Sunday, December 12, 2010

Froehliche Wiehnachten!

Merry Christmas (auf Deutsch - in German)!

Decided to get in touch with my German heritage this weekend.  Yesterday during the Iowa blizzard I decided to make stollen (not to be undertaken lightly as it takes a large part of the day).  Stollen = a fabulous German Christmas bread.  Women in my family (and some men) have been  making stollen for a very long time.  Unfortunately, many American recipes end up dry which gives it a bad name - but not my recipe (which will be the Thursday recipe feature).

Making stollen made me reminiscent.  My junior year of high school I spent as a foreign exchange student in Germany (June 1991 - June 1992).  My host family lived in Heppenheim Ober-Hambach (near the Black Forest region).  It was through the National FFA/Congress Bundestag exchange program.  This meant it was more of work study rather than your typical exchange.  I actually attended an Agricultural Career Based school (Berufschule) once per week and interned with my host father (a Master Farmer) the rest of the week.

Below is my host mom rolling hundreds of little rum balls.  I was busy helping too but took time for a photo.  And yes, I was only 16 but I was taught to make lots of items utilizing alcohol.  Which is why for many of the traditional bread and cake recipes baked during Christmas and Easter involves finding the dusty bottle of rum or Cherry liquor in the basement. 

The next two photos show the room where all of the Christmas cookies were stored.

Cookies weren't really common except for Christmas time.  I should add the vast quantities made were because my farm family had a stand at the local Farmer's Market and the Weihnacht's Markt was one that everyone helped with.

Below my host sister and mother are making fresh Advent wreaths for the market.  Note the radio - I listened to loads of Polka music!  My host mom always had the radio on and almost always set to polka.

The next photo is the cellar between the house and the barn where all of breads, wreaths, eggs, etc were stored.  Don't get my mom started on the food safety issues!

Closer look at the advent wreaths.  I was allowed to choose one and it stayed in my room all advent season. It really made it feel more like home to light my candles.

My host mom and sister even made me my very own advent calendar.  I still have it.  I think I still have many of the little gifts that were tucked inside too (other than the chocolate of course).

Here is my host father - he would mix the large tubs of dough for the various breads we would make for market.  Each week I helped my host family make over 100 different baked goods (mainly breads and cheesecakes) for the weekly market.  That was in addition to helping milk and care for the cattle.

Here is the German Stollen ready for the Weihnacht's market.

I didn't get to go to very many of the markets (I was usually left at home with my host brother, Heinz, to care for the livestock and do the milking) but I did get to go the Weihnacht's market.  Below is the stand set up during the day.

Another specialty for the Christmas market was Gluhwein (I think that's right).  Basically spiced red wine served warm.  This was my host sister's responsibility.  Note all the little jars of jam - I helped make most of those.  My main job usually for each market though was to make the various liquors that were sold.  Yes, homemade liquors.  The two I remember most were Eier liquor (egg liquor - yes, main ingredient raw eggs) and Schokoladen liquor (Chocolate Cream liquor - yes, I can still make this one)

Here was the Christmas Market at night.  So beautiful.

Hope you had fun going back in time with me! 
May your Christmas season wherever it is spent be a merry one!

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