Asparagus is a highly prized vegetable in Germany. In fact, an entire asparagus-eating etiquette has been developed for spargelzeit, or asparagus season. The vegetable is so revered, villages hold asparagus festivals and even crown an asparagus queen. White asparagus, or deutscher spargel, are much preferred over green asparagus in Germany because they are only available for a short window of time, making them all the more precious.
The Germans have certain standards when it comes to preparing and serving spargel, or white asparagus. First, the fibrous and woody stems need to be peeled and the ends cut off. Until ready to cook, which should be right before serving, the spears should be wrapped in a damp kitchen towel. German households also have special asparagus serving pieces such as asparagus tongs and oval or rectangular dishes, which are preheated (as are the plates) to keep the vegetable warm before and during dinner.
A typical German spargel meal includes about one pound of asparagus per person—with some melted butter to drizzle on top—alongside ham and new potatoes. This meal may also feature lemon slices, Hollandaise sauce, veal cutlets (wiener schnitzel) instead of ham, or crepe-like pancakes.
White asparagus and green asparagus are the same species, but they are grown differently—white asparagus grows completely underground while green is above the soil's surface. Here are some traditional and modern recipes that focus on the mild and delicate taste of white asparagus, but since white asparagus is hard to find in some areas, you can substitute the stronger-tasting green asparagus if needed.
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Here is how to make the simplest kind of spargelessen, or asparagus dinner, where white asparagus with melted butter is the main attraction. This simple white asparagus meal is popular for dinner parties in the spring often accompanied by boiled potatoes, thin slices of ham, and dry white wine.
This recipe calls for just sugar, salt, and butter along with the asparagus spears. You can cook them either lying down in a shallow pan or stand up in a deep pot (just make sure the tops are above the waterline). If you prefer the stand-up method, there are asparagus steaming baskets available to make this technique easier.
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This simple cream of asparagus soup made of puréed white asparagus, stock, and cream is pureed until smooth and thick, making it rich and satisfying. It is delicious served with a cheese-covered toast and a glass of dry white wine.
Before the asparagus is steamed for this recipe, the heads are removed to add later on. The cooked asparagus is combined with sauteed onion and broth and then pureed until it is a velvety texture, and then gently simmered with the reserved tops. The cream is added along with a touch of wine if desired.
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There are many regional variations of hochzeitssuppe served as the first course at German weddings or other special occasions. This wedding soup recipe features meatballs, white asparagus, onion, carrots, and leeks that swim in a clear, tasty broth.
In order for the broth to stay clear, it is cooked separately from the vegetables and other ingredients. Before serving, the meatballs and vegetables are divided evenly among soup bowls and then the hot broth is poured over making for a lovely looking soup and impressive presentation.