Thuringian cuisine is based on traditional recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. A lot of the hearty and high-calorie dishes revolve around large slabs of slow-cooked or grilled meat, and while that sounds heavenly to some, vegetarians who want to try local foods are often left with typical sides, such as cabbage and potatoes in one form or another. Either way, trying the local food should be on your list of must-have experiences, so here are seven foods you need to try when you’re in Erfurt.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the state’s famous sausages. Historical documents first mention the so-called ‘Thüringer Rostbratwurst’ in 1613, and the label is protected under EU law, much like Gouda cheese, champagne or Kölsch. The speciality sausage distinguished itself from its cousins through a spice mix of salt, pepper, cumin, marjoram and garlic and its fairly smooth texture. They’re traditionally grilled over an open fire, and you find them pretty much everywhere, be it in restaurants or at the weekly farmer’s market.
Klöße, German potato dumplings, are a staple food in a lot of regions across the country, but the Thuringian variety involves quite a bit of effort and skill and comes with a twist. The traditional recipe uses a mix of both raw and boiled potatoes, which are mushed together, seasoned and hand-formed into fist-sized balls. The perfect amount of fried croutons are then pressed into the inside, before the surface is smoothed out again, and the Klöße are put into simmering water until done.
Brace yourselves, because Biersuppe means beer soup and it is precisely that: soup made from beer that has an usual malty and sweet flavour. It’s one of the oldest European soup recipes, and until the mid-19th century, people would enjoy a bowl of beer soup for breakfast, due to its high-calorie count and nutritional value. The original recipe uses grated rye bread that’s soaked and boiled in beer, molten butter, cream and eggs.
If you happen to leave Erfurt to explore eastern Thuringia – the town of Schmöll to be more precise – and you like grilled meats, you’re in for a treat. Keep your eyes peeled for a dish called Schmöllner Mutzbraten, which can be described as fist-sized pieces of pork rotisseried over an open fire and then served with bread, sauerkraut and a dab of mustard. Don’t make the mistake of asking for ketchup, that’s generally frowned upon.
Thuringian recipe books list a lot of delicious desserts; sheet cakes are particularly popular. If you get the chance, get a slice of Schmandkuchen, one of said much-praised sheet cakes. The yeast dough is topped with fruits, then Schmand, which is best described as a fattier version of sour cream, and sprinkled with cinnamon. Have we mentioned it’s delicious?
You’ve probably gathered by now that Thuringians love a good barbeque and this dish proves the point. Thüringer Rostbrätel stands for nothing but another variety of grilled pork, but the secret lies in the marinade, made from a local black beer, onions, mustard and a special mix of spices. The neck chops soak for up to two days before they’re thrown onto a charcoal grill and continuously sprayed with more beer to make sure the meat doesn’t dry out.
When questioned about their favourite homemade meals, a lot of Thuringians will say Rinderrouladen, so it’s not much of a surprise that the regional take on beef roulades is found on the menu of virtually every traditional restaurant in Thuringia. The meat is hammered tender, seasoned and spread with mustard, topped with onions and bacon and then rolled into a roulade. They cook for hours to get the best flavour and texture imaginable.