‘Tis the season to be jolly – and indulgent! After all, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without visiting a gorgeous seasonal market at least once. Luckily, almost all European towns host their own little markets these days but if you seek to get the most authentic experience possible, you should head to Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Here, visitors can browse festively lit stalls and indulge in some awesome culinary treats that you can only find around Christmas. We explored the DACH region’s markets to find out more.
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO © PIXABAY
Main image © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/Ivo Scholz
Left to right: Photo: © Österreich Werbung, Lisa Eiersebner | Photo: © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/Andre Meier | Photo: © Österreich Werbung, Lisa Eiersebner
You probably associate Christmas with some sort of smell or taste. Depending where you’re from, this could include the smell of goose or duck that is sizzling away in the oven, a hot cup of mulled wine or the scent of distinctive spices such as cinnamon. It is well-known that the Christmas season is the one for indulging and treating yourself to culinary delights which you wouldn’t usually eat throughout other months of the year. According to research by Wren Kitchens, on average, Brits will eat almost 6,000 calories over the course of Christmas Day, which is three times the recommended daily intake of calories for adults. Pretty impressive, right?
But don’t think about your figure just yet – after all, you’ve got the entirety of January to get back into the gym. For now, be sure to indulge in some awesome Christmas market treats that will make you feel merry inside and out! And to help you manage the abundance of food choices that Christmas markets have to offer, we introduce the top-ten treats below.
You have obviously heard of mulled wine before but have you heard of Lumumba? It’s a great alternative to mulled wine and is served at many Christmas markets throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In German, it is also sometimes called ‘Tote Tante’, which translates to ‘dead aunt’. We’re not entirely sure where this name originates from, but it might come from its strong ingredients: a Lumumba usually consists of cocoa, cream and a hot shot of rum, which can be replaced by amaretto or brandy, too.
Basel’s Christmas market. Photo © Switzerland Tourism, swiss-image.ch/Jan Geerk
2) Potato pancakes
If you love hashbrowns, you will surely love a good ‘Reibekuchen’ or ‘Kartoffelpuffer’ – a term for a potato pancake that is commonly sold at Christmas markets throughout the DACH region. Pair with a cold glass of lager and some apple sauce, and you’re in for a heart-warming treat. These potato pancakes are a beloved speciality across all regions of Germany and have been around for centuries.
3) Roasted almonds
Not exclusively a German Christmas food, roasted almonds are an integral part of the Christmas market experience. While the gorgeous smell of these candied nuts will tempt you from miles away, the taste will leave you longing for more.
4) ‘Schupfnudeln’ (type of thick noodle)
A favourite dish for many are ‘Schupfnudeln’, also sometimes called ‘Fingernudeln’. These words describe dumplings or thick noodles that are usually made from rye or wheat flour and egg. This dish will really fill you up, as it’s normally served with some hearty cabbage and bacon. Pair with a bit of mulled wine on the side and you have found yourself a perfect Christmas market combination that will keep you warm even on the coldest of days.
Another one from the crowd-pleaser category: the ‘Handbrot’. More often found at the Christmas markets of Northern Germany, the ‘Handbrot’ is a delicious bread filled with melted cheese, a type of sour-cream sauce, herbs and ham. Of course, for vegetarians there is a mushroom version that is just as delicious. When ordering one of these treats at the Christmas market, it is likely that the vendor will bake it in a wood-fired oven right before your eyes.
If you prefer sweet delights to savoury ones when visiting a Christmas market, we have got just the right option for you – the ‘Schmalzkuchen’ or ‘Mutzen’. These little fried dough bits are simply mouthwatering and contain nothing else but flour, eggs, sugar and aromas. But don’t let the scarce list of ingredients fool you; these little treats are super tasty and are often served with a bit of icing sugar on top, which will no doubt be found all over your jacket after digging into these.
Another beverage that just had to be on this top-ten list: the ‘Grog’. Not a drink for the faint-hearted, this traditional hot beverage only contains hot water and some type of liquor (usually rum). It used to be drunk by seamen in the north of Germany to keep warm in the cold winter. If a combination of water and rum doesn’t really sound too appealing to you, there are some milder options like an apple grog or one with a crystallised sugar stick available. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re seeking the most authentic Christmas market experience out there.
Photo © Österreich Werbung, Peter Burgstaller
8) Roasted chestnuts
Usually only found on Britain’s roadsides and in forests, people from Germany, Austria and Switzerland tend to love eating them – especially when visiting a Christmas market. While they are sure to keep your hands super warm, they also really do taste like Christmas, too. So do give them a try on your next visit.
This list shouldn’t be missing a meaty treat and that is where ‘Leberkäse’ comes in. The term describes a type of meatloaf-spam meat that is usually served with a bit of mustard in between a bread roll. Originally a specialty from southern Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland, it reminds us a bit of Bologna sausage, and usually consists of corned beef, pork and bacon, which is ground finely and then baked in a bread pan to get a brown, crunchy crust.
If you are looking for a piece of cake, then a slice of ‘Stollen’ will probably be your best bet. ‘Stollen’ is famous all over the DACH region and is best described as a type of fruit bread with nuts, spices, candied fruit and icing sugar. It is especially eaten during the festive season, and most households will at least have one in their cupboards for family gatherings. Another fun fact: there is even a ‘Stollen’ festival in Dresden (7 December), which celebrates this special treat with a parade and a giant ‘Stollen’ that feeds hundreds of people.