Saxony-Anhalt (or Sachsen-Anhalt) is the youngest of the German Bundeslaender (federal states). Created in 1945 from the former duchy of Anhalt, and parts of the former kingdoms of Saxony and Prussia, Saxony Anhalt is full of hidden historic and culinary treasures. To the North are the Harz Mountains and to the South the plain of Leipzig. Most of the Western is the river Elbe, which formed much of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. The state’s major cities are Magdeburg and Halle, also known for their universities.
Saxony Anhalt is the home state of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546), the professor of theology, Catholic priest, and translator of the Bible whose 95 theses sparked in the Protestant or Lutheran Reformation in Germany. Born in Eisleben, Luther went to school in Mansfeld and Magdeburg and taught for most of his life at the Universities of Wittenberg. It is at the church door of Wittenberg, where Luther posted his famous 95 theses. These towns, all located within the state of Saxony Anhalt, are key destinations for pilgrims, tourists and scholars alike. Other nearby places of historic significance are the 13th century Knights of the Templar chapel in Wettin and the birth house of composer Georg Friedrich Händel (Messiah Oratorium) in Halle.
Artists and architects from all over the world flock to the Bauhaus Dessau in Saxony Anhalt, a university building created by Walter Gropius in 1925. The Bauhaus School of Art, conceived at the University of Weimar in 1919, taught and practiced an avantgarde style and design for buildings, furniture and artworks alike. It was a movement towards classic modern features, breaking with the ornamental Victorian traditions and focusing on straight lines and function over form. Today Bauhaus buildings can be found not only in Dessau, but all over the world, notably Chicago and Tel Aviv. Friends of modern architecture also visit the city of Magdeburg, which features a famous building block designed by the famous Austrian artists Friedrich Hundertwasser.
Chocolate and Cakes
Halle in Saxony Anhalt is well known for chocolates and cakes. The Confiserie Halloren built Germany’s first chocolate factory, churning out bars, truffles and pralines for the masses. The famous Confiserie Dreher produced the first German Mozartkugeln in 1931.Both Dreher and Halloren merged after German Unification in 1991. You can purchase these products under the Halloren, Boehme and Laroshell brands. Also, Halle prides itself as the home of one of Germany’s pre-eminent makers of baking mixes, the Kathi Rainer Thiele GmbH. Kathi’s assortment includes cake mix kits to make, among others, elaborate Bee Sting, Black Forest, and German Tangerine Cheese cakes.
Cheese, Sausages, and Asparagus
Saxony Anhalt is an important agricultural area, particularly in the central part known as the Magdeburger Börde, where the fertile soil is used to cultivate vegetables, wheat and sugar beets and raise cattle and pigs. A well-known specialty is the “Börde Speck“ semi-soft cheese specialty. In the North, tourists visit the Altmark region (in the North of the state) to pick or taste the famous Altmark white asparagus (Spargel). Other regional favorites are Halberstädter Würstchen (sausages) from Magdeburg.
Wine and Sekt
The least known “culinary secret” is Saxony Anhalt’s “Saale-Unstrut” wine region, one of Germany’s oldest and northern-most wine cultivations. Along the Saale river valley between Weimar and Leipzig, you can find a number of fine tasting grapes, such as Müller Thurgau, Pinot Blanc and Riesling, and small vineyards that make surprisingly good quality wines. Especially famous became the Sekt (sparkling wine) brand Rotkäppchen (“Red Riding Hood”). Founded in 1856 in Freyburg, Saxony Anhalt, as the wine shop Kloss & Foerster, the company created the Rotkäppchen brand in 1895. The factory grew into former East Germany’s largest sparkling wine supplier. After unification and privatization, the company grew rapidly through acquisitions (for example, the Mumm and Eckes brands) and very clever marketing, to become Germany’s leading supplier of sparkling wine and spirits.
Most Famous Recipes:
Salzwedel Baumkuchen (Tree Cake)
Known as the “King of Cakes”, this pound cake-type pastry creation is a masterpiece and takes skill and patience to create. It is made by building up layers of cake batter on a rotating spit to create a tall cake, which, when cut, reveals rings similar to the annual marks of a tree, hence its name.
Altmärker Hochzeitssuppe (Altmark Wedding Soup)
Spargel (asparagus) from the Altmark region is one of the key ingredients in this soup, along with tiny meatballs and cooked egg garnish. It is traditionally served as an appetizer at a wedding, but is often made at home too.
Zerbster Spargelsuppe (Asparagus Soup)
Asparagus is again the main ingredient in this creamy soup made with asparagus, cream, hard boiled eggs, butter, sugar, salt and nutmeg
A stew made with fish, potatoes, bacon, dark beer and gingerbread
A beef brisket stew with vegetables (carrots, leeks, celeriac)
Thin slices of boiled beef brisket served in an onion sauce
A baked casserole made with lamb and mutton cubes, cabbage, onions and sliced potatoes.
Vegetables au gratin
In times past, this dish was served for breakfast at weddings in the Altmarkt region.The name comes from the frying pan used to make the dish, so called”Tiegeln”. It consists of beef and mutton that is cooked together with onions then allowed to cool. The meat is then chopped and placed in a Tiegel (Bratpfanne) and baked in the oven. It is served with white bread and a gulp of Altmarker Korn (schnapps).
Harzer Lamm in Buttermilch
Lamb marinated in Buttermilch (butter milk) and sautéed
The first ever canned sausages were made by the Halberstädter Würstchen und Konservenfabrik in 1896. The unique sausages are made using a special chimney smoking process using beech wood, followed by a long maturing process.
A Recipe From Saxony-Anhalt:
Gurkencremesuppe mit Kartoffeln (Cucumber Soup with Potatoes)
1 medium cucumber
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
Peel cucumber and cut in half. Remove seed and cut cucumber into 1/4 inch cubes. Cover potatoes with water, add salt and pepper and cook until done. Pass potatoes through a sieve together with cooking liquid. Place puree in saucepan and fold in cream, milk, grated onions and cucumber. Leave soup to simmer for 5 minutes. Add dill. Flavor to taste.