Perhaps no where in the world is gingerbread, Lebkuchen in German, more revered as in Nuremberg, Germany. Boasting of a history dating since 1395, Nuremberg City Council approved the establishment of a sworn gingerbread guild in 1643. Today, bakers still carry on the traditions that have spread through generations of Nurembergers.
At Christmas time, the Nuremberg gingerbread industry steps up. Starting in August, thousands create cookies, houses and little men to be sold through the holiday season. Specialty tins are created just for this special time of year and sold in booths in the famous Christkindl Markts throughout the town. Small tins start at about 2.40 Euros (about $4),are sold along with music boxes filled with gingerbread (11.35 Euros) and large assortments that will fill a crowd’s gingerbread needs (some selling as high as 60 some odd Euros). Many collect the tins from each year.
According to Karola Gartner, a Nuremberg resident and public relations representative for Nuremberg Tourism, gingerbread is sold and mailed all over the world by the bakers of the city. While most of the gingerbread is now made by machines, several bakers make at least some of the cookies and creations by hand.
At many of the booths at the markets, you can watch bakers measure, mix and stir then form the perfect loaves or roll-out dough to cut the popular cookies sold seemingly everywhere. Gingerbread hearts both large and small are decorated with sayings of love and endearment, wrapped in cellophane, and then hung from the booths of the Christkindl Markts. These cookies are often bought for loved ones for holiday gifts.
The Nuremberg sausage, Handwerkerhof, is almost as famous as the gingerbread. The sausages are about the size of an adult’s little finger and are typically served grilled, although when we ate at Bratwurstgloecklein, a famous restaurant in the old town of Nuremberg, they served them not only grilled but smoked and also in a vinegar sauce with onions. Usually about for to five inches long, they are made with ground pork and various spices. The sausage are so famous they are sold in cans for tourists to take home: I prefer mine grilled.
The Nurembergers take their sausage very seriously. A few years ago the city registered the sausages so that only those made in the city can be called Nuremberg sausage. There have even been lawsuits over this action!
The sausages are usually sold three in a bun and in multiples of three. Six would make a good appetizer or a meal accompanied by German potato salad. By the way, the Germans don’t serve their potato salad warm, nor does it have bacon in it.
Why are the sausages so small? According to Ms. Gartner, legend states that in medieval times, there was an 8 p.m. curfew and doors were locked. For those who worked after curfew, that would mean no dinner at the local taverns so the sausages were made that small in order to sell and pass them through keyholes after curfew. Makes for a good story, anyway.
Nuremberg Ginger Bread: Nürnberger Lebkuchen
- 4 eggs
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups unpeeled almonds, coarsely grated
- 1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, grated for peel, juice reserved
- 1/4 whole nutmeg, grated
- Confectioner's sugar
Beat eggs and sugar until they have the consistency of thick cream. To this gradually add almonds, candied orange peel, lemon peel and nutmeg. Spoon dough onto greased baking sheet. Dough should be about 1/2" high. Smooth dough with a knife dipped in rose water. Bake in a pre-heated 325-350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until bread-like. Remove cookies and let cool. Meanwhile, mix confectioner's sugar with lemon juice to form a paste. Frost cookies.
By Kathleen Ganster