We’re all familiar with the name ‘Oktoberfest’ - but how did it all start? And how has it changed over the years to become a beer and food-inspired event? Mandy Wright gives us a brief run down of Oktoberfest’s history, and includes a delicious recipe for German potato dumplings at the end!
Over the summer, I learned that some of my neighbors were leaving their kids behind for a friends-only trip to Munich to attend Oktoberfest. Every time I’ve been to the store over the past few weeks, I can’t cruise down the beer aisle without spotting at least ten different brands of Oktoberfestbier made by local breweries. I even accidentally stumbled upon a mini Oktoberfest celebration at a brewery here in Virginia, selling Oktoberfestbier and boot glasses, along with German fare such as pretzels and bratwurst.
My point? German food and beer are things that people associate with merriment in a way that’s different from drinking a normal beer or eating a normal meal with friends. Traditional German food and Oktoberfest seem to merit going out and celebrating (why not? Bratwursts and potato pancakes are delicious), even here in the United States. Heck, in cities all around the world!
It all started on October 12th, 1810 when King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen got married. The people of Munich were invited to the fields just outside the city limits for festivities in honor of the royal marriage, including a horse race that would later be excluded from the Oktoberfest tradition. Nonetheless, when, the following year, the people of Munich gathered again to watch a grand horse race, Oktoberfest was born.
Over the years, beer stands evolved into beer tents and halls - where only select breweries from within the Munich city limits are allowed to sell beer, even today. Traditionally served was the Bavarian Märzenbier, an amber lager that receives its name from the fact that it was brewed in March, as brewing beer in the summer was thought to encourage bacteria growth. 1872, however, saw the very first Oktoberfestbier, or the first beer intended specifically to be poured and sold during the Oktoberfest celebrations.
Nowadays, Munich’s Oktoberfest draws millions of visitors every year, and the festival pours nearly as many liters as attendees. Food from half a roast chicken, pork knuckle with gravy, and sugar-roasted almonds to bratwurst, currywurst, and pretzels are served to hungry - and drunken, mind you - crowds. In the 1970s, ‘Gay Sunday’, the first Sunday of the festival, also known as Rosa Wiesn Oktoberfest, became an official, yearly event that now draws nearly 8,000 people.
You can even celebrate Oktoberfest in places like Hong Kong; Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada; and Brisbane, Australia. Not to mention Blumenau, Brazil, a town which was founded in 1850 by German immigrants, and Cincinnati, USA, where almost 100 dachshunds dressed in hot dog costumes race one another in an event called the ‘Running of the Wieners’.
In case you weren’t able to attend Oktoberfest this year, like me, I am including a recipe for one of my personal favorite German dishes: Kartoffel Kloesse, a round, boiled potato dumpling that has a lightly doughy yet oddly delicious texture, often served with gravy draped over top. And… it’s vegetarian (without the gravy, that is)!
Kartoffelklöße (Kartoffel Kloesse)
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes (about 2 large)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or more)
1/8 cup cornstarch (or potato starch, much preferred, if you can get it)
1 large egg
2 slices sourdough bread or 2 slices white bread (good quality)
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp corn oil or 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Trim crusts off bread and save them for another use. Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and fry in butter and oil mixture until golden brown, transfer to paper towel to dry.
Cook scrubbed, unpeeled potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain. Cool slightly. Peel.
Cut potatoes into large pieces. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. Mash potatoes with fork or run through ricer into large bowl.
Mix in salt and nutmeg. Add 1/2 cup flour and cornstarch. Using hands, knead mixture in bowl until smooth dough forms, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky. Mix in egg.
Form dough into balls, using 1/4 cupful for each. Insert bread cube into center of each dumpling; roll dumpling between palms to enclose bread cube completely and form smooth balls.
Working in batches, cook dumplings in large pot of nearly boiling salted water 10-15 minutes (or until dumplings rise to top). Using slotted spoon, transfer dumplings to large bowl. You should place no more than 4-5 dumplings in your pot at any one time in order to prevent them from sticking together or touching during cooking, which will cause them to fall apart.
Keep covered with a damp kitchen towel as remaining dumplings are cooked.
(recipe courtesy of GeniusKitchen: https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/kartoffelkloesse-german-potato-dumplings-59894)
Enjoy with a cold glass of German beer, or a non-alcoholic favorite Fall drink!
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