Handkäse Mit Musik, mit Vera und Jörg.
Grolsheim, Germany. Mid-way down the Rhine at the end of February.
This was a cold dark evening. One of many, early on in the trip, when we had been over ambitious with distances and were running late to arrive at our hosts. In fact we’d been invited out to a ‘Wine & Groove’ night with them and their friends so had really hoped to be punctual. In spite of our lateness we arrived to the warmest of houses and the warmest of welcomes.
With big smiles, Vera and Jörg showed us to our room and told us to take our time freshening up. When we came downstairs we sat down to a wonderful meal beginning with ‘handkäse’. Vera said she’d read about our interest in local foods and this was a little starter, specific to the region. And as with the best of traditional local foods, everybody has their own subtle variation on a theme.
A sour cheese and onion appetiser; it is widely known as ‘Handkäse mit Muzik’; literally Hand-Cheese with Music. The first part of the name is obvious; it’s a small appetiser you can eat with your hands. Usually via a hunk of wholemeal bread. We've also been told the cheese in question was traditionally hand-rolled in the making process.
As for the ‘with music’ part of the name; it seemed appropriate to our night of dancing but I wasn’t convinced that every evening begun with handkäse would historically have ended with dancing. Turns out it’s a good old regional fart reference. If you ask, the given reply is ‘die musik kommt später’, accompanied by a mischievous smile.
Handkäse contains a goodly proportion of raw onions so you see; 'the music comes later'.
Vera is a fantastic cook. Here’s her recipe:
Handkäse Mit Musik:
On the night this was an appetiser for four:
4 x pieces of händkase: sour milk cheese (cut into small cubes)
2 x tablespoons of cider vinegar
6 x tablespoons of oil (any fairly neutral oil will do)
1 x teaspoon of caraway seeds
1 x small onion or 2 x spring onions (chopped or sliced as you like)
Put the pieces of cheese into a bowl. Mix the vinegar, oil, caraway seeds, and sliced onions together to create a dressing. Pour over the cheese. Leave to marinade overnight and enjoy the following day.
Serve your handkäse with wholemeal bread and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. If you’re looking for an accompanying drink; apparently white wine or apfelwein go very well.
We had a fantastic evening with Vera and Jörg. One that actually did end with music as we were out dancing till the early hours.