The city of Frankfurt am Main lays claim to many superlatives. It is the largest financial center in Europe, hosts some of the world’s largest trade fairs and houses the two largest skyscrapers in the European Union. The city is also proud to be the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and perhaps a little less so of its role in the evolution of techno music, which apparently started here in the early 1990s.
As a world financial and business hub, Frankfurt is home to more than 180 different nationalities. It is the most international of Germany’s cities with 1/3 of its population being non-German citizens. The cosmopolitan nature of the city is reflected in the wide array of international restaurants. Yet, as multi-ethnic as the culinary establishments might be, Frankfurt proudly retains its gastronomic culture in the many food and beverage specialties that remain popular with both locals and visitors alike.
Frankfurt is the hometown of the original Frankfurter sausage, the primary ingredient of the ubiquitous hot dog. There are many stories and legends surrounding the invention of this ballpark staple, but it is not clear as to who can really lay claim to the creation of the hot dog, since it is difficult to assess whether it is the sausage, its placement inside of a bread roll or its popular name that constitute its „invention” in the purest form of the word. The Frankfurter belongs to the family of boiled sausages (Brühwurst). Brühwurst sausages made with pork have been in existence since the 13th century, but did not get their name, Frankfurter Würstchen, until the 18th century when a butcher named Johann Georg Lahner, who had learned his craft in Frankfurt, traveled to Vienna in 1805 and manufactured a sausage made with both beef and pork and called it a Frankfurter. The flavorful, smoked sausage was a huge hit around the world. Since 1860 the name Frankfurter Würstchen has been protected and since 1929 only butchers producing sausages made in Frankfurt or its surrounding area are permitted to use the term.
The original Frankfurter sausages were made with pork. In 1894 a butcher by the name of Karl Gref and his wife Wilhelmine Voelsing opened a butcher’s shop (Metzgerei) in Frankfurt’s Altstadt. They recognized that they needed to meet the demands of the growing Jewish population in the city and created the first Frankfurter sausage made with 100% beef. The Frankfurter Rindswurst, as it is known, is still a popular delicacy along with the original pork version. The Gref-Voelsing Metzgerei is still in operation in Frankfurter’s Hanauerstr.
So, how do you get your hands on the real thing without having to hop across the pond?! Luckily for you, dear German food fans, the company Meica has been exporting its genuine Frankfurter Würstchen since the late 1950’s. Founded in 1908 by master butcher Fritz Meinen, the company Meica now exports its famous sausages to more than 30 countries. In addition to the genuine Frankfurter sausages Meica produces a variety of other sausages such as Bockwurst and Knackwurst.
One of Frankfurt’s many attractions is the famous Kleinmarkthalle, a huge market place where 156 vendors sell groceries, fruits and vegetables and plants. It is here that you can purchase Frankfurt’s famous Grüne Sosse (Green Sauce) freshly prepared, or indeed buy the necessary ingredients to make your own. Grüne Sosse, known colloquially as Grie Soss, is a cold sauce made with fresh herbs, oil, eggs and sour cream. Variations on the original may include Quark or yogurt, but you’ll need seven specific herbs to make the genuine article – borrage (Borretsch), chervil (Kerbel), cress (Kresse), parsley (Petersilie), salad burnet (Pimpinelle), sorrel (Sauerampfer) and chives (Schnittlauch). These seven herbs are traditionally grown in gardens in the Oberrad district of Frankfurt, part of the city’s GrünGürtel (green belt). The growers group all seven herbs together in the correct proportion, roll them carefully in white paper and bring them to the Kleinmarkthalle to sell. In an effort to protect the integrity of Frankfurt’s Grüne Sosse a group of farmers have banded together to submit application to have its special sauce recognized as a protected name.
Such is the beloved Grie Soss a part of the Frankfurt culture that the city of Frankfurt hosts a yearly “Green Sauce Festival”, which this year will take place between May 21 and 28. In deference to the exact number of herbs that are used in the genuine recipe, seven local chefs will use their seven herbs to compete against one another to earn the title of “König der Sieben Kräuter” (King of the Seven Herbs) during, you guessed it, a seven-day long festival.
The role of Frankfurt’s green sauce in its culture is recognized in a monument (Denkmal für die Grüne Sosse) that was christened in May 2007. The monument consists of greenhouses, each bearing glass that is colored to represent one of the seven herbs.
Whether you live in or just visit Frankfurt, you won’t be able to resist or avoid another of the city’s cultural icons, namely Apfelwein, or more correctly Ebbelwoi as it is known regionally. This tart and refreshing apple cider drink has an alcohol content of between 5.5 and 7% and due to its cloudy nature, it is traditionally served in a Geripptes, a glass that has a lozenge cut so that it refracts light. A glass of apple wine served in such a glass is called a Schoppen. A Bembel is a special applewine pitcher used to pour the wine. Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen district is best known for its apple wine taverns, the two most traditional of which are Zum gemalten Hause and Wagner.
Frankfurter Würstchen, Grüne Sosse and Apfelwein are just three of Frankfurt’s famous specialties. If you’re lucky enough to spend some time in the city, it won’t be long before you fall in love with them all. In fact, you can see how one of Frankfurt’s many international residents has taken to the culinary delights of his new home. In this Deutsche Welle clip watch how Indian IT specialist Prabhanjan Gadela learns to make Grüne Sosse with guidance from the owner of the Adolf Wagner Apple Wine Tavern in Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen district.