Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wild Boar at the Gasthaus Kleiner Meierhof

Our evening began with a glass of Sekt on the house.  We had arrived at the Kleiner Meierhof in Ettenheimweiler at around 6:30 p.m., for dinner at 7 o'clock, greeted personally as always by Sylvia and Erich.  We settled in at our table in a corner, with a great view of the room.  We sipped on our "Champagne" while watching the other guests arrive, also being greeted by the Wirt (owner/host).  All the tables had been reserved and all of us were waiting with anticipation for the Wildschwein, which was the special offering that night.
Below, a wild boar mounted on a wall, though not at the Gasthaus Kleiner Meierhof.

Wildschweine or wild boar are ferocious, but fortunately they aren't commonly seen as they forage for their food in the forest at night. They are abundant in the forest areas of Germany.  Local Gasthauses advertise it on various weekends in late fall and winter, with reservations generally necessary.  We hear the hunters near us on many weekends throughout the hunting season.  For adult males and females the season is from mid June until the end of January; for young boar, it is all year.  Wildschweine are prevalent everywhere, thus the reason for a long season.

Below, Erich and Sylvia shown behind the bar at the Gasthaus.

The Gasthaus Kleiner Meierhof has become known for special game evenings, including Reh (venison) and Wildschwein (boar), with Sylvia and Erich hosting several from November through March.  The guests don't come just from Ettenheimweiler, but from many towns in the area as well.  Erich is a hunter himself, though with a full-time day job and running the Gasthaus at night, he hasn't been hunting recently.  Every evening he is pouring beer and wine, serving meals, and talking to their guests.  Sylvia does the cooking but also socializes when she is free.

The business was started by Sylvia's grandfather and grandmother in 1951 by selling beer through one of the windows.  So many customers began sitting in the kitchen and everywhere else drinking the beer that her grandfather declared, "We should open a Gasthaus!" which is what they did on 24 August 1952.  They offered only a few cold dishes along with the beer.  In 1961, Sylvia's mother and father carried it on, doing a major renovation at that time.

Underneath:  on top, are Sylvia's grandparents;  below them, are her parents.

Sylvia and Erich took it over from her parents in 1993, opening it as a regular Gasthaus, with warm and cold meals and all customary beverages.  Sylvia had studied and learned cooking, administration and hotel management for five years at the Gasthaus-Restaurant Loewen on the Schoenberg, known as the oldest Gasthaus in Germany--dating back to 1250--earning a diploma as a Gesellin (a journeymanship).

So here we all were, enjoying that glass of Sekt as the evening got underway.  Then the dinner started:  salads were served to everyone and very quickly.  No one waited more than a few minutes; in other words, one isn't eating before everyone at that table is served, not always the case in every Gasthaus.

Sylvia's salad, we think, is the best!  On this occasion, it was Feldsalat, the specialty of the winter months.  Hans has asked and asked but, smilingly, she will not give out her recipe for the dressing.  He has figured out some of it:  mild vinegar (she did say she used Melfor), oil, a little sugar, a little mustard, Maggi--and a hidden ingredient.  Even their son, Patrick, who was helping to serve that night along with Erich, his father, said he knew the recipe but wouldn't dare give it!  (Perhaps he, some day, will be the cook!)  All we can say is that it is so good that you want to lift the dish for any remaining dressing!

Next, the main meal itself:  First though, heavy hot plates with candles beneath arrived to keep the dishes warm.  Hans was on a diet (unfortunately for him), so couldn't eat everything, so we asked for less food than usual.  Still, a lot was served, certainly more than enough.  On the hot plate came a platter of sliced wild boar, several pieces each, with half a pear filled with cranberry sauce for each of us.  Then, a platter with Spaetzle (a type of pasta)-- a Baden specialty--along with Kloesse (dumplings).  It is a custom for many in Germany to place a crouton in the centre of each dumpling.  Syliva does that as does Hans when he makes them.  To top it off, a gravy boat filled  with a delicious rich sauce.  For game, sauce is of the utmost importance; I think more so than even with ordinary meat dishes.  Sylvia's is excellent. Wild boar, by the way, is very lean with little fat, thus doesn't taste as gamey as many other animals from the wild.   A lot, too, depends on the way it is marinated and cooked;  also on how quickly the animal is cleaned and prepared after the hunt.
Erich and Patrick were always alert and watchful, so if a gravy boat was empty, it was soon re-filled, the same with the Spaetzle and even boar if wanted.  Hans and I could not eat more.  Everything was delicious and full of flavour.

Erich having a chat with us.

We have been going to Sylvia and Erich's Gasthaus for about 14 years, so we know both them and their two children well.  Both Patrick and Stephanie help out on occasion for special evenings.  Tonight, Stephanie was not there, but Patrick was--as was his girlfriend, who was helping out at the bar, pouring the beer and wine throughout the evening.

Wild Boar:  The boar meat (usually female boar) is marinated a couple of days in red wine vinegar, Wacholderbeeren (juniper berries, found in the supermarkets or health food stores in North America), bay leaves, peppercorns, a few cloves, onion, and various spices, before being cooked in the oven in a large casserole dish or pan.  Red wine is added to the meat before cooking for an hour or so.  Of course, there are various recipes and methods, but Hans has cooked ours much as above.

To serve:  Some serve, along with the boar, hot red cabbage.  We do the same ourselves.  Red cabbage is excellent with goose, rabbit, hare, deer or a rich beef as well.  Others serve Pfefferlingen (Chanterelles--or wild mushrooms) and, perhaps, apple sauce; some, pureed potatoes and Sauerkraut.  Others, like Sylvia, serve dumplings and pears filled with cranberry sauce (also delicious). 

The table just in front of ours with Erich in the distance, talking to some of the guests.
By 9:30 p.m. or so, everyone was finishing up their dinner and the noise level was starting to rise.  One chap at the table in front of us was full of good cheer and, throughout the evening, we and he and others at the table were "prosting" one another with our wine and beer.  Germans certainly know how to have a good time and anyone who says they have no sense of fun, doesn't know a German!  You'll never have a better time than at a German party or Fest and, when it is a specialty being served, it is hard to beat.


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