Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Grill Fest

 A Grill Fest at the Gasthaus Kleiner Meierhof


On a Saturday evening in early March we were off to Ettenheimweiler for a Grill Fest at the Gasthaus Kleiner Meierhof.  It was raining and cold, but Erich had set up a huge tent outside and another smaller and open-sided one for grilling.  As I had been suffering from a chest cold for nearly four weeks, we opted to eat inside the Gasthaus.  A few others did as well.  We remained outside for a while, though, to watch Erich at the grill and also to see what was going on in the tent.

Below, getting the grilling started

As Erich was doing the cooking, Sylvia had a little more time to do other things.  She made sure everyone had drinks inside and that tables were ready for any new arrivals.  Patrick and Stephanie, their son and daughter, served outside and inside--wherever needed.  Both were kept on the go all evening.  Friends of theirs helped out at the bar.

Below, a view of the outside of the large tent 

 To start our evening, we had a choice of drinks:  I chose the Cremiger Eierpunsch (an egg punch with a punch!) and Hans, the Apfel Punsch (apple punch with Calvados).  Both were very good, but I liked mine best.                                                                                              
     My Egg Punch

It was then time to choose what we wished to eat.  We had 
looked at the menu and at the meats cooking on the grill outside.  Sylvia told us that she and Erich had marinated all the meat overnight.  On offer:  Grillwurst (Wieners), Currywurst (Bratwurst or other type of sausage cut up and covered with a curry/ketchup sauce), Grillsteak (pork), Grillspiess (meat on a spit or as a kabob), and Grillteller.  

Hans and I ordered a Grill Teller (grill plate) each, which included one Wiener, one Grill Speck (pork with fat, crisp and tasty) and one pork steak with a spicy sauce.  On the side was fresh farm-type bread.  It was all tender and delicious.  

Of course, with the meal, I had my usual Weissherbst (rose wine) and Hans, his usual Pils.

The Stammtisch (regular customers' table) was busy, which we were happy to note as that is an important part of Gasthaus life.  It is one of the mainstays of any Gasthaus and can determine how well the Gasthaus does financially.  Those who frequent that table are favoured customers.  Unfortunately, the Stammtisch is becoming rarer as the young men seldom go these days.  Without new Kunden (regular customers), these tables will eventually disappear as the older men become too old or too frail to go any longer.

Above, the simple meal Hans and I enjoyed that evening.

Below, the Stammtisch 

The Stammtische are really meant for the men, as in earlier times--and not that much earlier--only men sat there.  In those days women generally did not work outside the home.  Men worked long hours and would stop for a beer before heading home for Abendbrot (evening meal).  It was a time for them to relax after a hard day, to discuss politics, sports, and the news of the day.  Women sometimes go with their husbands or a male friend, but it isn't common even now.  We have on occasion sat at a couple of Stammtische, including at the Kleiner Meierhof, but I don't feel comfortable doing so, even though the men have always been polite and welcoming.  Hans sometimes joins one when he is out on his own.  If one is not a regular at the Stammtisch, then you must be invited to sit there.

Patrick waiting for his father, Erich, to finish up some grilled meat to be served inside the tent.

Later in the evening, the grilling was well underway, as the picture shows.

Tonight we enjoyed the atmosphere, our meal and the warmth inside on a cold night.  We talked a little with guests at the next table and with Sylvia when she wasn't busy.  

When leaving, we stopped at the tent outside to say goodbye to Erich and looked inside the main tent; the tables were all taken, with perhaps just a few empty seats available.  No one seemed to mind the colder temperature.  They did, however, have two heating units inside so that helped to take the chill off it--as did the wine and beer and good cheer.

Thank you and a handshake before leaving

Below, Stephanie at the far left end of the tent, checking to see if anyone needs anything. 

This fest and another one we went to the following day, as well as the Schlachtplatte on the Friday of that same weekend, were held during Lent, a usually quiet period.  We have found, though, that on most weekends during this time frame there are various things taking place.  It is impossible to say, "There's nothing to do!"

The two pictures below I took today in Munchweier, the small town near us.  
Daffodils and forsythia in bloom

As I write, the weather has warmed up.  Before long, everything will be in full bloom.  Spring has been later than usual this year, although the daffodils and forsythia in their lovely spring yellow are in bloom, with many other flowers about ready to burst forth.  In another month, asparagus and strawberries will be in season.  Farmers are in their fields and vintners are in their vineyards making up for lost time.  Spring has arrived.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Schlachtplatte: Sausages and Sauerkraut

We had booked a table for five at the Rebstock in Munchweier, just a kilometer from home.  The Rebstock Gasthaus is known for its Schlachtplatte evening buffets.  They also sometimes offer Schlachtplatte at noon hour--with table service instead.  Tonight they would serve us at the buffet table.  We waited with the rest of the guests--a full house--for the evening to get underway.

 The church just around the corner with the Rebstock in the fore-front

 The actual name of the Gasthaus is Metzgereigasthof Rebstock.  Attached to the Gasthof is a Metzgerei (butcher shop).  That can be attractive to potential customers or guests, as the meat dish one might want to order for dinner inside the Gasthaus will be fresh and more of a variety will often be available.  If you are buying meat at the butcher shop to take home, the Gasthaus is right there to stop in for a quick beer or glass of wine or a few minutes' discussion with the regulars at the Stammtisch (locals' reserved table).

 The view below is from the outside of the Metzgerei, showing their window decoration and the building across the street mirrored in the glass.

The picture at right and left, below:  views of the inside of the butcher shop.

The Gasthof Rebstock has been in the Kollofrath family for 150 years.  The present family owners are brothers, having taken it over from their parents some years ago.  (Their parents are no longer alive, but their mother was still cooking in the Gasthaus kitchen at age 80, about three years ago.)  Both brothers are cooks as well as Metzgers (butchers).  One of them runs the kitchen and does most of the Gasthaus cooking, and the other runs the Metzgerei (butcher shop).  For their well-known buffets and party service, they work together.  (Here in Germany Metzgers learn cooking as well as butchering.)

A closer view

The present Gasthof was re-built in 2004 on the same site as the original building, which was partly torn down to make way for its replacement.  It is a hotel as well, with all the conveniences.  As it is only about eight kilometers from the Autobahn, many of its guests are holiday travelers, business people and salesmen traveling north or south through the country.  (That Autobahn, the A5, is one of the busiest in all of Germany.  It starts on Germany's southern border with Switzerland.)
Below:  a close-up of the various sausages; on the right, the cheese

The picture below left is of the brother that runs the kitchen and does most of the Gasthaus cooking along with assistants, including a young family member.
Schlachten means to butcher.  In the old days, Schlachtplatte was served only during the cold months due to lack of refrigeration.  Traditionally it is still
served during that period of November through March.  In Baden-Wuerttemberg, Schlachtplatte is a specialty and consists of a plate of Sauerkraut and sausages.  Various Gasthauses advertise it with brochures found inside the Gasthaus, on blackboards placed outside the door, on their web site, and often in the Saturday papers.  We saw it in a brochure at the Rebstock when we stopped in one afternoon.

Below, the brother who runs the Metzgerei (butcher shop) and the young teen who was helping out, a family member.

While awaiting the start of the evening, the five of us enjoyed our drinks (wine and beer) and watched the room filling up.  At 7 p.m., two huge pots of hot Metzelsuppe were ready for everyone to serve themselves.  The soup is made from the broth in which the sausages are cooked. The sausages that have burst become part of the contents of the soup.  I was careful not to take too much because I knew what was awaiting us at the buffet table.  I had also never tasted this type of soup before and wasn't sure I would like it.  I was pleasantly surprised as it was delicious!

The serving bowl of Metzelsuppe

Monika serving herself some soup
The Schlachtplatte

Sauerkraut is always part of a Schlachtplatte and an important part.  The Rebstock's was very good:  not too sour and not too mild.  It was just right.  White wine (usually a Riesling) is nearly always added to it while it is cooking; in fact, I don't remember ever having Sauerkraut that didn't have wine in it.  The buffet this particular evening consisted of ten or more various meats, sausages and accompaniments and the servers behind the table wanted us to try it all!  One of them was a young boy and another, a young teen.  Those children, of course, were members of the family, and it is not unusual for kids to help out in a Gasthaus in Germany, including sometimes serving the beer and wine.
Guests at the buffet table
(the two brothers--in black--serving)

Another view of the buffet below left
Along with the Sauerkraut were Leberwurst (liverwurst) and Blutwurst (blood sausage).  I like the first, don't eat the second.  Hans and almost everyone else enjoy both.  Those two types of sausage will nearly always be served, and Kesselfleisch (pork with a fair amount of fat in it) will be as well.

There is more to Schlachtplatte than Sauerkraut and sausages.  Many Gasthauses offer other meat dishes as well--as does the Rebstock.  Some will serve only the traditional Schlachtplatte of Blutwurst, Leberwurst and Kesselfleisch accompanied by Sauerkraut and potatoes.  This night, along with the traditional fare, were the following:  Bratwurst (another type of fried sausage); Haxen (pork hock); Schaeufele (slightly smoked pork shoulder), ribs (not barbecued!); Fleischkaese (looks like bologna, but is thicker and much better); Leberknoedel (liver dumplings); pureed potatoes and sauteed (fried) Sauerkraut along with the regular Sauerkraut.  The food was superb!  I didn't take half of what was offered and neither did Hans; even then, we were both too full to go up for seconds.  Others had no such problem.  The food was hot and plentiful the entire evening.

German Schlachtplatte vs Alsatian choucroute garni
Schlachtplatte and choucroute garni are specialties in their own regions and both are excellent.  I prefer the German Schlachtplatte to the renowned specialty of the Alsace in France.  My main reason is that in Germany they generally serve mashed or pureed potatoes with it instead of boiled potatoes as they do in Strasbourg or elsewhere in Alsace.  (I like the pureed potatoes with the juice from the Sauerkraut over them!)  Also, in our region you are often served more than just sausages, and I like that as well.  Others, of course, might prefer the Alsatian rendition.  You do get a wonderful assortment of sausages in the Alsace, including some not usually served in Germany.  Hans loves both the German and Alsatian equally he says.  Should any of you ever go to the Alsace in eastern France, choucroute garni is a traditional meal there, a specialty and a must to try.  In Strasbourg and elsewhere in Alsace it is served throughout the year.  The Alsatians usually use Riesling wine in their Sauerkraut, but they sometimes use Sylvaner instead.

Often on the Alsatian menus you will see Choucroute Garni Royale offered.  The sausages, potatoes and Sauerkraut are placed on the platter and then a small bottle of Champagne is poured over it all.  The "Royale" will be more expensive than the usual choucroute garni but worth the extra cost.

Hans' and my plates with our choices (he ate my blood sausage!)  Mine at bottom.

Hans says that many Canadians do not like Sauerkraut as they use it directly from the can without adding anything to it.  Try Hans' recipe, which follows.

Hans' Sauerkraut

Here is how Hans cooks his Sauerkraut for Schlachtplatte at home: (For six people)

*1 to 2 jars or cans of Sauerkraut (about one and a half kilo).  In Canada, he uses Hengstenberg or Kuehne.
1 bottle of dry Riesling; approx. 4 bay leaves; 10 juniper berries; l large onion, very finely chopped; approx. 2 to 3 Knorr chicken cubes; approx. 1 tablespoon sugar; 8 to 10 peppercorns; 2 tablespoons of goose fat if you can buy it--a must for Hans here.  (We save the goose fat from our Christmas goose and freeze it to use in cooking later.  We can also buy it at grocery stores in Germany.  Hans has seen it in large supermarkets in Nova Scotia and in German delicatessen stores.)

*Taste the Sauerkraut in the can first and if it is too sour, put half the can of kraut into a large sieve and for 10 to 20 seconds run cold water over it; let it drip out of the sieve.  Mix it with the remaining Sauerkraut and taste it again.  If still too sour for your taste, rinse it quickly again.  Today, most Sauerkraut in the jars or cans is fine as is and won't need rinsing.  

To cook:  Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and cook on top of the stove for about an hour.

Note:  You will have noticed in all of my articles that I capitalize many German words, even when some of those words are common in English (such as Sauerkraut).  In German, all nouns are capitalized, so I generally do follow that when using a German word.