It's Oktoberfest Season
The celebration of Autumn comes in many forms depending on where you’re from. I’ve already spoke of the hidden gem of Vinobranie and the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. However, beyond Halloween, no Autumn event is more known (and celebrated) than Germany’s Oktoberfest.
In the eyes of the average person, Oktoberfest is usually seen as a night (or weekend) of beer in huge liter mugs, and loads of German street food. Some women will dress up in somewhat revealing versions of the traditional Dirndl dress, many will indulge too much, sing badly, and love every minute of it.
While Munich is the birthplace and home of this Bavarian tradition, celebrations have spanned all over the world, especially in not-so-German regions such as South America, India, and Southeast Asia.
The Origin of Oktoberfest
The holiday’s beginning was actually a royal wedding. On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and the citizens of Munich were invited. The celebration was held in the fields outside the city gates, which is still the same place they hold the Munich celebration today, despite that the city grew beyond the area.
Since then, the Ludwigs had decided to hold an annual celebration of their nuptials, and the event simply grew and evolved. An agricultural show was added to promote Bavarian culture. Carnival booths appeared, as well as contests, horse races, and a parade which made the anniversary celebration blossom into its own annual event.
In the modern day, many don’t seem to realize the event is to celebrate a royal anniversary, but it’s a wonderful occasion to see a big piece of German culture and cuisine. I personally think it’s nice to see something “German” and not instantly think “Nazis”.
The Food of Oktoberfest
I think if you can find a good celebration happening in your neck of the woods, definitely partake. Even better if you want to attempt the massive crowds of Munich. A good festival will offer a handful of Bavarian classics for you to try.
Traditional foods of Oktoberfest include roasted chicken or pork, grilled ham hocks or fish, and various sausages, as well as carbs such as dumplings, noodles, potato pancakes, and especially big thick pretzels. Red cabbage is a must on the side, and the chosen brew of the season is a special Oktoberfest Beer, which is a lager fermented over the summer months.
I will explore many of these traditional items in the future, but today I wanted to share with you an interesting dish I actually was first exposed to not in Oktoberfest, but at the yearly Christmas Markets. Now despite that I tried this at Christmastime, you will see this dish on many Oktoberfest offerings.
Leberkäse (“lee-bah-keys-eh”) looks like a meatloaf to the naked eye, but Germans treat it more as a homemade sausage. It’s made of ground beef, ground pork, and ground bacon; seasoned with onion and marjoram. As a street food you’ll see it served on a good Kaiser roll with mustard and sauerkraut, but in restaurants I’ve seen it served with a fried egg on top. Not the most healthiest dish, but definitely delicious.
The real trick of Leberkäse is in the grinding. If you own a meat grinder, then this will be easy. However, you’re not out of luck if you do not own one. I have an easily solution to grind meat using a food processor. Your final Leberkäse may not be as smooth, but you’ll still love it. I know I did.
So pour yourself a liter and let’s get into it then.
Leberkäse (Beef and Pork Loaf)
- 1 lb of lean ground beef
- 1 lb of ground pork
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 1 cup of cold water
- 1 lb of smoked bacon, ground
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tsp of majoram
- Canola or vegetable oil
- In a mixing bowl, combine the beef with the pork.
- Add in the salt, pepper, and water. Stir until smooth.
- Mix in the bacon, onion, and majoram
- Place the bowl into the refrigerator for thirty minutes to cool.
- Heat up your oven to 350°.
- Use the oil to grease a loaf pan.
- Using a meat grinder, run the cold mixture through to make a smooth paste.
- Place the final mixture into the loaf pan.
- Smooth the surface, and with a knife, make a diamond-shaped pattern across the top.
- Bake the loaf in the oven for one hour, or until the meat is done.
While ground beef and ground pork are easy to come by, ground bacon might not. If you have no access to a meat grinder, use this solution to grind a slab of bacon with a food processor.
Again, if you do not have access to a meat grinder, then skip step 7 and just put the cooled mixture into the pan. Your final result will not be smooth like a bologna loaf, but it will still taste wonderful.
The best and easiest way to serve leberkäse is on a Kaiser roll with mustard and sauerkraut. You can also cut pieces into finger food size and serve with a sweet Bavarian mustard. You can also just cut up cold leberkäse for easy sandwiches.
If you wish to plate leberkäse as a meal, try browning a piece in a pan and topping with a fried egg.
One rather heavy way to serve leberkäse is termed a "mock Cordon Bleu". Place ham and cheese between two slices of leberkäse, then dip the whole thing into egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Fry it up in the pan and prepare for the food coma that will come.