Jams and Honey are integral to German cuisine and culinary spectrum. This guide will provide you with an overview of the most authentic and interesting flavors, qualities, nutritional benefits and usage suggestions of selected German jams and honey. We also briefly describe the main differences to some of the US commercial brands.
The moderate climate in Germany and neighboring countries in Central, North and East of Europe Fruits provides perfect growing and cultivation conditions for a plethora of high quality fruits and berries.
That’s why you’ll find an incredible selection of wild honeys and berry preserves. Specialized shops or sections in supermarkets feature elderberry, sloe, rosehip or sea buckthorn jams, wild-herb, wildflower, dandelion or pine honey. And they are fantastic companions to fresh bread or Brötchen (rolls), cakes and pastries, or meat and game dishes.
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Unique German Jams
Apfelkraut (Apple syrup)
Rheinisches Apfelkraut is a traditional thick syrup made exclusively from whole stewed, unblemished and full-ripe apples and pears. It is used chiefly as a sweet spread, as an ingredient in baking or cooking (e.g. for the typical marinated beef dish like Rheinischer Sauerbraten) or as an accompaniment to Rievkooche (Reibekuchen), traditional potato cakes also typical for the Rhineland). Naturtrüber (Cloudy) Apple Juice and Äppelwoi are other regional specialties made from apples.
Blackberry Jam (Brombeeren)
The German word Brombeere derives from Old High German brämberi, which literally means “berry of a thorny bush.” Both berries and bush leaves have blood cleansing and diuretic properties and are full of essential vitamins and minerals. Germans love to eat blackberry jam on rolls, blackberry jam with cheese, blackberry pie, and drink black berry juice or tea made from blackberry leaves.
Black or Red Currant (Schwarze und Rote Johannisbeere)
These berries are part of the gooseberry family, native to northern Europe and very popular in German and Nordic cuisine. Black or Red Currant jams and jellies are used in pie fillings, cheesecake, ice cream,yogurt and many other desserts or as flavoring for venison or poultry.
The wild European Heidelbeere and the American Blaubeere (blueberry) are almost synonymous. The difference: in the European version, the healthy blue color pigment anthrocyane is present in both skin and fruit, while it’s only present in the skin of the larger American version. Heidelbeeren grow on tall bushes, often deep in pine forests, and they feature prominently in some German fairy tales because little Zwerge (dwarfs) are said live in caves underneath the roots of their bushes. The small town of Eggesin in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern claims to be Germany’s Blaubeerhauptstadt (blueberry capital) celebrating an annual Blaubeer-Festival.
Tart Cherries (Sauerkirschen)
Both sour and sweet versions of this tree fruit were popular in the ancient empires of China, Egypt and Rome. They grow all over the northern hemisphere. Charlemagne (Karl der Große) reputedly loved the fruit so much that he designated vast areas in his realm for planting cherry trees. Germany’s present day cherry growing areas are primarily in Rhineland-Palatine, Saxony and Thuringia. Although the cherry season is sweet and short, Sauerkirschmarmelade is a year-round staple on the German breakfast table. Other cherry-based German specialties include Black Forest Cakes, Cherry Cream Cakes and Cherry Brandy.
Whoever picks fresh gooseberries between May and September, knows why Germans call it Stachelbeere. The thorns surrounding this large, juicy and sweet berry are huge. Yet, the rewards are great. Gooseberries contain a lot of Vitamin C and make delicious preserves, jams, sauces, the famous Stachelbeer Baiser Torte (gooseberry meringue torte) and are used to refine fruity wines.
The wild European lingonberry, closely related to the Heidelbeere, has many names in the German-speaking world: Kronsbeere in Northern Germany, Moosbeere in Southern Germany, Grante in Austria, or Riffelbeere and Grestling in other parts of South East Germany. Eaten raw, the Preiselbeere is unpleasantly sour; turned into jams or relishes, its a perfect accompaniment to goose, wild boar or other game dishes. Although the Preiselbeere looks like a cranberry (called Amerikanische Moosbeere), it’s a closely related to the American lingonberry.
Plum (Pflaume / Zwetschge)
A popular German fruit, primarily grown in Baden Wuerttemberg and Rhineland Palatine. While the Pflaume has a round shape, the related Zwetschge is oval with pointy ends. Both types are used as a topping for popular summer cakes Pflaumenkuchen and as fruit spread. The regional Aachener Pfluemli seasoned with cinnamon and cloves and made in and around the city of Aachen is a true delicacy.
The quince tastes like a mix between apple and pear. Quince trees were common in Germany even half a century ago, but today his fruit is hard to find. Unlike apples and pear, you won’t just take a bite. The furry peel and tart-bitter flavor makes the raw fruit unappealing; however, the Quittengelee (quince jelly) or Konfitüre, is a healthy, delicious fruit spread. In ancient Greece, quince was cooked with honey into a thick jelly called melimelon. A little trivia: the Portugese word for quince is marmela, which became the root for the generic German word for jam, which is Marmelade.
Like the quince and most berries, raspberries are a good source of vitamin C, folic acids and potassium. The Himbeere is native to the forests of Northern Europe. The German name derives from the angle-saxon word “hind” which means doe; it’s the berry of the doe. The German cuisine includes many uses of Himbeeren, from Marmelade, to fruit toppings on cakes to Himbeergeist(raspberry liquor).
Rosehip (Hagebutten )
Rosehips are usually very sour, but turned into Konfitüre (mousse or jam), they are very delicious. Full of Vitamin C, they are traditionally used to fill Franconian doughnuts. The fruits are also used for the healthy dark red Hagebuttentee (Rosehip tea).
High in Vitamin C and other essential vitamins, this berry is native to the coasts of the Ostsee (Baltic Sea). Eaten raw, the Seabuckthornberry is incredibly sour, yet as as preserve or juice it’s an essential health food.
From a botanist point of view, strawberries actually don’t belong to the berry family, but are so called false fruits (the flesh of the fruit is derived from tissue adjacent to the carpel). Thus, the strawberry is more related to rosehips, figs, and mulberries, than to cranberries. Common in temperate regions all over the world, they are among the most beloved fruits among Germans who consume on average 8 lbs. per capita in a year. Strawberries are grown on about 50,000 acres in Germany. Usually harvested in May and June, strawberries are used on and in cake and, of course, as jams and preserves.
Unique German Honey
The demand for this natural sweetener is very high in Germany. Supply of raw honey comes from local bee keepers (called Imker in German), or is imported from Latin America and Asia.
Acacia honey is of a yellow golden color made from the Robinia plants of Germany and the Mediterranean region. It is mild in taste with a fine aroma that complements teas, cakes and pastries. Unlike many other honeys it remains liquid for a long time.
Buckwheat honey is dark brown to black in color with strong, rustic flavor. Primarily from the Northern regions of Canada, buckwheat honey has the reputation of soothing sore throats and contributing to a good sleep.
Clover honey is mild, creamy and of white-yellow color.
Made in spring from dandelion nectar, this honey’s flavor is not quite as sweet as forest blossom or heath-flower honey. Dandelion honey has a slightly sour aftertaste which makes it a perfect companion to yoghurt and cheese cakes.
Unlike most other honey types, Waldhonig is made from “honey dew.” The bees collect the nectar not from the blossom of flowers, but from the sweet “dew” of aphids. The color forest honey is dark, but that may differ depending on which tree the aphids live.
This honey is creamy, with a light yellow color and highly aromatic. It is made from the flowers of the Lüneburg Heath, a well protected nature reserve southeast of Hamburg.
Made from lavender flowers grown in Provence in the south of France, this is an exquisite, creamy, bright yellow honey. Perfect as sweet spread on bread.
Lime blossom honey has a light yellow color with an almost green tint. It’s very aromatic and spicy taste and is said to have antiseptic properties and be soothing for nerves.
The flavor of pine honey is slightly tart and spicy, but of finer sweetness than other forest honey. The smell and taste of fresh pine honey is reminiscent of the aroma of forest ground and pine needles.
The yellow blossoms of Raps (rapeseed or canola) can be seen all over Germany. This versatile crop is used for cooking oil and biofuel. The honey made from it’s blossoms is thick creamy with a white color and mild, sweet taste. Often used on breakfast Brötchen(rolls).
Sunflower honey is thick and creamy, with a yellow color and unique, strong flavor. Great on crusty rye or whole grain breads.