastes wonderful.
If you decide to opt for a roasted goose this year, make sure to put all of your efforts into preparing the meat. The side dishes can usually be kept quite simple as the meat is the star of the meal. It best is paired with red cabbage, Knödel, and a sauce made from the goose’s cooking fats. Top tip: Pair with a glass of fruity red wine! Enjoy.
5. Christmas carp
According to tradition, carp is prepared for Christmas dinner in many areas of Germany. Why it is carp of all things may be because it is a native fish that is relatively easy to obtain. In addition, many monasteries had their own carp breeding and could therefore easily support themselves.
The preparation of carp differs significantly in the different regions of Germany. While in the south the fish is traditionally cut into pieces, breaded and fried, in the north, the ‘blue carp’ variant is very common. To do this, the carp is gutted and then carefully cooked in boiling water with the scales still on. This gives it a bluish colour, which gave this method of preparation its name. Another option is to fill the gutted carp with potatoes and seasonal vegetables and then roast it in the oven.
Regardless of the preparation, simple side dishes such as boiled potatoes, carrots and celery, potato salad or cucumber salad are prepared with carp. In Thuringia, the traditional Thuringian dumplings complete the festive meal.
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