Die Spargelzeit

Asparagus time!

Asparagus season is a culinary celebration in Germany, between bärlauch and cherries. The long thick glowing white stalks of German asparagus have to be hand-cultivated under impressive mounds of dirt to keep the sun from turning them green. Once harvested, they are sold almost like truffles, except cheaper and there’s enough for everyone.

White asparagus is good alone with sauce hollandaise (made from scratch, it’s easy if only you can get the right ingredients), with fish, with fresh small spring potatoes. Save the peelings and trimmings to boil in water for asparagus soup (remove boiled peelings and trimmings then puree the broth with cream, some chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, garnish with fresh herbs at the last minute). Serve with chilled dry white German wine in those short round bottles.

Key words for white asparagus include “tender.” It gets woody if it’s too old or if it’s cooked too long, which is a bit counterintuitive. Asparagus marketed as “crisp” might already be woody.

(Dee    SHPOG ell tsight.)

Minderung der Monokulturen

Reduction of monocultures in E.U. agriculture.

At 40% of their annual expenditures, agriculture is the E.U.’s biggest budget item, and it underwent some rational-sounding changes in 2013. The E.U. agricultural reforms agreed in the Agricultural Committee on 26 Jun 2013 started a shift in subventions, disincentivizing “ecologically problematic and optically wasteland-like monocultures,” according to ARD tagesschau.de. Subventions to large monocultures were to be reduced, with small and medium-sized farms being required to plant at least three different crops. “Greening” actions will have to be carried out by farmers in order to receive the 30% of subventions newly contingent on “environmentalization” steps, penalizing farmers who don’t enact the measures by two years after the new rules come into effect. Apparently the new measures encourage grasslands, and 5% of farmers’ land is to be kept free of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Individual countries will now have the right to reduce subventions paid to large agribusinesses receiving >150,000 euros/year and increase subventions to small and mid-sized farms and young farmers <41 years old. Bug fixes: A blacklist will be drawn up of landed entities such as airports and sports clubs (i.e. golf) that will now have to prove they get substantial income from farming before they can receive farming subsidies in future. Previous erroneous multiple extra payments to farmers, so-called “double funding,” should now be eliminated. The European Parliament’s press release on the agreement concludes with the next steps for the reform: the long-term financial framework (M.F.F., multiannual financial framework) for the reform has to be worked out, after which the reform can move on to the Council for the countries’ leaders to approve. ARD tagesschau.de said in June 2013 that their approval was considered certain.

These reforms passed at the E.U. level on 25 Sep 2013.

Update on 05 Nov 2013: E.U. farm subventions are to be distributed in Germany according to a new system (Schlüssel: key or code) agreed by the German state agricultural ministers. ARD tagesschau.de said the size of the farm is no longer supposed to be the main criterion. This will shift subvention money from large farms in the former East Germany to small and medium-sized operations (“<46 hectares”). Brussels will now be sending 6.2 billion euros in farm subsidies to Germany per year, a reduction of about 10%. Also, “new environmentally-friendly programs will be paid for from the highly-contested budget for direct payments.” German farmers and their union, the Deutscher Bauernverband, said the security of knowing what monies will be coming to them in the next few years helps make up for the fact that it’s less money.

Update on 12 Nov 2013: The E.U. Parliament and E.U. Member States passed a budget planning to spend ~135.5 billion euros total in 2014, that’s ~9 billion euros less than in 2013, with >43 billion going directly to farmers.

(MINNED ah roong   dare   mon oh cool TOUR en.)

Veredeln

“Ennoblement” in the kitchen, to pep up your recipes. In addition to the ubiquitous chives and other windowsill herbs cut at the last minute and scattered on top, German cooks might add (organic) cream, maybe some olives, gravlachs, fresh forest mushrooms cooked in butter, duck liver, a dollop of cheap caviar. Bacon too, but cubed and not in thin crisp strips. Or salty air-dried Parma ham cut so thin you can see the light shine through it.

(Fair EH dell n.)

“Senf verfärbt nur das Ergebnis.”

“Mustard merely discolors the achievement.” Dittsche on condiments and mystery meatballs in the fast food industry.

Hottehü

Children’s word for horse. From the hilarious rambling discussion of mislabeled horse meat in the first 2013 episode of Dittsche. “Bears can grow to be quite old… but horses aren’t getting old anymore, are they?”

Wiktionary writes that the word comes from the German words for “gee” and “haw,” with hott meaning right and meaning left.

(Hotteh hüüü.)

Bärlauch

Bear leek.” Wild forest leek whose leaves look like lily-of-the-valley but smell oniony. Makes a great soup when its wide dark-green leaves are chopped up, sautéed with butter and olive oil, cooked with chicken broth, refined with heavy cream and puréed. It is not the same plant as Pennsylvania’s wild garlic (where these days I would probably grill the bulbs and cut up the chive-like stems for raw garnish, though I’ve never experimented with it as an adult).

Not too long ago word was that German bärlauch only grew wild in the woods, and cooks had to collect it there in springtime, in the healthy fresh air; but I saw delicious-smelling bärlauch growing in a Cologne botanical garden last Easter.

(BARE l ow! k.)

einkehren

“Turning in.” Tourists walking through hilly old towns occasionally turn aside from their path and enter cafés, pubs and beergardens for a little light refreshment. Sometimes every 30 meters.

(EYE n care en.)

Bratkartoffelverhältnis

“Fried potatoes relationship”; two people living in sin more for the cookery than for the sex.

(BROT car toffle fur hailed niss.)

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