The Cuisine of Saxony-Anhalt

Saxony-Anhalt is a German state in former East Germany which is bordered by Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia. Magdeburg is the capital and Halle is another large city, which is quite close to Leipzig. It has fertile plains in the north, the Harz mountains in the southwest, and the Elbe, the Unstrut and the Saale rivers, the last two of which are traditional wine growing regions.

Anhalt was a sovereign country between the Elbe (a river) and the Harz mountains. It was unified (with Germany) at the end of World War I during the German Revolution of 1918-1919.

Cultural groups living in Saxony-Anhalt are the Wends (a Slavic people), Christianized German people who colonized east of the Elbe and Saale in the Middle Ages, as well as descendants of some Flemish and Huguenot immigrants. In modern times, refugees from the east moved into the area after WWII and there has been an influx of Russian Germans since the 1990s.

  • 01 of 06

    Food in the Middle Ages

    Millet and Cabbage Image - Recipe for Hirsekraut
    Millet and Cabbage Image - Recipe for Hirsekraut. J.McGavin

    The cuisine in this area (Sachsen-Anhalt) is quite diversified due to the varying terrain. In the Middle Ages, most of the people were eating cooked porridge of barley or millet, with very little pork and bread. Grapes were planted in the Unstrut valley from the 8th century onward and the wealthy inhabitants also had access to wild game and freshwater fish.

  • 02 of 06

    Food Popular in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Germany

    Lentils - Tellerlinsen
    Lentils - Tellerlinsen. J.McGavin

    Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, potatoes had become a mainstay and bread was more common. These were eaten almost every day, with a few other foods such as "Mehlsuppe" (flour soup), "Hirse" (millet), sauerkraut in the winter and fresh vegetables in the summer. The family pig was slaughtered once a year and the meat, "Speck" and "Schmalz" had to last until the next year.

    Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday were meat days, which featured smoked or cured meats together with flour or potato dumplings. These dumplings, called "Kloß" or "Klumpen," are stirred together and spread on top of hot "Grünkohl" or sauerkraut in a thick layer and steamed until done. Then they were sliced and served with the vegetable and "Kasseler" or smoked sausages.

    On the other days of the week, lentils and peas, carrots, cabbage, and turnips were served. The exception was always Saturday when mashed potatoes ("Kartoffelbrei") was served.

  • 03 of 06

    Holiday Foods in Saxony-Anhalt in Germany

    Gruenkohl - Cooked Kale from Northern Germany
    Gruenkohl - Cooked Kale from Northern Germany. J.McGavin

    For holidays, the larder was opened a bit further. Special dishes are still associated with a certain holiday. "Braunkohl" (another word for "Grünkohl" or cooked kale) went with Christmas time and "Heringsalat" or herring salad for New Year's Eve. Millet or barley ("Gequollenes" - lit. swelled food) was served for the New Year's Day, a christening or wedding, as well as on the first day of each month because it was thought to increase one's wealth. "Gequollenes" was indeed the first food a freshly-minted housewife cooked in her new home.

    Flour and egg dishes went with Good Friday and "Filsen," a savory bread pudding with "Kasseler" or smoked bratwurst was served on Easter and Ascension Day. Martinstag was a day for a goose dinner and on slaughtering day "Rosinenfleisch" (lit. raisin-meat), a goulash spiced with white wine, raisins, ground paprika, sugar, and vinegar and thickened with crumbled Zwieback was cooked.

    Cake was very important on holidays. In the villages, the farmers baked on Thursdays and the cotters (small farmers or handworkers with a little land) baked on Fridays. On Saturdays, the villagers who did not own land did their baking. Stollen was baked for Christmas as well as "Honigkuchen" (a type of Lebkuchen), pancakes for Mardi Gras and Plinsen after the harvest. Fruit and bacon tarts and cakes were baked for all special occasions.

    Households made a lot of their own foods, such as butter, "Pflaumenmuß" (plum preserves), carrot juice, bacon, ham, sausage, eggs, cheese, and beer. Freshwater fish was also an important food for most commoners in the 18th century.

  • 04 of 06

    Harzer Kaese: Specialty of the Harz Mountains

    Harzer Kaese - German Cheese
    Harzer Kaese - German Cheese. Markus Hagenlocher at the German language Wikipedia CC by SA-3.0

    Harzer Käse is a low-fat curd cheese made from soured milk and originating in the Harz Mountain region. Made in small rounds or cylinders, it is often flavored with caraway. Very aromatic with a strong taste, it is eaten with onions, lightly salted and peppered and layered on fresh bread spread with goose or pork lard.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Salzwedeler Baumkuchen: Ring Cake from Germany

    Baumkuchen in a Konditorei Window
    Baumkuchen in a Konditorei Window. Erich Ferdinand CC by 2.0

    Salzwedeler Baumkuchen- Baumkuchen (lit. tree-cake) has a ring of batter which is baked on over an open fire or heat source. The batter is poured over a wooden spindle, which is slowly turned. The batter drips down and is caught in a pan and reapplied with fresh batter until it is all used up. The dripping batter is like the dripping of stalactites, and the cake takes a form that looks like the branches of a tree. After it cools, the cake is glazed with a sugar-rosewater syrup or chocolate couverture. To serve, cut the cake from the top down in half-moon pieces.

  • 06 of 06

    More Specialties From Sachsen-Anhalt

    Bread with Lard
    Bread with Lard Spread. J.McGavin
    • Pottsuse - A type of potted meat. Pork is cooked for several hours in rendered lard with onions, bay, peppercorns, thyme, marjoram, and garlic then cooled and spread on fresh bread and eaten with sour pickles.
    • Bördespeck - cheese similar to Gouda and smoked over beech wood. From the Börde region.
    • Dessauer Speckkuchen - Yeast dough spread on a cookie sheet (or "Bratpfanne") and layered with sautéed onion/bacon/quark/egg custard. Baked and eaten warm.
    • Bernberger Zwiebelfleisch - Pork braised with onions and served with sauerkraut-potato pancakes and spiced with horseradish.
    • Zerbster Spargelsuppe - a beef broth soup made with small dumplings and small pieces of white asparagus. Zerbst is a town in the area renowned for its white asparagus.