A Cheese Hedgehog, the mainstay of any type of cold buffet in Germany during the 60's and 70's, faded into the background of the country's favorite foods, but it was so far OUT that it has become part of the "Retro" trend and is IN once again.
A Käseigel Comeback.
Käse is Cheese and Igel is Hedgehog, which it resembles covered with little sticks holding cheese or other goodies, so the "comeback" of the cheese hedgehog as the ideal "mitbringen", bring-along, a centerpiece of buffet tables and accompaniment to everything from barbecue evenings to winter drinks.
The construction of a Käseigel is easy.
There is an exotic version with a pineapple, where the fruit, including leaves, is carefully washed, a slice taken from its base so it can stand securely and then the filled sticks added in rows from top to bottom.
Then there is a Cheese Hedgehog that perhaps has a closer resemblance to the animal it is named after.
If it is to be made for a party with lots of guests, or needs to "make a statement", take a large cabbage or a melon, water melon makes a great foundation, or for a selection of smaller "Hedgehogs" use several oranges or grapefruit.
Which ever is used cut off a slice to make a flat base, so it will stand securely on a plate, and wrap in aluminum foil. The foil catches any juice from a melon for example, while also looking better as the 'hedgehog' begins to lose its "spikes".
And for a Käseigel that really looks something like a hedgehog attach a pear to the side of your melon or cabbage, with a wooden kebab stick perhaps, before covering it with foil and you have an Igel complete with snout. Cheese, fruit and vegetables are put onto cocktails sticks, stuck into the base and the Cheese Hedgehog is complete.
Absolutely necessary are:
A fresh Pineapple if you are going for the exotic version, or Cabbage or Melon together with a pear if you want to make something that looks
like a hedgehog, and for smaller 'hedgehogs' oranges and/or grapefruit.
Cheese, can be either one variety, a mild semi-hard cheese for example which will compliment fruit, vegetables and pickles, or a mixture of different semi-hard cheese.
Cheese sticks, wooden or plastic.
The original Käseigel was made only from pieces of cheese, grapes and perhaps mandarins, because that was all that was available at the time, but things are different today and there is no limit to the ingredients and combinations.
Here are some ideas:
Red and/or Green Grapes
Red Bell Pepper
Pineapple Chunks, fresh or canned
Mushroom Caps, either grilled or from a can
Grilled Egg Plant, Zucchini, Red Pepper
Whatever you use it should be in "bite sized" pieces, a combination of two or three threaded onto sticks and pricked into the base.
It is best to start at the top center of the base and work downwards making the lines as straight as possible, and for the cabbage or melon version if there is extra time available to cut wooden sticks to size, placing longer ones at the top and shorter downwards and along the sides looks very effective.
There are variations of Cheese Hedgehog, in fact they don't always have to be made from cheese, and a popular "Hedgehog" at Children's Parties is the Gummy Bear Candy Hedgehog. Not only a favorite 'to nibble' at, it makes a great table centerpiece with Gummi Bears threaded onto sticks, more often than not several rather than one bear on each, and then stuck into the cabbage and pear base.
Other Hedgehogs are made only with different types of fruit, however some ideas for a cheese based party snack are:
With Italian flair, made from cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and pesto.
The mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces, marinaded overnight in a mix of pesto, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.
The cherry tomatoes halved, one half added to stick, followed by a basil leaf, then a piece of mozzarella, finally the other tomato half.
One a Greek influence, made with a Feta type cheese, green or black olives without stone and slices of cocktail gherkins.
Thread a slice of gherkin onto each stick, followed by a piece of feta then an olive.
While a "German" Hedgehog for those occasions such as watching international soccer games, or Formula One Grand Prix races, is made entirely in Black, Red and Gold, from perhaps black olives, small red tomatoes and golden colored cheese.
The combinations are endless and, whatever you decide upon, enjoy your journey back in time, with a food classic from Germany of the 1960's and 1970's now enjoying its renaissance. Although not long ago the word was thought to be under threat in the German language, because it had fallen out of use, there is no longer any need to "Rettet den Käseigel", Save the Cheese Hedgehog.
Illustrations: Cheese Hedgehog courtesy Landes-vereinigung der Bayerischen Milchwirtschaft, "Hedgehog" Base photographer Hasenohr73 Chefkoch.de