Last night, I returned from a work-related trip to the Motherland. While my family and I have spent a fair amount of time in Germany, especially growing up and to visit with my grandparents, this was my first trip to Berlin. So, after two and a half days of full-day meetings, I was ready to eat my touristy way through the city.
German fare is not for the faint (or cholesterol-sensitive) heart. Germans love pretzels and croissants for breakfast and huge plates of (fried) pork schnitzel and french fries for dinner. For lunch, they might dig into a huge plate of spaetzle (for the non-acquainted, a soft, egg-based noodle), and wash it down with a massive mug of beer. They have a well established “coffee break” around 4pm, consisting of a strong cup of coffee or a steaming mug of hot chocolate, accompanied by cakes and cookies. (Side note: during one meeting, our German hosts apologized for the “cake and cookie situation.” I thought maybe they were apologizing for adding to our expanding waistlines. Turns out, they thought the variety of cookies and cakes that had been served was sub-par. I guess eight different types wasn’t enough?!) In between spaetzle and schnitzel, a Berliner might dig into a “currywurst” – a deep fried sausage topped with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder. If you feel the need for some veggies, your plate may come with a side of cabbage. Or maybe a couple of cucumbers with some mayonnaise.**
Obviously, after I got home from the airport last night, I just had to re-create some of this for the Husband.
Slow Cooked Pork with Spaetzle and Braised Red Cabbage
- Our go-to slow cooker pork recipe and ingredients, minus the mozzarella and arugula
- Spaetzle (or any egg noodle)
- For the Cabbage:
- 1 small head red cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 green apple, peeled and cut into thin slices
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoons salt
- optional: a dash of caraway seeds
- In the morning, get the pork cooking. Refer back to our go-to recipe, and only go through step two (putting all the ingredients in the crock pot and setting it on low for 8-9 hours).
- About an hour and a half before dinner time, get your cabbage going. Immerse the cabbage (cored and sliced) in a bowl of cold water.
- Heat the butter in a large dutch oven over low heat. Add onions and cook until golden.
- Drain the cabbage slices and then add to the pot, along with the sliced apple, the red wine vinegar, honey, salt and (if you like) caraway seeds.
- Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat for about 60-90 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft. Do not cook for too long – it will either turn to mush or turn bitter.
- About 15 minutes or so before serving, get water boiling for your spaetzle or egg noodles.
- Serve the spaetzle topped with pork and a side of cabbage. Guten Appetit!
Our pork (really, the Husband’s) is a go-to and there’s a reason why: it’s delicious. Having spaetzle (especially fresh, which I carried on the plane back with me!) was a special treat, and took me right into my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchen. This was true comfort cooking. I’ve never made cabbage before, and to be honest, this recipe was maybe a touch sweet. That being said, it provided the perfect tang and balance to the rest of our German meal! The big bonus here: plenty of leftovers, which will serve us well this (short) Thanksgiving week.
** My description of standard German fare isn’t entirely fair, to be honest. Germany – and especially Berlin – seems to be embracing the local and organic food scene a la Brooklyn 2009, with “healthy” cafes popping up everywhere. I also saw a slew of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants, as well as restaurants from every culinary tradition one could imagine. After all, Berlin is, at heart, an incredibly dynamic city with a very young and hip feel, even as it continues to sit at the heart of an incredible amount of history.**