Celebrating Beethoven’s Birthday

Classical music has always been an integral part of my life–from the hours upon hours of piano practicing I did during my childhood to the hours upon hours of my children’s piano practicing.   One composer’s music rings in my house more than most:  that of Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven was born on December 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany in that state of North-Rhine Westphalia.  While his mother was German, his father was of Flemish origin, with his family from Brabant (now Belgium), hence “van” instead of “von” in his name.  His father was a musician at the court in Bonn, and was very strict and harsh when teaching music to little Beethoven.  Beethoven was one of seven children, though only he and 2 brothers survived.  Beethoven proved to be extremely talented, composing at an early age as well as performing.  His first public performance was at age 7 1/2.  At 14, he was appointed organist in the court of Maximilian Franz.  Franz sent Beethoven to Vienna to help him expand his musical education in 1787.  There, he is thought to have met Mozart and studied under Haydn.  While he returned home to Bonn for a few years because of his mother’s ailing health, he otherwise remained in Vienna until his death on March 26, 1827.  Beethoven never married, nor did he have any children.  In the last years of his life, his health severely deteriorated.  It is noted that 20,000 mourners attended his funeral.

Beethoven’s music opened new pathways, so he is known as the bridge between the “Classical Period” and “Romantic Period.” In his twenties, his hearing began to decline, and by 1815, he was nearly completely deaf.  While his social life and outlook on life suffered as a result of this handicap, it did not stand in his way from composing some of his best and most famous works, such as his Ninth Symphony with its famous chorale finale.  And who can forget the haunting first movement from the “Moonlight” piano sonata and the coolest of the cool Fifth Symphony!

For a great video of the ferocious third movement from the “Moonlight Sonata,” check out Valentina Lasitsa’s performance.  Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, 3rd Movement (Lasitsa).  Or, check out her performance of the timeless melody, Für Elise.  Fur Elise (Lasitsa)

To honor Beethoven’s birthday, I attempted to put together a simple, traditional Westphalian family dinner.

 

Beef hot pot is a traditional Westphalian dish.  “Hot” meaning peppery, drink a gallon of water while you eat kind of hot.  [Tip:  Drink milk to lessen the blow of spicy hot foods!]  Serve beef dish with warm white cabbage salad with bacon, some pickles, and German potato pancakes, and turn on Beethoven’s 5th or 9th Symphony to help you savor this hearty German fare.  Finish your meal off with a piece of apple-almond cake and some black coffee (or a nice dessert wine).

 

Here are the recipes for this meal:  Westphalian Beef Hot Pot, Warm White Cabbage Salad with Bacon, Potato Pancakes, and Apple-Almond Cake.  Enjoy some Beethoven this evening!

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German Beef Potthast (Hot Pot)
2016 HollyTrail.com
Course Main Dish
Cuisine German
Cook Time 1 1/2 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds beef (chuck) or mix of beef and pork cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4-5 medium onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or water
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (if necessary)
Course Main Dish
Cuisine German
Cook Time 1 1/2 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds beef (chuck) or mix of beef and pork cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4-5 medium onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock or water
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (if necessary)
Instructions
  1. Slice 2 onions thinly. Finely chop the remaining onions.
  2. In a large pot, place beef/pork cubes, onions, salt, pepper, allspice, lemon juice, and bay leaves.
  3. Add white wine and water or stock to just cover the cubes of meat.
  4. Mix well and cook uncovered over low to medium heat for about one hour, stirring often. There should be enough liquid to make a sauce. If not, add some more liquid during cooking.
  5. Remove bay leaves and add the bread crumbs to the pot, stir, and cook for 20 more minutes. Sauce should become thick.
  6. Taste sauce and add additional seasoning, such as salt, allspice, pepper, or lemon juice, to taste. Add sugar if too tart.
Recipe Notes

For added flavor, brown the meat cubes in olive oil before adding to the pot.

Adapted from recipe by Horst Scharfenberg in The Cuisines of Germany.

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Print Recipe
German Potato Pancakes
2016 © HollyTrail.com
Course Side Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds potatoes (russet potatoes recommended)
  • 2 small to medium onions
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • olive oil for frying
Course Side Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds potatoes (russet potatoes recommended)
  • 2 small to medium onions
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • olive oil for frying
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, peel and coarsely grate potatoes. In a separate bowl, finely grate onions. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
  2. Remove any liquid that has accumulated from the grated potatoes. Add grated onions, salt, eggs, and flour to the potatoes. Mix well to make a batter.
  3. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Using a serving spoon or small ladle, spoon dollops of the batter onto the pan. Lightly spread batter to form flat pancakes. Be careful so that the pancakes do not touch each other.
  5. Fry until the edges are golden brown and the pancakes look crispy. Flip and fry the other side. When second side is golden brown and crispy, transfer with a spatula to a serving platter.
  6. Repeat previous 2 steps for remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as necessary to ensure proper frying. Serve immediately or cover loosely with foil until all batches are completed.
  7. Can be served plain, or with sour cream or applesauce.
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German White Cabbage Salad with Bacon
2016 © HollyTrail.com
Course Side Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced (at least 7 strips)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Course Side Dish
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 pound bacon, diced (at least 7 strips)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Wash cabbage head and cut into quarters. Remove the tough stem. Cut thin strips of cabbage with a knife, or coarsely grate.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain in a strainer, pressing out remaining water.
  3. Shake the remaining water from the cabbage as you transfer it to a large bowl. Add vinegar and mix. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the diced bacon in a frying pan. Mix the bacon with the bacon drippings into the cabbage mixture. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from Horst Scharfenberg's 1980 cookbook (translated in 1989), The Cuisines of Germany.

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German Apple-Almond Cake
2016 HollyTrail.com
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 medium to large tart apples (e.g., Granny Smith)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 8 ounces almond paste (e.g, Solo brand)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons butter, melted (1 stick + 6 tablespoons)
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
Ingredients
  • 4 medium to large tart apples (e.g., Granny Smith)
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 8 ounces almond paste (e.g, Solo brand)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons butter, melted (1 stick + 6 tablespoons)
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Slice two of the apples into ½ inches slices and place in a bowl with half of the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Chop the other two apples into small cubes and place them in a separate bowl. Sprinkle the chopped apples with the remaining lemon juice and mix with your fingers.
  3. Break up the almond paste with your fingers and place in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the almond paste, sugars, and salt at medium speed
  4. Add the melted butter, almond extract, and lemon zest and beat well. Beat in eggs until fully incorporated.
  5. Meanwhile, combine cake flour, corn starch and baking powder in a separate bowl. After the eggs have been incorporated into the almond paste mixture, stir in the flour mixture by hand or at the lowest speed of the electric mixer. Fold in diced apples.
  6. Transfer batter into prepared springform pan. Starting at the middle, arrange sliced apples on top of the batter. Press slices slightly into the batter. Bake cake for about 1 hour and 5-10 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
  7. Five minutes before baking is completed, warm jam in a small saucepan and press through a sieve using the back of a spoon. Immediately after removing the cake from the oven, spread or brush strained jam over the top of the cake. Remove sides of the springform pan after the cake has completely cooled. Cut into wedges to serve.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz's post at:   http://www.davidlebovitz.com/apfel-marzipan-kuchen-german-apple-almond-cake-recipe/ , and is based on Luisa Weiss’s recipe in her book, Classic German Baking.

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