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WorldNomads Scholarship Travel scholarship 2012 entry

Passport & Plate - German comfort food from my grandmother's kitchen

Germany | Thursday, March 6, 2014 | 5 photos


Könisberger Klopse- German/Prussian comfort food from my Grandmother’s kitchen

The Meatballs-
400g ground beef
1 egg
Salt, pepper

The Gravy-
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
3-4 Tbsp Capers
3-4 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 bullion cube
1/4 tsp sugar

How to prepare Königsberger Klopse

Making the Klopse (meatball):

Begin heating 750 mL of water in a medium sauce pan at high heat

In a bowl thoroughly mix 400 g of ground beef (85-90% lean) with a lightly beaten egg, appx. 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and a couple of grinds of fresh pepper (from a pepper mill) Shape the klopse into 65-75g balls
When the water begins to simmer add the klopse (The meatballs keep their shape better if the water is hot)
Simmer for 20 minutes
Remove the klopse from the pot and set aside, but do not dump out the liquid, you'll need it later

Making the gravy:

Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a small sauce pan
Add one Tbsp of flour and mix thoroughly. This will be your roux
Bring 500 mL of the broth made from boiling the klopse to a simmer
Let the bullion cube dissolve in the broth(I prefer chicken bullion, and only a single cube. I don’t like the other flavors to be overwhelmed by bullion flavor)
Add the roux to the broth and stir in thoroughly.
Stir in the lemon juice and sugar
Keep stirring the broth as it thickens, so that it does not lump up
Once the gravy has thickened add the capers and remove from the heat (My grandmother preferred adding the capers at the very end to keep the various flavors distinct)

Königsberger Klopse is traditionally served with boiled potatoes. It’s the only way I’ve ever eaten it, and how my grandmother taught it to me. I have heard some people prefer rice though.

Serve the meatballs with side of your choice and spoon the gravy over both of them.

This will serve two to three people.

The story behind the recipe

Boiled meatballs and potatoes may not sound exciting, but pour on a rich, tangy gravy seasoned with capers and lemon, and you have Königsberger Klopse an eastern european comfort food that reminds not just me of sitting around a grandmother’s table.

When I stand at my kitchen counter shaping meatballs with my hands, the murmur of potatoes boiling behind me, my thoughts wander to my grandmother Dita, and being in her kitchen with family gathered. There were many different dishes we ate there, but Königsberger Klopse wasn’t one of them, not until an afternoon towards the end when I asked her to teach me to cook something.

It was just the two of us that summer’s day, and we made small talk as she showed me the finer points of this simple meal. I didn’t think to ask her then what it was about Königsberger Klopse that made her choose that dish above all others to teach me. I’ve had to piece the “why” together since then, talking with my mother and uncle, and researching on the web.

She learned to cook it as a jewish girl growing up in Germany. Her family supplied beef to the Kaiser’s household, which might help account for her using only ground beef for the meatballs (some recipes I looked at on the web also used pork or lamb). She escaped to San Francisco in the 1930’s with her family.

It became a special dish to my mother who was born in the states; one of the few meals they ate that wasn’t “american,” but more typical of Germany or Europe. I think it was this sense of heritage, of passing something along from her youth that made Dita to pass it on to me.

My mom inherited Dita’s cookbooks, including a loose leaf one, full of her handwritten recipes (and a few clipped from magazines). The book is old and full, and needs a string tied around it to keep it all together. The recipe for Königsberger Klopse, written in Dita’s own hand is in there, but it lacks some detail. If she hadn’t taught me her secrets that day, the recipe alone wouldn’t have let me make it just right.

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