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In comparison with the more French-influenced Baden cuisine, Swabian cuisine is rather simple and rustic. It is native to Swabia, which comprises great parts of Wurttemberg and the Bavarian part of Swabia, as well as the Allgäu which has parts lying in Austria.
As the conditions for cattle with meagre and stony soils weren't really good, the people on the Schwäbische Alb did not breed many and meat was a luxury good. Meat was mainly consumed by lords and rich people while the ordinary people had to be content with tripe and simple flour dishes. Depending on the natural conditions like those the versatility of dishes differs: in Oberschwaben the soils are more fruitful and therefore cattle could be bred so the recipes incorporate more milk, cream and cheese.
Another influence on the cuisine of Swabia had the manorial and confessional developments in the region: Old-Wurttemberg was pietistic and the cuisine is rather meagre as the nutritional aspect of the diet was paramount. In the catholic parts of Swabia, mainly influenced by Austria the cuisine is more epicurean and features a lot more opulent flour dishes. In the Plains of Hohenlohe fish, especially carp is a local favourite and the cuisines of the former Empire cities Ulm, Augsburg, Ravensburg and Biberach are very diverse and the regular contacts to Italy and France is perceptible.
What is nowadays considered the traditional Swabian cuisine is mainly based on the simple, hearty and uncomplicated "poor-people-dishes" (or peasant dishes) from those days.
Noodles and dumplings
Thinking of Swabian cuisine the first thing that comes in one's mind are Maultaschen and Spätzle. Fresh noodle products in a wide range of variations are processed to main dishes or served as side dishes and they would be missed as much as a sauce, broth or butter.
One of the best-known Swabian specialities is Maultaschen, rolled or folded pasta bags with a hearty filling of meat, spinach, onion and soaked stale bread. In the last few years they became an export hit and are now eaten throughout the world, even in Russia and the United States. Their nickname is Herrgottsbscheißerle, which means little God-cheaters, because as legend says they were first prepared by monks who wanted to evade the Lenten meat prohibition, and the monks thought that God couldn't see the meat inside the pasta. Whether as an add-in to a hearty beef broth, or fused with roasted onions or fried in slices, there are many ways to prepare the pasta. Moreover, different fillings contribute to the diversity of Maultaschen, and because of the composition of different ingredients, they are a very valuable source of nutrition. Although they are eaten throughout the year, it is traditional to eat them on Good Friday.
Spätzle and Knöpfle
Another very famous specialty that gained supra-regional and even supranational popularity is Spätzle, which is to the Swabians the same as the potato is to North Germans: a universal side dish to meat dishes with sauces but also the main ingredient in stand-alone dishes. Used as an accompaniment to meat dishes they are commonly garnished with roasted onions and breadcrumbs which were browned in butter. One of the dishes featuring Spätzle as a main ingredient is Kässpätzle which is Spätzle that are cooked in salted water and then layered into a casserole with different kinds of cheese (commonly Emmentaler and Gruyère or even Weißlacker) and roasted onions. The kind of cheese used depends on the region of Swabia as this dish is not only famous in Germany but also in neighbouring Switzerland and Austria). As with many noodle products, Spätzle can also be featured in sweet dishes combined with sugar, apple sauce or other fruit preserves, but they are more famous in hearty dishes and this form of preparation is not too common.
The original preparation of Spätzle is very peculiar and not easy. Traditionally, a viscous dough is scraped in thin bands from the "Spätzlesbrett" (a simple wooden board), but nowadays there are special "Spätzlepresse" available which are similar to potato ricers. Shorter Spätzle and the thick, round Knöpfle are prepared with a Spätzlehobel which is a board with little holes. The dough, which is not as thick as in the original form of preparation, is spread over the board in a way that makes little dough "drops" fall into the boiling water. Spätzle and Knöpfle can be served directly after cooking but usually they are briefly turned in liquid butter before serving. The dough contains nothing but flour, egg and water although occasionally ingredients such as spinach or tomato puree are used for colouring.
Flippantly also called „Buabaspitzla“, Schupfnudeln are another particularity of the cuisine of Upper-Swabia and the Allgäu. They are made out of a dough which contains equal parts of flour and potato and their shape is oblong and tapering. After being formed which is usually done by taking little dough pieces and form round strips which are then cooked in saltwater. A traditional combination is to mix them with Sauerkraut and bacon and fry the whole mixture in a pan. This is called "Krautschupfnudeln" (lit. meaning cabbage Schupfnudeln) and is particularly famous on wine feasts, carnival, and Kermesse. But they may also be served with sweet accompaniments. Either pan-fried or only cooked they are commonly eaten with melted butter, cinnamon sugar, apple sauce or fruit preserves.
Pancakes are also called „Flädle“ and are usually very thin and fried in oil. Besides being eaten as a whole with hearty or sweet accompaniments they are often cut in stripes and used as add-in (see Flädle) in soups.
Another variation which is very similar to the Austrian Kaiserschmarrn is called „Kratzete“. Unlike in Austria they are not only eaten as a sweet dish but are also a traditional accompaniment to asparagus.
Soups and stews
There are also some substantial soups and stews that are essential parts of Swabian food culture. The fact that soups and stews are loved by Swabians lead to the nickname Subbaschwôb which means "Soup Swabian". In gastronomy they are usually served as an appetizer but in home-cooking they are also famous as a main dish served with bread
The most popular Swabian stew is Gaisburger Marsch, a nourishing stew with diced ox meat, cooked potatoes and Spätzle. The certain something is the garnish consisting of fried onions topping the soup. Legend says that the stew was first served to hungry soldiers in Gaisburg in the 19th century and became so popular that soldiers stationed more distantly marched all the way to Gaisburg to enjoy it. Thus, the name "Gaisburger Marsch" means "March to Gaisburg".
Thin pancakes are cut into slices and are used as an add-in in a clear broth. As they get soaked very quickly, they are added just before serving.
Meat and fish specialities
Although, due to the fact that the region was not always one of prosperity, not much meat was used in the kitchen there are still some regional specialties with meat, e.g. lamb roast with Spätzle or the fried onion roast. Many recipes use tripe which was inexpensive and therefore affordable for the common and poor people.
Other famous dishes using tripe are "Saure Nieren" (lit. sour kidneys) and "Saure Leber" (sour liver), both prepared by cutting the innard in slices, pan-fry them and cook them in a sauce before serving them with either Spätzle or home fries and a green salad.
Popular is also the Swabian Wurstsalat which is a mixture of different kinds of Wurst that are sliced, mixed together with onion, pickles and chive and dressed with an oil-vinegar-vinaigrette and eaten with bread.
The Swabian potato salad is also very famous in Germany and even in other countries. In contrast to the mayonnaise-dressed potato salad in Northern Germany, it is lighter and contains less fat. Waxy potatoes are cooked and peeled when they are still hot. Then they are sliced and mixed with diced onions before they are poured over with warm broth, vinegar and oil (great emphasis is laid on the fact that the liquid components are not mixed before being poured over the potatoes although the chronological order may vary from recipe to recipe). Optionally they can be garnished with chive, diced pickles or spiced with mustard. The salad should rest for a few hours or even overnight before serving and can then be enjoyed as accompaniment for different dishes or solely with bread. Of course there are many recipe variations differing in tiny details: the choice of the potato breed, the temperature for peeling, the thickness of the slices and the way of slicing, the amount and addition order of the liquid component, the amount and kind of spices. Naturally most Swabians are convinced that the potato salad of their mother is the very best and only true one.
Ofenschlupfer (lit. meaning oven slipper) is a kind of bread pudding which consist of stale white bread spiced with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, which is layered in a casserole dish with apple, raisins and almond biscuits and then soaked in a cream-egg-mixture before being baked in the oven.
Pfitzauf is also a dish prepared in the oven: a kind of soufflé prepared in special Pfitzauf-moulds and commonly served with apple sauce or vanilla sauce although there are also salty recipe variations with cheese or bacon.
Nun's puffs are small round doughnuts made of a yeast dough or choux pastry dough and fried. They are traditionally eaten during carnival and may be a main dish or a dessert served with confectioner's sugar, cherries or vanilla sauce.
Bread and pastries
A broad range of different bread varieties is very characteristic for the Swabian baking culture. Therefore, there are many variations that are not widely distributed and known and are only baked in a special area or even only in one village but there are also some baked good that are baked all over the region and are available in every bakery. This holds true for Laugengebäck, Pretzels, bread rolls and Hefezopf (lit. meaning yeast plaid) which rate among the traditional Swabian baked goods.
The Swabian "Seele" (lit. soul) is a baguette-like white bread made from spelt and has its origin in Upper Swabia. It is prepared from a very runny dough from spelt flour, yeast, water and salt which is formed into an elonged bread and sprinkled with caraway and coarse salt. After baking it is crispy on the outside and very light and fluffy on the inside. It also stays moist inside due to the high gluten content of spelt flour.
Briegel is a very similar baked good although it is native in East-Wurttemberg and is even moister than the Seele. It also belongs to the species of moistened breads, such as Wasserwecken and Knauzen from Wendlingen.
Another speciality which is native to Reutlingen is the Dreikönigsmutschel, (lit. Three Kings Mutschel), a star-shaped, mellow yeast pastry with eight prongs and a round elevation in the middle which is the circle of a plaided garland. It is traditionally eaten on the Thursday after Epiphany and people play dice to eat it and celebrate.
The Swabian Cream Cake is a thin yeast flat bread spread with sour cream and topped with onion or leak and bacon, very similar to the Flammkuchen from Alsace. The topping may vary and some add egg or caraway seed. In the area of the city Heilbronn a variation called "Peterlingkuchen" (parsley cake) is popular and as the name suggests, the flat bread is also topped with parsley. The name also differs depending on the locale, variations are „Dennetle“, „Dinnette“, „Blooz“ and „Bätscher“.
Very famous is also the Swabian Zwiebelkuchen which is very similar to the French Quiche Lorraine. It is usually eaten in late summer and autumn together with Federweisser or already fermented apple juice.
There are many cakes prepared in Swabian homes since the German Kaffee und Kuchen is very common here on Sunday afternoons. Very widespread is the Swabian Träubleskuchen, a cake with a shortcrust pastry base and a filling of redcurrant (Träuble) and beaten egg whites.
- Schwaben, Kulinarische Streifzüge, H-D. Reichert, D. Wägerle, H-J. Döbbelin, Sigloch-Verlag, Blaufelden, 2005, ISBN 3893930701
- Schwäbische Küche, G. Poggenpohl, Verlag EDITION XXL, Fränkisch-Crumbach, 2003, ISBN 3-89736-140-X
- Schwäbisch kochen, Karola Wiedemann, Martina Kiel, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, München, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8338-1630-7
- Die schwäbische Küche – Regionale Spezialitäten, Matthias F. Mangold, Kosmos Verlags-GmbH, Stuttgart, 2011, ISBN 978-3-440-12587-8
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