The snow is visceral. Seasonal smells mingle with seasonal stragglers. The wafting aroma of baked fruits, nuts and spices. The smell of roast chestnuts. A fragrant air colliding with cold vapours. Christmas is long gone, yet its essence lingers. The carnival detritus is also evident. The Maschkera have put away their hand-carved wooded masks for another year. The sun shines with a fierceness that contradicts the season, reflecting our images on every casual surface. We live in that lightness of being, walking the path from serendipity to inevitability.
This morning that path is alongside the Loisach river. We are not alone under the southfacing Almhuette and Wetterstein mountains, as we survey this magical twin-town and its surrounding peaks. Like us the people glance skywards. Unlike us they know their beloved heimat in the valley is sacrosanct. Up at Zugspitze and Leutasch Dreitorspitze, familial high peaks, comforted by the knowledge of their perpetual existence.
As is the traditional food. Leberkäse – equal beef and pork, a quarter of that amount in bacon, one part water to four parts meat, seasoning and herbs – served with potato salad – potatoes and chicken stock, lemon juice and mustard – is our treat today.
The 4000 Bavarian butchers who specialise in leberkäse cannot afford to deviate from tried and tested recipes. Attempts to introduce an ingredient they believe will improve the quality of the finished product are usually rejected. More often than not that ingredient is an egg, because the Bavarian leberkäse is made with an emulsion that can fall apart during baking. Butchers prevent this by freezing the meat, adding ice and keeping air bubbles out of the emulsion, so that when it bakes in a low oven it holds both its shape and texture. An egg would achieve that end.
A Bavarian leberkäse should not be grey, it should be a pale pink with a reddish brown crust. The end slice, called scherzel, is coveted because it combines the crunchiness of the crust and the melt-inthe-mouth softness of the loaf. Leberkäse should taste delicious hot and cold. Hot it is cut into thick slices and served with potato salad or two fried eggs, and with sweet mustard. Cold it is eaten as a snack, usually with gherkins and a bread roll. [snip]
Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Zugspitze 15 minutes (return 15 / 20 minutes)
At Niesenhorn in Switzerland a shimmering blue sky, casting its light on the settlement between the lakes, created an effusive mood, everything bright and light.
At Zugspitze in Germany a creeping gothic mist, moving eerily around crystal peaks, creates a claustrophobic feeling, everything doom and gloom. On a clear day we would have seen the expanse of our alpine journey, written in the sky, from Mont Blanc in the Savoy Alps to Mount Triglav in the Julian Alps. It wasn’t to be.
Instead we contend ourselves with the knowledge that we have been to the top of the European world. Time for dinner! Sauerbraten is on the menu and it has got us wondering about the origins of this wonderful dish. A traditional dish rooted in the regions, the Bavarians and the Rhinelanders argue that their version is the best, while the Swabians know their soured meat by a different name – bofflamot.
Originally made with game meat, sauerbraten is now associated with beef and is generally served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage, with dumplings or noodles.
RECIPE — Bayerischer Fleischpflanzerl meatballs
RECIPE — Bayerischer Kartoffelsalat potato salad
RECIPE — Bayerischer Leberkäse Bavarian meat loaf
RECIPE — Bayerischer Sauerbraten Bavarian soured meat
RECIPE — Bratkartoffeln mit Zwiebelrostbraten und Bratkartoffelgewürz spiced fried potatoes with fried onion
RECIPE — Eintöpf pot stew
RECIPE — Hutzelbrot fruit bread
RECIPE — Laugenbrötli lye bread buns
RECIPE — Spanferkelrollbraten roast suckling pig roll
Chef Hansjörg Betz
Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Innsbruck 81 minutes
These are edited draft versions of some the sections that will appear in the finished book.