This is somewhat a new tradition for me. About 10 years ago (through a chain of events), I decided to learn German. I had actually wanted to learn German for some time but never pulled the trigger. So I signed up for the class and for the next 3 years, I would take the effort to learn this interesting but difficult language. Right now, I'm a bit rusty but through modern technology I will refresh myself. After the quarter ended (the local college was still on a quarters system), we ended the class with an unofficial field trip. We had dinner at the legendary Berghoff and then went to the Christkindlmarket not far away. The market is located in downtown Chicago in Daley Plaza, which is 3 blocks west of legendary Chicago landmark Macy's (aka, the old Marshall Fields building) on State Street.
I noticed how similar English and German are and in more ways than one. Some of our words are similar but with different spellings (e.g., jogging VS joggen, the sea VS der See, I congratulate VS ich gratuliere, etc.). As I went along, I also took a moment to see how similar our foods are as well. I am a Chicago-area native and this is a melting pot of all people. Not to mention my neighbors to the north (aka, Wisconsin) keeps that old world flavor. Food a prepared the same way as they were done over many generations. Maybe living where I live gives me a greater appreciation for this. In one way, shape of form, the foods meet almost at a crossroads. One will keep a more traditional approach, and others will go a completely different route as the pictures will see. I hope you'll enjoy these pictures. If you go to this market, BRING PLENTY OF CASH (most of the vendors don't accept credit cards now).
I noticed one thing over the years. Germans, like Americans, love their sweets. Above are a variety of peanuts. Some salted and some sweetened. We'll revisit this a bit later.
Ok, ladies. This is for you. You see chocolate above. Strawberries were the main item of attraction. These were quite popular among attenders. I saw several of them purchased that day. All done fresh!! More chocolate on the bottom as well.
Looking good, right? I thought so. I can tell you they did taste good as I had them previously.
Santa's House. What good Christmas Market would be right with out one? Strange that I started with sweets first but that's how the market was laid out. Now, it time for the meat of the matter. It starts now.
The closer sausages in this picture are weisswursts. If you're not familiar with weisswurst, it got its name because the sausage is white (more than the bratwurst or knockwurst). This sausage is made with veal (fairly coarse grind) and pork back bacon, normally seasoned with parsley, salt, pepper and onions (some use lemon powder). The texture is MUCH smoother than bratwurst. The German bratwursts served here were a bit smaller than their American cousin. Regardless, they tasted fantastic. You can have it served with or without sauerkraut.
Now don't adjust your eyes. You're seeing exactly what you think you seeing. This may be a shock for some of you. Did you ever associate curry with German food? The name is just what implies. Currywust was born somewhat by accident. As legend has it, a woman named Herta Heuwer created this dish. Not long after World War 2, Heuwer obtained some English curry from British soldiers. At this time, spices were pretty rare to obtain. She managed to experiment with it and the currywurst was born. The modern currywurst has taken some Middle East (specifically Turkish) as well as Indian influence. (1).
In America, we have the fried potato (as do they). In Germany, it's the potato pancake (kartoffelpluffer, if I'm remembering correctly, the literal translation is potato buffer). Most of them are made with grated potatoes, mixed with spices and sour cream. Sour cream is also served on the side. Also served with applesauce. I found 2 recipes that could serve as a point of reference. The links are below the next picture. This is another German food staple.
I found 2 recipes that might be of interest to some of you,:
Now how can a leave such a happy face off this page? She was actually very nice. Bratwurst, potato pancakes among the main features again.
Stollen from Dinkel's. Chicago Illinois. They served a few different flavors as you can see here. You can buy slices but for future reference, bring enough cash where you can buy a whole one.
You like Pretzels? You'll get more than your fill here. Pretty hard to miss, right?
There were SIX pretzel flavors. I kept mine simple but if I recall, there were
Menu board and one VERY hard working vendor!! It was pretty wild that day.
Brats galore again.
Here's one of my personal favorites in Helmut's Strudel (right and below). I've enjoyed them for a number of years. I try to support the people who come from a long distance and Helmut's delivers consistently. As I touched on earlier, you can buy either a slice of strudel or a whole one. Do the latter and you won't be sorry. What began as a frozen food business grew into something better. I chose the cherry.
Potatoes anyone? On the left, the price on the menu board. On the right, the actual fried potatoes being cooked. I think this was quite a treat.
Above are nuts, being prepare with sugar.
The finished product.................
More sausages!!! I bet since they knew they were in Chicago, they knew they BEST stay ahead of demand. Served with Dusseldorf mustard (show below). This style of mustard gets it name from the city in Germany. Some compare it to Dijon, only a but stronger in taste and darker in color. This is more my speed. Some versions have a little more "bite" (or spice) than others. They must contain both brown and yellow mustard seeds. This article does a nice job explaining Dusseldorf mustard: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-05/entertainment/sc-food-0831-dusseldorf-mustard-20120905_1_dijon-mustard-works-national-mustard-museum (4)
Dusseldorf Mustard..... and ketchup?!?! I hope it's not going on any sausage.
Germknodel. Until last week, I had never heard of this. It's a yeast dough dumpling mixed with poppy seeds and sugar. Then it's filled with a jam (normally plum). I didn't get to try this but if did look pretty good. Maybe I should try to make this one day.
OK. There it is in a nutshell. There was a bit I left out. I decided to do this from a couple of angles. The first is to focus on what I didn't do last year. I felt no need to touch on the beer garden since if you've seen one, you probably seen them all. I touched on the chocolate (INSANE amounts of chocolate) and non alcoholic drinks last year. I started a post on last year's market and hope to do it in two parts. So part two never came. Maybe this could serve as part 2. I may post some of those pictures in a different post.Since the is a food blog, I would just focus on food. There is so much to find at a market like this. There are vendors who sell all things German and I do mean just that. Steins, blown glass, Ku Ku Clocks, toys. gifts, you can name it. I got lucky. It was pretty warm the say I went (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit or about 5 degree Celsius). Prepare for the weather. I wish there was a bit more space. It can get pretty crowded fast and people (sadly) like to sight see instead of walking. That's my only complaint. Other than that, it's a good time for all. I know I had fun. It's close to public transportation (especially for people like me who took a suburban train into the city).
1. "The Craze over the Currywurst", Roman Kessler, Wall Street Journal Online, August 29, 2009, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204884404574364600782551292
2. "Bavarian Kartoffelpuffer, Reidekuchen, Reiberdatschi- Potato Pancake Recipe", Bavarian Kitchen Blog.
3. "German Potato Pancake", Germany Insider Facts Internet site.
4. "Pass The Dusseldorf", Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune Online, September 5, 2012.