Grünkohl 2Grünkohl, or kale,  is a typical North German winter meal.  Soon after the first frost Restaurants will announce traditional all-you-can-eat  ‘Grünkohl’ arrangements  in the local papers.

A real Grünkohl meal consists of at least two kinds of different pork meats and a special sausage, the highlight of the meal. The meat that is boiled with the Grünkohl is usually some Kassler, a salted (cured) and mildly smoked pork meat, some belly of pork,  and  Schweinebacke, meat from the pig’s cheek. It is also salted and smoked and, at least in my opinion, neglectable, as it tends to be kind of rubbery and tasteless.

Grünkohl  is served with potatoes, as most North German dishes. However, you can get special potatoes just for Grünkohl. They are very small, and after boiling they will be fried or roasted in butter. They taste a bit more sweetish than ordinary sprouts.

Now, each region in North Germany has its own special sausage for Grünkohl. Around Bremen you will  have ‘Pinkel’, a very rough, spicy sausage, Kohlwurst  (‘cabbage sausage) is served in Schleswig – Holstein,  and  Bregenwurst in Northern Saxony.

P1030652Having grown up in Northern Saxony I like Bregenwurst best, of course. ’ Bregen’ is the Low German word (Plattdeutsch) for brain, and in the old times, when nothing was wasted after slaughtering, brain was an important ingredient. These days you can eat the sausage without being afraid of BSE, it is not allowed to use brain any more.

Last Sunday my 77-year old mother invited the family to a traditional ‘Grünkohlessen’, and, oh, I really, really loved it. She is growing her own cabbage in the garden and it is a lot of work to clean and cut the cabbage for so many people. But honestly, nobody is able to make it as good as she does, so  thank you, Mam, for making this for us! It was a real treat!

A traditional North German dish: Birnen, Bohnen, Speck

Late August, September and October are my favorite months of the year. There are still many sunny and warm days, which I appreciate even more after one of the  periods of rain and wind that occur more and more frequently as we head for autumn and winter.

The flowers blooming now have intense colours, and the shops and markets are full of fruit and vegetables grown in the area. It is time for one of my favorite foods: Birnen (pears), Bohnen (green string beans) and Speck (bacon). This dish is only eaten during the period  from late August until the beginning of October, because only then can you get these pears and fresh locally grown beans. I have never come across this dish outside Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg  or the northern part of Northern Saxony, therefore I consider it a true North German meal.

The pears used in this dish are small, hard and it is not advisable to eat them uncooked.   It is possible to use normal pears, but they should be small and very hard. It is important to use fresh beans as you will not get the typical flavor with frozen ones.


You boil the bacon for about half an hour together with the savory, then you add the pears and beans and boil the dish for another 20 minutes. Use salt and pepper to taste and serve with boiled potatoes. If you like you can thicken the cooking juices with a bit of flour.