Christmas is approaching quickly as always. Preparations are made, invitations are sent, presents are bought or built. But what about dinner? Well, if you have any interest in the German way of feasting on Christmas Eve, then you have found the right article. In the following pages we explore some of Germany’s favourite dishes for the 24 December.
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 familiar to you and you have probably even eaten most of them on occasion.
The main trend
A general trend is having an influence on the cooking behaviour of Germans around Christmas time. A consciousness for healthy food has been having a great impact on meals around the country and of course this trend does not stop in December. That is why some of the classic meals, like a stuffed goose, have seen a decline in popularity. Younger people especially also do not want to experience a whole animal on the dinner table.
This trend dates back to the historic perception of the time before Christmas. It always was a time of silence and sacrifice with regard to extravagant food and gluttony, making the meals more straightforward or even fasting meals.
Raclette from Switzerland
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 table-top 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 to 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 gregarious time.
Raclette. Photo: © Flickr.com, Benjamin Jopen
While the trend goes away from poultry, the reality shows that it is only a recent development. Still, many Germans decide on goose or duck for Christmas Eve. The classic method of serving the dish is of course as a roasted goose and preparing such a dish is quite an undertaking.
People often spend a long time thinking about how to do it and some of the actual preparation time will be spent on problem solving. Especially for first timers, a roasted goose is a challenge. Important complementary decisions also include the stuffing. Apples, dried fruit or chestnuts are perfect for it, as they keep the goose from drying out.
As mentioned before, time management and careful planning is the most important aspect. There are many different sources of information with regard to the stuffing, the actual cooking and potential side dishes and one should thoroughly get to know these beforehand.
Potato salad with sausages
Indeed, this is the number one favourite meal for a German Christmas Eve. One third of the population serve 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 his or her way of doing it. Surely your friend will have an answer for you, that will satisfy your appetite and highlight your Christmas Eve the German way.
TEXT: THOMAS SCHROERS