It's true traditional Bavarian cuisine has not traditionally been the most vegetarian-friendly, but times change, and now that Oktoberfest shares the month with Vegetarian Awareness, we might as well incorporate some German-inspired vegetarian dishes so the animal loving/health conscious among us don't have to miss out.
Sauerkraut is one of the signature dishes for a traditional Oktoberfest feast, and it's already vegetarian all by itself. Not only is it delicious and nutritious -- thanks to its vitamin C content, sauerkraut prevented most of Europe from developing scurvy through long, dark winters -- but kraut is ridiculously easy to make at home. Just shred a head of unwashed organic cabbage and put it in a glass jar with plenty of sea salt. As the salt draws water from the cabbage, press the shreds down with your fist to keep it submerged. Throw a towel over it to keep the dust out, and two weeks later the brine and the bacteria combine to ferment the cabbage into kraut. You can liven things up a bit by using red cabbage or throwing in other sliced-up veggies. You can even add shredded apples to sweeten it.
Traditionally, schnitzel is a cutlet of some kind of meat -- often chicken but also veal or pork -- pounded with a hammer until it's thin, breaded, and fried. Doesn't seem to be much opportunity here for vegetizing it, but that's why you've got to think outside the box. It can be done with meat analogues like seitan or tofu. But even better is when vegetables, like eggplant and portobello mushroom, can be substituted.
Spätzle is basically German pasta. The name comes from a word meaning "little sparrow" and is so named because it was thought that the little handrolled bits of dough looked like adorable baby birds -- just before they were dropped into boiling water. Despite the imagery, like sauerkraut, spätzle is another Bavarian dish that is vegetarian in its original form. Similar to gnocchi but made of flour dough, you could probably find spätzle in your grocery store if you looked hard enough. But this is an exceedingly simple dish to make from scratch that will make you look like a master chef and totally impress the people you serve it to. The most basic recipe involves only four ingredients: flour, salt, eggs, and milk. And there's no need for a fancy spätzle press -- your fingers and a spoon will serve well enough for that.
Giessnockerlsuppe. Try saying that three times fast. Giessnockerlsuppe is a kind of dumpling soup and it's technically Austrian. But when you're trying to keep Oktoberfest vegetarian, Austria isn't really that far a trip. This dish is a little more labor intensive, but making dumplings has a lot in common with making spätzle so maybe practice on those first.
No dinner would be complete without dessert, and the same goes for an Oktoberfest feast. Apfelstrudel -- or apple strudel -- will fill you with familiar American-as-apple-pie-type feelings, but calling it strudel will make you feel very worldly.
You've done your best to keep the temple of your body free of animal products, so you reward yourself with a frosty mug of beer... stop. There's a good chance that brewski has been clarified with isinglass, which is a nice way of saying fish bladders. All kinds of beer recipes call for animal or animal byproducts at some point. According to Barnivore.com, there's one recipe that calls for an entire chicken carcass to be dropped into the tank. So before you choose a dunkel or a heffe-weise to complement your vegetarian Oktoberfest feast, be sure to check with Barnivore's German beer list to make sure it's animal-free.
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