Of cabbages and pumpkins: what Germans eat in the autumn
As soon as the days grow shorter and colder, usually from October, the food cooked in German kitchens becomes more substantial. Traditional German dishes are meat-based, fatty and often calorific.
In the autumn, Germans enjoy eating in the comfort of their own homes, enjoying meat dishes, rich stews and tasty oven bakes. Some also head for the woods and collect mushrooms like chanterelles and ceps, or chestnuts, which also provide the basis for a delicious meal.
Germany is equally well known for its cabbage specialities. White cabbage is used to make sauerkraut, red cabbage is a traditional accompaniment to goose and roasts, and autumn vegetables like savoy cabbage and curly kale are popular side dishes.
Autumn in southern and western Germany: from Bubespitzle to Leberbrot
Anyone travelling through Germany will soon notice there are many regional differences when it comes to food. Franconian cuisine in northern Bavaria is mainly known for its gingerbread and Nuremberg sausages (Lebkuchen and Nürnberger Bratwürste), which are a popular choice in cold weather. In Germany’s south-west, a thin type of pizza known as Flammkuchen and Schupfnudeln (thick noodles made of flour and egg, similar to Italian gnocchi) are often served in the autumn. These noodles also go by the name of Bubespitzle or Wargenudle. Leberbrot is admittedly not to everyone’s liking but is a speciality in the Münsterland area of western Germany. This type of liver sausage used to be made at the traditional Schlachtfest in autumn, when freshly butchered pork was turned into a variety of dishes.
For those with less robust tastes, there is always the delicious Zwiebelkuchen, a savoury onion ‘cake’ or quiche, which is accompanied by Federweisser - young, not yet fully fermented wine.
Harvest festival in Germany
Celebrations always involve food, and there are plenty of occasions for festive fare in the autumn, a time of year with many festivals that go back to ancient times. Harvest festival in Germany falls on the first Sunday in October. Churches are adorned with agricultural produce and different kinds of grain. After church, people often lunch at village inns, where they choose their meal from the standard menu, as there are no special dishes typical of harvest festival.
In early November, if not before, pumpkins are on prominent display. Halloween, originally an old Celtic tradition, is fast gaining ground in Germany. Whereas 1 November used to be important as the Catholic festival of All Saints’ Day, the main focus is now on Halloween on 31 October. Faces carved out of pumpkins decorate the streets, and tasty pumpkin or squash recipes have become firm favourites in most families.
Wining and dining for the Feast of St. Martin: St. Martin’s goose and Martinsminne
Children in particular look forward to 11 November, St. Martin’s Day, which commemorates the saint who shared his cloak with a beggar. Children proceed through the streets with colourful lanterns, while adults look forward to the traditional stuffed roast goose, and wash it down with Martinsminne (new wine).
Although traditional food is firmly rooted in German culture, many dishes are now only eaten on special occasions. International specialties have long gained the upper hand, and younger people are paying more attention to healthier eating. But the huge range on offer goes to show that food holds a firm place in many German traditions.