Culinary specialties in Hessen (Hesse in English) vary according to the region. Influences from the neighboring state of Thuringia are found in Northern Hessen, whereas in Southern Hessen, culinary specialties are inspired by the cuisine of the Rheinhessen and Franconia areas. Whatever the area of influence, potatoes and bread figure heavily in Hessische Küche, or Hessian cooking!
The original Frankfurter Würstchen, or Frankfurt sausage, is a scalded, smoked sausage (Brühwurst) made with pork contained in a natural sheepskin casing. To cook it, it is scaled in hot water for about 8 minutes, hence the name Brühwurst, and must never be boiled. It’s also used as a base for the popular Currywurst, which is a sliced sausage covered in a curry-flavored ketchup. Typical accompaniments are mustard, bread and horseradish. The Frankfurter Würstchen has been around since the 13th Century and since 1860, its name has been geographically protected so that only sausages made in the Frankfurt area may be called Frankfurter Würstchen! While the Frankfurter Würstchen is made from 100% pork, the Frankfurter Rindswurst is made from 100% beef. It was invented in 1894 by a butcher in Frankfurt and became very popular among the Jewish population of the time since it did not contain pork. The butcher’s shop where it was invented is still in business in the city to this day! Frankfurter Rindswurst is also a Brühwurst and is usually cooked in a Wasserbad (slow cooker) but can also be grilled or fried.
A green sauce is a cold sauce made with herbs that traditionally accompanies fish and meat dishes, boiled eggs and potatoes. The Frankfurt Grüne Sauce and the Kassel Grüne Sauce are very regional specialties in Hessen. The Frankfurter version is made from seven herbs, namely borage, chervil, cress, parsley, burnet, sorrel and chives. Sometimes dill, spinach or lovage are also added. The herbs are minced and blended with hard-boiled egg yolk and sour cream, then passed through a sieve and beaten together with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper creating a mayonnaise-type consistency. Frankfurter Grüne Sauce is traditionally served with boiled potatoes or Pellkartoffel, which are potatoes boiled in their skins. It is also typically eaten as a topping for hard-boiled eggs. To make a proper Frankfurter Grüne Sauce, worthy of its name, you really have to use herbs that are grown in certain areas of Frankfurt. These herbs are packed into paper bags and sold in the local markets. A genuine sauce would use only the seven above-mentioned herbs, without the addition of dill. Since herbs are not grown all-year round, there is indeed a season for Frankfurter Grüne Sauce, which, of course, begins on Gründonnerstag (green Thursday), which is the Thursday before Easter (Maundy Thursday), when one traditionally eats green food. The Kassel Grüne Sauce differentiates itself from the famous Frankfurter version in that it uses different herbs, namely borage, parsley, burnet, sorrel, chives, dill and lemon balm rather than chervil, cress and lovage. It is eaten with boiled, salted potatoes, Pellkartoffeln or baked potatoes.
As in many other regions in Germany, cooking in Hessen has been molded by what food and ingredients were available locally. People planned their meals based on what was available from local farmers as well as what was grown in their own gardens. This, however, was not a limitation since a large variety of foods were grown locally. This is evidenced today in the large variety of dishes and recipes that are considered typical for Hessen.
Many foods in Hessen share the same preparation techniques, but vary by only a few ingredients. For example, Blechkuchen, similar to a sheet cake, shares the same technique and ingredients for its base. However, a multitude of variations have been developed by changing its toppings. Streuselkuchen is a Blechkuchen topped with sweet crumbs. Zwetschgenkuchen is a Blechkuchen topped with plums and many times also with sweet crumbs.
Frankfurter Kranz, or Frankfurter Wreath, is a wreath-shaped cake from Frankfurt. It consists of a butter cake baked into a wreath-shaped form, then split into 2 – 4 layers and sandwiched together with butter cream filling and red preserves or jam. It’s decorated with more butter cream and sprinkled with Krokant, which is a mixture of nuts that have been browned in butter with a little sugar! A perfect holiday treat to satisfy one’s hunger and sweet tooth.