Cooking in Saarland can be described as rich yet simple. This stems historically from the labor-intensive work done by the residents (such as mining and farming). They needed the energie-rich foods to sustain their health. At the same time, the food had to be cost-effective as well as easily accessible. From this need came many potato dishes, which were inexpensive and easy to grow. Likewise, onions, leek, cabbage, beans, and other vegetables became important in cooking here. A popular phrase in Saarland says it all: “Hauptsach’ gudd gess!” (The most important thing is to eat well!)
Whereas Southern Germany is best-known for its dumplings and egg noodles (Spätzle), Germany’s western-most states – North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland – are a potato lover’s paradise. The vast majority of typical recipes from Saarland center around this “über-tuber”. In the Saarland dialect, potatoes are called “Grumbeeren” or “Grumbieren” and the people from the region love their local potato specialties, the names of which will never be found in standard dictionaries and require translation even for non-local Germans.
“Dibbelabbes” is a hash-style one-pot potato dish with cured meat, it is an oven-baked potato-leek hash, prepared from grated raw potatoes, bacon or pork belly and leeks in a Dibbe (pot). “Grummbeerkieschelscher” are crispy potato pancakes, “Hoorische” and “Gefillde” are types of potato dumplings which are usually served with a creamy bacon gravy. “Kerschdscher” translates as diced potatoes sautéed in hot fat, a dish with white cabbage and potatoes goes by the name of “Kappes und Grumbeere”. These are but a few potato specialties from Saarland. A traditional side dish which often accompanies these hearty potato dishes is a dandelion salad called “Bettseichersalat”.
No regional cuisine in Germany would be complete without its meat specialties. As is the case for all of Germany, grilling or barbecuing is extremely popular in Saarland – so much so that people there have come up with a special regional term for describing it. The verb Schwenken describes not only the mere act of grilling but more importantly the social event, the BBQ party with neighbors and friends. The noun Schwenker designates a specific kind of grill. Unlike the common standup grill, people in the Saarland prefer a tripod construction with a grate suspended by chains. The Schwenker owes its name to the swaying motion created by positioning meat on the grill. Schwenker may also be used to refer to the host or the person operating the grill. It is a common tradition for guests to comment on the skills of their host and to enrich the grilling event with their Schwenker experiences and stories.
A popular type of sausage in Saarland is a Fleischwurst-style pork sausage, elegantly named Lyoner after the French city of Lyon, again paying tribute to its neighbor. (Note that in other regions of Germany Lyoner may refer to a different type of sausage, sometimes a type of cold cut.) Lyoner Pfanne, a skillet dish with sausage, potatoes and fried eggs, and a rustic stew called Lyoner Gulasch are two popular dishes featuring this sausage.
As far as beverages are concerned, the Saarland is part of Germany’s most well-known German wine-growing region called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, named after the river Moselle and two of its tributaries. Vineyards along the lower reaches of the Saar river yield wines prized by connoisseurs.
Apfelwein (apple wine) or “Viez” in the regional dialect is considered by many to be the quintessential Saarland beverage. Similar to the states of Hesse with its “äppelwoi”, Swabia with its “Moschd” and neighboring France with its “Cidre”, the alcoholic apple beverage has obtained cult status. The word “Viez” is derived from the Latin expression “Vice-Vinum” which roughly translates as deputy wine. The town of Merzig has an entire festival dedicated to the popular beverage. The “Viezfest” is one of the region’s most popular events.