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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fall Recipe | German Onion Cake! And an Explanation of "New Wine"

Stephanie and I had a "let's do something German" night this week.  So we took my landlady Diana's advice and used this recipe for German Onion Cake.

If you're anything like me, the term onion cake causes a bit of a question mark in the mind.  Rest assured folks, I'm going to enlighten you today!

When Diana was telling me about onion cake it was the same weekend she was gushing about how they were going to collect fresh chestnuts in Otterberg.  I was struck by how excited she was by these clearly sentimental fall traditions. The smile on her face reminded me of how I talk about our family Christmas traditions, that's how giddy she was!

I asked her a lot of questions about chestnuts (I'd never had them before so she left me a bag on our doorstep that night) and had even more questions about this mythical onion cake business.  She said it's always served in the fall with "new wine" (more on that in a second) and that she would try to find me a recipe.

When she sent me a recipe that was already in English I just knew I had to try it! 

It's absolutely delicious and definitely a keeper.  (I'm repeating it today, actually!)  It's appropriately named a cake, because the dough really turns out to be quite cake-like and very delicious!  It's topped with a mix of onions, bacon, eggs, and creme fraiche baked right into the cake!

Fun fact: if you can't find creme fraiche in your grocery store like I can, just use sour creme.  It'll be a little more tart, but it's essentially the same idea.

So here's the inside scoop (big thanks to my German pal Julia!) on new wine.  Perhaps they sell new wine in the States but I've never heard of it before, so here's the German version:

New wine is the first wine of the season.  It's not finished all the way, so it's essentially grape juice that is in the process of fermenting.  It has about 4% alcohol... at first.  So when we got it from Globus it was pretty sweet and didn't taste "alcohol-y" at all!  It's cloudy because it still has yeast in it and it hasn't gone through any of the processes that the vinters will later use to turn it into "real wine."  

What's funny is that it's kind of in-process, even as you drink it.  You know I'm a fermentation nerd, so this fascinates me.  They tell you to drink it within a few days of buying it, and even then it will probably have a higher alcohol content by day #3.  New wine is only sold in Germany from September till the end of October because by then it's all done with this fermentation process.

The "new wine" is the same wine that will later be bottled as white, rose, or red wine (according to the grapes) but it's sold in the fall after the harvest so that everyone can get a first fresh sip!  Julia explained to me that this is why there are so many wine festivals in Germany in the fall.  (Like Bad Durkheim, which is still on our Germany-bucket-list!)  She said it's funny to listen to the old people because they'll make projections about the "real wine" based on how the "new wine" tastes... like "Ohhh I can taste that this will be a great vintage." 

One of the reasons new wine is usually paired with something hearty like onion cake is because the wine tastes so sweet and juicy (think, mmm this is like fall lemonade!) and it also takes awhile for the alcohol to effect your system.  But even more dangerous, the alcohol content can vary so much... from restaurant to restaurant, store to store, or even the same place from day to day!   I guess they think it's a good idea to have something in your tummy to absorb the alcohol, whatever it's content may be!  

So whether you're drinking some German "new wine" or not, this onion cake is going to make your tummy happy!  I apologize that the recipe is by weight.  I didn't take the time to convert it but I can assure you that it's not too big a deal because I just guessed for the most part, and happily found that it is a very forgiving recipe!  

And THAT is how you enjoy a deliciously simple (and did I mention delicious?) fall meal, a la German tradition.  


A big thanks to Diana for sharing the recipe and to Julia for explaining the new wine!  


  1. we bought some new red wine from the market in Sicily once...came in giant plastic water bottles. great the first day...not so great when you forget about it in the fridge and try it again a week or two later, lol.

    1. Oh gross haha that sounds like a problem. At least it was in a plastic bottle... my friend says if you aren't careful about the glass jars they can explode. (I failed to mention to her that I know all about that lol)