The north welcomes its guests with hearty, down-to-earth cuisine, which, however, comes up with some unexpected refinements. We’ll tell you everything about the specialties and eating habits of the northern German regions and “translate” dishes like mock turtle soup for you.
North German cuisine: fish recipes & more
Due to the hard work on land and at sea, a nutritious German cuisine with regional products emerged in the north. Of course, recipes with fish play a major role in northern German cuisine, but potatoes, kale, beetroot, white cabbage, asparagus, and turnips are also indispensable in varied stew dishes such as Schnüsch. Even though many of the specialties of North German cuisine are at home in all regions, there are a large number of local specialties.
Lower Saxon cuisine and East Frisian tea culture
From Luneburg Heath to the sea, there are very different dishes depending on the area. Potatoes and asparagus are traditionally grown between the heathlands. When the stalk vegetables and the first new potatoes are harvested, not only the people of Lower Saxony enjoy asparagus with herbs or ham. The heath landscapes are maintained by the Heidschnucke. The meat of this special breed of sheep has a slightly wild taste and is usually served as a roast. The light-heather sand gives its name to a typical type of pastry made from butter, sugar, and flour. If you like sweets, you will not only enjoy marbled heather sand but also a glass of delicious, golden heather honey.
Just like the English, the East Frisians are masters of tea culture. Nowhere in Germany is tea consumption as high as on the coast. The tea is typically drunk with lots of Kluntjes (candy sugar). When the hot, very strong tea is poured from the pot onto the Kluntjes, a characteristic crackling occurs. For a nice rising “Wulkje” (cloud), the cream is carefully poured into the tea with a special cream spoon on the rim of the cup. By the way, stirring is forbidden – at least for real East Frisians!
German specialties from Lower Saxony
The kale has become known under the term Oldenburg Palme. In winter it is a very delicate vegetable that is popular not only in the Oldenburg region but throughout northern Germany. In some areas, kale is also referred to as brown cabbage. This is traditionally served with Pinkel, a smoked grützwurst. Bregenwurst, a lightly smoked or raw Mettwurst, cabbage sausage, pork cheek, and plenty of potatoes are also part of it. Alternatively, Kassler is a suitable addition. By the way, Mettwurst or cabbage sausage also ends up in our hearty lentil stew with cabbage sausages.
The mock turtle soup also comes from Oldenburg. Resourceful chefs created a substitute for the previously eaten turtle soup with various cuts of veal meat, hence the name (mock: English for imitation, fake). Although every family has its own recipe, every mock turtle soup has small meatballs as a basic ingredient.
“Bookweeten Janhinnerk” is served in Emsland and East Friesland, a hearty buckwheat pancake in which strips of bacon are baked. Depending on the region, the dough is mixed with either tea or coffee. Beet syrup, honey, or applesauce are served with nutty pancakes. Buckwheat thrives particularly well on the rather nutrient-poor soils of Lower Saxony.
So enjoy Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg
In sea-encircled Schleswig-Holstein, delicacies from the North and Baltic Seas are at the top of the menu for German food. In addition to shrimp, flounder, plaice, cod, and herring are extremely popular – by the way, they are also enjoyed on brown bread, as our pumpernickel recipes prove. The Kiel sprat is considered a special smoked fish specialty. These fish, which are up to 20 cm in size, are smoked and get their typical golden color. Another smoked specialty, the Holstein Katenschinken, enjoys an excellent reputation far beyond the country’s borders. What the Heidschnucke mean to the Lower Saxony is their salt meadow lamb to the people of Schleswig-Holstein. The tender meat of the animals that grow and graze behind and in front of the dykes have a particularly spicy note. And here – behind the dykes of the North Sea – a lot of cabbage grows, which inspires the North Germans to create hearty dishes such as cabbage pudding or cabbage roulades.
Cooking the Schleswig-Holstein style
The combination of savory and sweet is typical of this region. So it is customary to season the kale with a pinch of sugar. The combination of flavors known as “Broken Soot” can also be found in the popular “Pears, Beans, and Bacon” stew. Small cooking pears combine with fresh green beans and smoky bacon in this quintessential comfort food.
Spicy stews and soups are other typical examples of northern German cuisine on the rough coast: the Holstein potato soup, the turnip stew, turnip puree, or the fruity elderberry soup with semolina dumplings. Try our turnip stew with Asian flavors.
Just like the “Mehlbuddels” (flour bags), the “Grobe Hans” belongs on a traditionally laid table. This pastry made from stale wheat bread or yeast dough can be enjoyed as sweet or savory. The dough is cooked in a pudding mold and then turned out. Leftovers can be pan-fried the next day. Another variant is the preparation with rusks.
In a port city like Hamburg, fish is of course at the top of the menu. Herring is available in all variations, whether as herring, Bismarck herring, or fried herring – especially herring recipes are very diverse, one of which is our herring salad. Finkenwerder place is also a popular specialty. Depending on how it is prepared, the flatfish is pan-fried with diced ham or baked in the oven with ham and the North Sea shrimp. A leftover meal is the Hamburger Pannfisch. Leftover fish is fried in a pan without a head and served with a mustard sauce and fried potatoes. Another popular Hamburg fish dish is Labskaus, a hearty mix of cured meat, beetroot, and potatoes, garnished with a fried egg and herring fillet or rolled mops. Eel soup is also often on the menu.
Sweet recipes from North German cuisine
For dessert, people in the north like to have red fruit jelly with everything the garden or market has to offer. The “Rode Grütt” is traditionally garnished with liquid cream. Franzbrötchen is a typical Hamburg pastry specialty. According to tradition, this very sweet, cinnamon-spiced Danish pastry was invented by a baker who originally wanted to bake croissants. Behind the girl’s red is a dessert from Schleswig-Holstein. For this dessert, egg whites are whipped together with sugar and currant juice. Gelatine provides the hold. After a few hours in the fridge, the cream is served with some vanilla sauce. Vanilla sauce is also part of Mehlpütt, an East Frisian yeast dough specialty that is steamed over a water bath. For the 200th anniversary of the throne of the Guelphs in Hanover, a dessert in the colors of the noble family was created with the Guelph dish. The lower white layer consists of a milk-vanilla cream, under which stiffly beaten egg whites are lifted. The whole thing is topped with a yellow wine cream.