Monday, February 16, 2009

Peter Piper Picked a Peck...

Does anyone know what do to with pickled peppers? I don't mean the long tasty strips of grilled sweet red pepper that have been preserved in jars with vinegar; I mean the actual peppercorns. This is something they sell in German grocery stores, and it looks exactly like a little jar of capers, which is how I ended up buying them. In fact they are on the shelf right next to the capers (just to confuse you more). I didn't notice my mistake until I got home and saw "Pfeffer" on the label, and still had to confirm with my husband that "Pfeffer" was, indeed, "pepper" and not "capers." This is an item I have never seen on an American grocery store shelf. If you have any good ideas about how I can cook with them, please let me know.

That brings me to the subject of today's post -- German vs. American foods. Now, I am not some kind of food snob; I will freely admit that when I am in Europe for an extended period of time, I eventually start to crave Hershey's chocolate, especially the milk chocolate with almonds (either bars or kisses). [This should be interpreted as a hint to anyone who wants to send me a care package.] I know that Hershey's is a completely pedestrian -- some would even say degenerate -- taste, one which can only be accounted for by childhood experience. Some people I know won't even eat Hershey's.

Things I like about food in Germany:

1. Blood orange juice. It's a European thing, in general; I first discovered it in Italy many years ago. I just don't understand why it's not available in the U.S. But I drink it every day here.

2. Yoghurt -- excellent! Maybe it's European yoghurt in general, but it's incredibly rich.

3. German-made "Dijon" mustard that is so spicy it makes your eyes water.

4. Rittersport candy bars for less 1 Euro (about $1.30 at the moment). (We pay several times that in Missouri.) My favorite is the dark chocolate-covered marzipan.

5. Black licorice. If you, too, love black licorice, let me know and I will bring some back for you in August.

6. Quark. This is a dairy product, somewhere between yoghurt and sour cream in texture and flavor. My husband says it is "whey." In Germany it is as common as yoghurt, and can be flavored with fruit or with herbs. With the herbs it is sort of like eating onion dip.

7. "Crema di balsamico," actually an Italian product, but available in the German grocery store. It's a thick syrup made from balsamic vinegar, it's like a carmelized balsamic vinegar reduction. A little tangy, a little sweet. Delicious on ice cream (as I can testify), and they also recommend it on savory foods like meat (which I haven't tried).

Things I miss from America:

1. Avocadoes that are tasty and consistently good quality (though that can't always be taken for granted in Missouri, either).

2. Chicken broth, preferably organic and free-range; but you can't find ANY here except concentrated stuff that has to be reconstituted with water. I suppose it's more economical and more environmentally sound, since it requires less packaging, but somehow it seems more heavily processed to me.

3. Almond butter. They do have it in Germany, but it's hard to find -- you have to go to the health food store (the Bio-markt), and even then it's very runny (even when refrigerated).

4. Trader Joe's. Okay, I miss that even when I'm in Columbia, Missouri. Germany has Aldi but that's just not the same.

These lists are pretty short. Pretty much everything is available everywhere these days, isn't it? But I've only been here for two weeks; these lists may grow over the next 5 1/2 months.


  1. can you get free-range whole chicken? Buy one and make your own broth. So much better than any store bought, and not hard to do.

  2. Well, obviously that's the best broth, but I was thinking more along the lines of having some broth on hand for when I want to cook up a quick batch of lentils or something.

  3. My friend Anne sent this link for pickled green peppercorns:

  4. Please tell your husband that Quark is curds, not whey!
    Whey is Molke (or Kaesewasser).

  5. Oh, well maybe I was misquoting him, it's been a while since he told me. I'm sure he knows the difference.