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How to celebrate Oktoberfest the right way

Tina Garon

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Oct 15th, 2015

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Oktoberfest is a bit like spring break for Germans. It’s the world’s largest beer festival, originating in 1810 in Munich, Bavaria, to honor the wedding of King Ludwig I. It continues as an annual celebration of traditional hearty foods and giant beers served by braided-haired waitresses in dirndl dresses.

Oktoberfest’s traditional fare includes würstel (sausages), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), brezel (pretzel), spätzle (noodles) and reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), along with Bavarian delicacies such as obatzda, a fatty, spiced cheese-butter concoction.
Whether you’re truly German-American or just fans of German fare, Chicagoland residents love Oktoberfest so much they start celebrating in September. So don your dirndl, pull up your lederhosen, and break out the cowbells to join in the festivities. Don’t miss the Oktoberfest trinity of beer, food and oom-pah music. To be sure no one goes hungry, or thirsty, here are some recipes and ideas to get you in the Bavarian groove. Prost!

Traditional Beer  beer

Oktoberfest beer is a registered trademark of the Club of Munich Brewers, which consists of six breweries. Warsteiner and Paulaner for example, make true German Oktoberfest beers, and they are locally available. German beer is no longer considered an import here, since many U.S. breweries are now making approved German style beer from original recipes. Enjoy the big guys, such as Beck’s, Samuel Adams and Hacker-Pschorr, or try craft versions including Goose Island and Sierra Nevada. For authenticity, drink your brew from a traditional stein with a hinged lid. Then impress your friends with your knowledge that traditional beer steins with hinged lids were created as a sanitary measure during the Black Death!

Traditional Starter: Obatzda (Bavarian cheese dip) and Pretzels 

Obatzda is a traditional Bavarian soft cheese and beer dip. Chill in advance so the flavors meld properly. Pick up a bag of pretzels or bake your own using refrigerated pretzel dough.

obatzda1 pound Brie or Camembert, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup dark German ale
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 pinch sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 small yellow onion, diced
pretzels

Cut the Brie or Camembert into small pieces and place in a medium bowl along with the cream cheese and butter. Stir to blend, slowly adding the ale, garlic, caraway seeds, paprika and salt and pepper. With a wooden spoon, beat well to combine.

Soak the yellow onion in a small amount of water, then transfer to a colander and squeeze out the excess water with a tea towel (this removes some of the sharpness). Add the diced yellow onion to the cheese mixture. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Can be made up to 4 days in advance.

Can be served with cut vegetables, such as red onion.

Traditional Main: Bratwurst Stewed in Sauerkraut

Bratwurst and other sausages were created as a way to use precious meat scraps. The curing process increased shelf life so the meat could be eaten throughout the winter months. The word “brat” means “meat without waste.” Today you can easily pick up pre-made bratwurst and sauerkraut and add a few ingredients to create a hearty traditional dish.bratwurst

3 tablespoons oil
2 pounds bratwurst links
2 onions
2 garlic cloves
3 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon paprika
4 cups sauerkraut, drained

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat and then cook onions and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add 2 more tablespoons oil and turn up heat to medium-high. Brown bratwurst on all sides and then reduce heat to medium. Add chicken broth, caraway seeds, paprika and sauerkraut and bring to a low boil. Turn down to low and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Traditional Side: Käsespätzle (cheesy spätzle noodles)

Similar to mac and cheese blended with caramelized onions, this homemade dumpling-ish noodle is delicious and not hard to make. You can use a handheld spätzle maker, which is pretty cheap and easy to find, or make a more rustic looking version by cutting the dough by hand. Variations include adding cubed ham or bacon, or layering in a casserole dish and baking in a hot oven to crisp.

1-1/2 cups unbleached all–purpose flourtraditional side
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 eggs
1/4 cup low fat milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (6 ounces) Emmanthal cheese, shred, (can also use Gruyere or Swiss)

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, nutmeg and salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, then alternate adding the milk and flour mixture to make a smooth batter. (You might need to add a little more milk, if batter is too thick.) Let the batter stand for 30 minutes (important to let the batter rest). In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until it starts to brown. Add onions and gently sauté while stirring to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart pot to boil and add the salt. Press the batter through a spätzle press into the boiling water. When the spätzle has floated to the top of the water, place in a colander to drain.

When all the spätzle is cooked and still warm, stir in 1 cup of cheese. Transfer the spaetzel to the pan with the butter and onions and stir well. Add the remaining cheese and serve hot.

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