Late summer in Germany. In wine regions the early ripening grapes are harvested and for the next two months it is time to enjoy Federweißer; the year's young partially fermented wine best described as a delicious, and easily drinkable, alcoholic grape soda.
A white wine usually made with white grapes, although red like Pinot Noir are used in Switzerland, it contains yeast from grape "Must", which is fermented freshly pressed grape juice so it has a lot of fizz and bottles can't be made airtight or they would explode.
Unlike most wines Federweißer, from German Feder - "feather" and weiß - "white", can not be stored on its side either. "Flasche nicht legen!" stands large on the cap, because the contents would leak out leaving a puddle...and an empty bottle.
With at least four percent alcohol, sometimes eleven percent, it is more alcoholic than it seems and easily absorbed, so there are traditional "heavy" snacks to accompany it: roasted chestnuts, Pfaelzer Saumagen - stuffed belly of pork, but more frequently the favorite is an Onion Pie or Quiche, which in Germany is called "Zwiebelkuchen". Literally Onion Cake.
Federweißer doesn't keep for long, nor does it travel well despite refrigerated trucks etc., and is still difficult to find outside Germany, Switzerland and Austria, so if ever in those countries during those crucial few autumn weeks in late August, September and October it is certainly worth trying.
Although Zwiebelkuchen is a favorite accompaniment to a glass or two, or three, of Federweißer in Germany it is also a dish to be enjoyed without the new wine, and wherever you are in the world.
There are many traditional and family Zwiebelkuchen recipes, often baked using yeast dough as a base, but this Onion Pie, or Onion Flan, recipe is one of the easiest, most popular and has a delicious crust but there is no yeast, or rising time. So it is "quick".
"Well tested" over the years, it comes from Baden-Württemberg in South West Germany; the Black Forest area.
ZWIEBELKUCHEN, ONION PIE, RECIPE
For the flan casing:
2 3/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup Butter, diced and kept cold
1/2 cup Cold Water
1/2 lb Bacon diced (as a vegetarian alternative just use sufficient oil to coat the onions)
5 medium Onions, sliced whole and cut across into "half moons"
1/2 to 1 tsp Caraway seeds (when making it for the first time, might be best to use the smaller quantity)
2 Egg yolks
1 1/2 cups Sour cream
1/2 tsp Salt, 1/2 tsp Pepper, pinch Nutmeg
Using a large bowl add cold diced butter to flour and mix. Slowly add water, continually mixing, until dough forms into a soft mixture with some small solid pieces of butter remaining. These pieces of butter add texture to the finished pastry.
Chill, wrapped, for about an hour.
Lightly oil quiche or pizza pan and line with the pastry, fork the flan case to prevent the pastry rising, and chill for further half an hour.
(This is a yeast free Zwiebelkuchen crust but ready made pizza dough or bread dough from the chill cabinet can be substituted, and flan case cooking instructions altered to fit).
Fry diced bacon over medium heat until crisp, remove and drain off remaining fat on kitchen paper.
Stirring occasionally cook onions, with pinch of sugar, in remaining bacon fat over medium heat until light gold, translucent, and caramelized, add the caraway seeds and season with salt and pepper.
Combine the cooked bacon with the onion mixture, place in pastry flan case and bake in a pre-warmed oven at 400 F until the pastry is a lightly golden, about 20 minutes.
Mix egg yolks, sour cream and a pinch of nutmeg together until thoroughly blended and pour mixture over the onions and bacon. Return to oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until egg and sour cream mixture has set.
Take Zwiebelkuchen from the oven and allow to cool.
Sometimes a crushed garlic and chopped parsley is added to the onion mixture as it is frying, or 4 oz finely grated cheese with the sour cream mixture, but these are just options that add that "extra something", and not traditional.
The Zwiebelkuchen is usually sliced into sections and eaten as it is, or served with a green or mixed salad, and is a culinary treat and ideal accompaniment to Federweißer as it minimizes the effect of a deceptively alcoholic wine. But it fits to any wine, beer, or non-alcoholic drink, throughout the seasons and so there is no need to save it just for the autumn months.
Treberwurst is another German "harvest time" specialty from wine growing areas using grapes and sausages, which might sound a strange combination but it works.
Treberwurst originated in the vineyards as a meal eaten by the field workers, and it used the leftovers, the "Must", grape seeds and skins, from the wine making, to first marinade, then to wrap and cook sausages over an open fire. But this is an adapted recipe we can all use.
1 lb sausages, with skins
6 oz shallots, finely chopped
1/2 lb large grapes
Large glass white wine
Freshly ground pepper
Halve and de-seed grapes, just cover sausages and grape seeds with water, bring to below boiling point and simmer until sausages are cooked through. Thirty to 45 minutes depending on the thickness of the sausages.
Remove sausages and cool in cold water, peel and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, marinade together with grape halves for at least one hour.
Remove sausage slices from marinade, fry on both sides until crisp, take from pan and keep warm.
Put shallots and sugar into pan until lightly caramelized, add grape halves and heat through until beginning to soften, add wine and reduce by two thirds over low heat.
Season with pepper.
The sauce can be poured over cooked sausage slices or served as a side dish, and the Treberwurst accompanied by bread, as it was in the vineyards, a mixed or green salad, a potato dish - salted boiled potatoes, a gratin, or one many different potato salads for example. A popular accompaniment is a warm sliced potato and creamed leek combination.
Illustrations: Federweißer und Zwiebelkuchen via weinblum.de - Zwiebelkuchen by Biezl via de.Wikipedia, Treberwurst cooking with grape seeds and skins by weinberg-amriswil.ch
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