CARTHAGE, Mo. —
The term "Oktoberfest" gets thrown around a lot this time of year. It seems like any event where beer is served in October is billed as an Oktoberfest celebration. I'm having some friends over this weekend, so I think I'll call the get-together Oktoberfest.
But I'm not complaining -- I like October, and I like beer. There just needs to be some clarification.
Oktoberfest is spelled with a "k" not to confuse us, but because it was originally a German festival -- a big one: Sixteen days of food and fun, ending in the first week of October. Don't fret if you missed it because it's never too late to enjoy German cuisine.
German food is comfort food. There's a lot of meat, bread, potatoes and sauerkraut. Peruse a German cookbook at the library to get an idea of what German food is all about. The first chill in October is the perfect time to try your hand at making spaetzle, a delicious doughy little noodle. Or look up a recipe for authentic German goulash. Everyone wants their tummies to be warm and full, and German food does the job quite nicely.
If the warm, vinegary potato salad or the crispy, breaded pork schnitzel don't warm you, the drinks surely will. Oktoberfest is famous for beer, but that doesn't mean you should skip the wine. Gluhwein is spiced red wine that will warm your gut like nothing else. Make it at home by heating a bottle of red wine on the stove mixed with a bit of water, sugar or honey, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and some orange slices with the rinds on. Add a splash of rum if you're feeling saucy, and heat the mixture until it's steaming but not boiling. Squeeze the oranges, ditch the rinds, and serve it warm.
If you want to try German food before you plunge into these lighter recipes, I highly recommend trying Roswitha's Schnitzelbank, which is located in a big barn north of Joplin. The food is authentic and delicious.
Slow-cooker brat and sauerkraut soup
1 pound uncooked bratwurst, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 pound tiny new red potatoes, quartered
2 small onions, cut into 1/4-inch wedges or coarsely chopped
1 cup sliced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Bavarian-style sauerkraut
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
Sour cream (optional)
In a large skillet, cook bratwurst slices over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned on all sides, stirring frequently. Remove from skillet and set aside. In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker, combine potatoes, onions, celery, garlic and bay leaves. Top with browned bratwurst and sauerkraut. In a large bowl, whisk together broth, mustard, vinegar, paprika, fennel seeds and caraway seeds. Pour into cooker. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 31/2 hours. Discard the bay leaves. If desired, top each serving with sour cream.
Whole-wheat pretzel rolls
2 to 21/2 cups bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 quarts (12 cups) water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl, stir together 11/2 cups of the bread flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat and stir milk, sugar, oil and the 1 teaspoon salt until just warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Stir in whole-wheat flour and as much of the remaining 1/2 to 1 cup bread flour as you can.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining bread flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 11/4 hours).
Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Grease two baking sheets; set aside. Divide dough into 12 portions; shape each into a smooth, oval-shaped roll. Place rolls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Make a crisscross slash across top of each roll with a sharp knife or scissors. Cover; let rise until nearly double original size (45 to 60 minutes).
Bake in a 475 degree oven for 4 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a large Dutch oven, bring the 3 quarts water to boil. Gradually stir the baking soda into the boiling water (it will foam up slightly). Carefully lower rolls, 2 or 3 at a time, into the water and boil gently for 2 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and let stand on paper towels for a few seconds before placing about 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. In a small bowl, combine beaten egg white and the 1 tablespoon water. Brush mixture over rolls. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Immediately remove from baking sheets; cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before serving.
Have questions? Email them to amandastone31@hotmail. com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.