In honor of Oktoberfest (which back when I attended was really held in October, not September), we remind you of the best grill culture in Europe you’ve never heard of. Germany. Yes, Germany. From the Schwenkbraten of Saar-Brucken. To the Spiessbraten of Eider Oberstein. To the Stekerlfische of Munich. Did I mention Schweinhaxen and Currywurst? Or the bratwurst grilled over pinecones in Nurenberg? Spanferkel? Sounds like a hand tool. But Germany has a rich live-fire cooking tradition that’s virtually unknown in the rest of the world. (See my book Planet Barbecue for more.) See several recipes below to get the party started. And what to drink? That one’s easy. I recommend beer or one of the crisp white wines from the Rhine or Nahe.
The Mexican influence on South Texas cuisine is ubiquitous and profound. But German immigrants at the turn of the last century had an equally marked effect on local food and drink. In 1883, a German brewmaster founded San Antonio’s City Brewery–today the trendy Pearl District. German wurst morphed into Texas’ popular hot guts beef sausage. Which brings us to this dish–a rotisserie pork loin from The Saar Brucken–reborn as Steven’s Pearl District Spiessbraten. Originally from the Palatine region in western Germany, Spiessbraten is one of the world’s truly great grilled pork dishes. The ingredients are simple—pork, onion, and sometimes garlic. The seasonings are even simpler—salt and pepper. He’s added mustard, ham, cheese, and poblano chiles to make his San Antonio version. The wood smoke from the fire is out of this world.
Yes, everything tastes better with bacon, including onion rings! But why fry them in batter when you can smoke them with bacon? They’re delicious and super simple to make at home. They make a great appetizer or side dish for a German-inspired grilled feast.
Here’s a dish that elevates brunch but that can serve as a colorful autumn side dish as well. We’ll wager no one has ever tasted a baked apple like before. The break with tradition is stuffing the apples with pork sausage and smoke roasting them on the grill.
While not traditional, indirect grilling brats crisps their casings, keeps the brats moist, and eliminates the risk of burning and flare-ups, while the wood smoke adds a haunting dimension of flavor. To us, there is no better way to cook bratwurst or any sausage. Direct grilling is, of course, the traditional way a Wisconsinite cooks bratwurst. The secret is to work over a moderate heat, leave yourself a large safety zone in case you get flare-ups, and take pains not to pierce the casing, thereby releasing the tasty and flavorful juices. Transfer to a “hot tub” of beer and onions. Perfect tailgating or Oktoberfest fare.
The combination of pork and apples is a marriage made in heaven. The apple cider brine gives pork a fruity flavor and also helps prevent the pork from drying out on the grill.
Now much like original Texas BBQ, the Kreuz Market was first and foremost a butcher shop and grocery store. So at the end of the week, if they had meat left over, they would smoke it, and they served it with the sort of condiments you would find at a grocery store: crackers, cheddar cheese, onions, pickled peppers. In other words, side dishes that weren’t really cooked, but would just come off the shelf. Tasting shoulder clod for the first time was an absolute revelation. No barbecue sauce, no cooked condiments, just beef and groceries.
This is it folks, the biggest beef barbecue out there — it’s prized in Texas and virtually unknown everywhere else. A clod is a beef shoulder that’s 16 pounds of carnivorean pleasure. Beef clod is usually broken down into smaller steaks and ground up into hamburgers. If you do not have access to beef clod in your grocery store, you will have to special order it through your local butcher.
The summun bonum of German barbecue, spanferkel, is a whole hog slathered with a spice-scented seasoning paste, spit-roasted over wood, and glazed with three ingredients near and dear to any German’s heart: dark, malty German beer, honey, and ginger — the flavorings Nuremberg’s of beloved lebkuchen (gingerbread).
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