Cooking in the German state of Saxony (Sachsen) is a melting pot of the cooking traditions of the numerous regions that make up the state: Ore Mountain region (Erzgebirge), Lusatia (Lausitz), Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz), Elbauen, Vogtland, etc. Meals are hearty with a variety of sauces, creative, trendy, and diverse.
The cooking here is also influenced by its history. In the flourishing cities of Dresden and Leipzig, recipes have been influenced by access to luxurious and extravagant ingredients. Likewise, in the Ore Mountain region (Erzgebirge), historically a very poor region, residents had to make due with basic, inexpensive ingredients, such as potatoes, quark, and flax seed. As a result, a great variety of foods and dishes are considered Saxon.
Nothing epitomizes German Christmas specialties quite like Dresdner Stollen. The name “Stollen” is taken from miners’ language and describes a support beam, a fitting name for a sweetbread without which Christmas in Germany just would not feel complete. Another interpretation likens the shape and look of this seasonal specialty to the swaddled newborn Jesus.
Saxony’s most well-known culinary specialty dates back to as early as the 14th century. What started out as a dry white bread customarily prepared during the pre-Christmas Advent season has developed into a beloved culinary treasure. Originally, Stollen was prepared using nothing but flour, water, yeast and oil, in compliance with a decree passed by the Roman Catholic Church according to which people were not to use butter and milk during Advent. Thanks to a petition by a prominent representative of Saxony’s nobility, who also happened to be a passionate gourmet, the Pope granted Saxon bakers an exception to this “butter ban.” In return for payment of a fine, bakers would be permitted to add milk and butter to their Stollen “with a clear conscience and God’s blessing.” This marked the beginning of an ongoing competition among Saxony’s master bakers to see who could bake the finest Stollen.
A very important tradition in Saxony is coffee and cake. It was in Leipzig that the first coffee bar in Germany was opened. Saxons look back on a long tradition of a so-called Kaffeehauskultur, or “coffee house culture.” The Saxons were the first in Germany to add cake to their coffee-drinking – a tradition that has spread throughout Germany and has become part of its culture.
Coffee arrived in Europe in the 17th century and quickly gained popularity among all social classes. For a while, it even pushed beer off its pedestal as the people’s favorite beverage. In the mid 18th century, when Germany had no colonies and no easy access to coffee beans, beer was heavily promoted again as the German beverage. In Prussia the ruling class went as far as passing a decree forbidding coffee consumption.
The uniquely Saxon expression of Blümchenkaffee, little flower coffee, an especially weak cup of coffee, might date back to that period when coffee was scarce. In order to fully understand this concept, it helps to know Saxony’s world-renowned porcelain manufacturer Meissen and its products. Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of China. The first European porcelain was manufactured in Meissen when the Royal Porcelain Factory was opened in 1710. Often families own a set of Meissen porcelain which is proudly handed down from generation to generation. Meissen’s delicate tea and coffee sets (consisting of tea/coffee pots, serving plates, cups and saucers) are made from the finest porcelain and one of their most beloved classic designs is a very colorful flower design. The cups are decorated with these little flowers not only on the outside but they also have a flower design on the inside, centered on the bottom of the cup. If coffee is brewed too weak, the flower is still on the bottom of the cup will still be visible – little flower coffee.
Saxony has a huge beer tradition. The most well known beers of the region are “Radeberger” and “Wernesgrüner.” Many beers from the state are exported to countries around the world.