For those who are rubbing their heads saying, “Victuals? What in the world are German Christmas Market victuals?” Well, it’s food … grub … vittles, etc. For those of you shaking your heads saying, “This guy is full of himself trying to use fancy words”, you’re probably right. Whatever.
On to the fun stuff, the tastes and smells of an authentic German Christmas market. Most people are at least marginally familiar with gingerbread and marzipan. Please let me elaborate on these as they pertain to Germany, not necessarily to how they are found in the U.S.
Most important is Marzipan, a sweet almond paste. It is almost impossible to find fresh marzipan in the U.S. unless you make it yourself, as the German housewife traditionally did. I have done this and, let me tell you, the difference between fresh marzipan and those commercially produced is stark. (BTW, “stark” is a German word meaning “strong”, but we have developed a somewhat different usage for it in English). Depending on the German Christmas market, you will find items made with fresh marzipan; they simply produce it specially just for the market. If you love almond, this will be a highlight of your visit. There are many marzipan items to enjoy, including cookies, cakes, cake frosting (like a fondant, but much, much better), and even baked marzipan bites.
Chief among marzipan German Christmas Market victuals is Stollen. The most famous Stollen in Germany is by far the Dresdner Stollen from … you guessed it … Dresden. Guess where we’re going on our tour? Yep – Dresden, and there are multiple markets in this fascinating city all selling their own version of the Dresdner Stollen. Stollen is a dense yeast bread with currants, golden raisins, nuts, and a hint of rum (alcohol bakes out, so those who shun alcohol shouldn’t worry). It’s all wrapped a core of, you guessed it, marzipan. Because the whole loaf is baked and aged for a month or more in a humidity-controlled environment, this enriches the taste and, believe it or not, the texture. In addition, the loaf is slathered with a good coating of melted REAL butter and dusted heavily with confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. Yummmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!!
Secondly, is Lebkuchen. Lebkuchen is German gingerbread, but I find it oh, so much more satisfying than American gingerbread. The closest I found was the ginger cakes sold in Colonial Williamsburg, which I make as often as I can. Lebkuchen translated is literally, “the cake of life”. I concur. You will find crispy Lebkuchen, soft Lebkuchen, in-between Lebkuchen, but it’s all good and I hear it goes well with Gluhwein (spiced wine). I know it goes well with hot cocoa or just about any herbal tea I have tried.
Pfeffernusse – The Pepper Nut
Another treat is Pfeffernusse. I made a large batch of these earlier this year and, although not as perfect as the proper item you will be able to find in Germany, they were sooo good. Featuring molasses, honey, cardamom and cinnamon (among other spices), and dusted with a bit of powdered sugar, these are firm AND chewy.
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)
I made some of these, as well, earlier this year. With a healthy amount of ground almonds mixed with cinnamon, cardamom, and egg whites, these end up being crispy and light. They are a staple in German Christmas baking and they do a whole lot better at theirs than I did with mine. I mean, I’m a fairly good baker, however I don’t yet do these little tasty goodies justice. But, they were still good.
Lastly, everybody knows what bratwurst are, right? Wrong! You might know the basics, but what you may not fully appreciate is how different bratwurst is from one region to another, one town to the next, or even from one family to another. I remember being in the middle of the central market in Erfurt and coming across three completely different family recipes at different bratwurst stands there. They were all amazing.
They are all served in a Brotchen (a German dinner roll crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside) with German mustard). If you want sauerkraut, hey it’s Germany; no better place to get it. Trust me – nothing in the states is the same unless it’s homemade from a German recipe. Christmas markets are full of bratwurst and the smells permeate the air. You would think the Lebkuchen, spiced wine, and bratwurst smells would clash, but you would be wrong. It’s perfectly … Christmassy! Additionally, when we visit the Nurnberg Christkindlmarkt, you want to be sure to order some of their city-specific bratwurst, smaller than normal brats, but served three in a Brotchen.
If you’re an alcohol drinker, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the spiced wine prevalent in the markets. I can’t speak to its taste since I don’t drink alcohol, but I have smelled this stuff and … I almost became an alcohol drinker.
In conclusion, this article has touched on the German Christmas Market victuals (there’s that word again) you will find on our tour and at most German Christmas markets. Be assured you will not starve and your palate will love you!
This blog is written by Brian Knox, our guide for our Germany Christmas Market Tour November 26 – Dec 7, 2021. Ger