Oktoberfest Fehr-Family Style

Um, k….so “real” Oktoberfest ended a few weeks ago. And “real” Oktoberfest doesn’t celebrate the Fehr family at all; it commemorates King Ludwig I’s marriage to Therese of Bavaria. But if I can figure out a way to make a nice little ritual for my family, especially if it’s in the name of celebrating heritage, does it really matter if I bend the rules a little? There is plenty of time for history lessons later.

We are pretty consistent with this meal; and since it’s not the healthiest lowest-fat meal I make, we don’t have it often, so there isn’t a lot of room to improvise. It’s a shame, because there are a lot of delicious, comforting German dishes out there, and it would be fun to try something new.  Hmm…maybe our Oktoberfest needs to last more than one night…

Homemade applesauce ready to go

At any rate, we take this meal seriously, and every year, as late September spends itself, and the temperatures here in Florida cool to a chilly 85, our thoughts turn toward polka music and bratwurst. So what if I’m not actually German.  I’m not Mexican, either…heck, neither is Rick Bayless, come to think of it.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t don my peasant blouse, grab the accordion (okay, not really) and polka down with the best and rest of them, right?

So…back to the meal.  Since we started doing this – and I want to say this little custom goes back to the very first year we were married, and maybe the year before – we have always had the same meal.  It consists of bratwurst (of course!), potato pancakes, homemade applesauce, and braised cabbage.  (Hey, I said it was traditional.  Not fancy.)  We’re not, regrettably, big sauerkraut fans, and we like to add a little color to this-otherwise-khaki-colored meal, and so we use red cabbage. 

Red cabbage, braisin' away. Isn't it pretty?

That’s it.  No wienerschnitzel, sadly.  No apple strudel, which is uber unfortunate.  And usually, no beer, owing to the fact that Jeremiah doesn’t like it (again – gasp!  He’s German, for goodness’ sake) and I find better uses for the calories.  But it’s beautiful, and comforting, and makes me all happily-bubbly inside, because it’s our tradition.  And no matter WHAT in the WORLD is going on outside our door, we can have this meal, and celebrate where we’ve been, and who we are, and the little people around our table, who we hope will carry on these traditions as they look back upon them fondly.

I will say that, God bless my husband, he let me off the hook this year on the potato pancakes.  (Jake’s favorite trick du jour is pulling up on me as I cook.  Not a particularly safe trick.  But I suppose understanding consequences of one’s actions lags behind actually learning certain skills.)  So we had mashed potatoes instead, which you will see in the picture below.  However, because the pancakes are so darn yummy, and are worth the aggravation if you aren’t dealing with a monkey-like nine month-old, you should make them.  I’ll share the applesauce, pancakes, and braised cabbage below.  Use the best bratwurst (or other German sausage of your choice) that you can find.

Guten Appetit!

Yum! Don't forget the mustard!


4-6 apples, peeled and large diced (I used Gala this year, but I’ve also used Granny Smith, Fuji, and Golden Delicious.  Use what you like.)

light brown sugar to taste (depending on preference and sweetness of the apples)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

Dash of cinnamon (opt)

  • Combine all ingredients and cook until apples are tender and the liquid is slightly reduced, approximately 15 minutes. 
  • Mash with an old-fashioned potato masher, leaving a chunky consistency. 
  • Stir in cinnamon if you like (I skip the cinnamon to let the appley-ness shine through.) 

Makes approximately 3 cups.

Braised Cabbage

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter or bacon drippings if you have them

1 small head red cabbage, julienned

1/4 cup yellow onion, julienned

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup water, plus additional water as needed

  • In a large saute pan with a lid over medium high heat, heat fat; add onions and saute  for 5 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients; cover and let cabbage cook for 20 minutes, or until cabbage is completely tender. 
  • Remove lid and allow most of the liquid to evaporate.

Yields enough to feed a small army.

Potato Pancakes

5 medium potatoes, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons finely grated onion

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup all purpose flour

oil for frying

Applesauce and Sour Cream for serving

  • Press as much liquid as possible out of the grated potatoes. 
  • Combine potatoes with all of the other ingredients.
  • Heat a thin layer of oil in a large, heavy skillet until shimmering.
  • Drop potato mixture by heaping tablespoonfuls into the oil, flattening slightly with the back of a spatula.
  • Fry pancakes about 4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden brown.  You will notice that they change color from the outside edges toward the middle as they finish cooking.
  • Drain on  paper towels.  Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper if you’d like.
  • Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream.

Serves 4-6 generously

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