When we were planning the menu for this year's Oktoberfeast (and, FYI, Bill apparently hates when I refer to it as Oktoberfeast. "Because it's OktoberFEST!" he said with great exasperation yesterday. I told him on my blog I'm focusing on the food part of it, and so it's a FEAST. And it's my blog. So there.) we knew we'd make the sauerbraten, the spaetzle, the sauerkraut, red cabbage…decided against the Onion Cake this year…Bill requested Linzertorte…and it was up in the air as to whether I'd make bread or not. It's not like we NEED the additional starch in the meal – the spaetzle is plenty. But…I like to bake bread…and it's good for sopping up that last bit of gravy…so…in the end, I made bread. But that's another post.
Bill was flipping through the pages of an old, well-worn copy of Lüchow’s German Cookbook by Jan Mitchell. The book had belonged to Bill's mom, and we inherited it after she passed away.
The famous Lüchow’s restaurant was opened in 1882 by August Lüchow, a recent immigrant from Hanover, Germany who had been a waiter on the premises before taking ownership. The restaurant was located on East 14th Street, and was known not only for the excellent food and imported German beers, but also for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. Mr. Lüchow passed away in 1923, and the restaurant was taken over by a nephew-in-law, Victor Eckstein until 1950, when Jan Mitchell fulfilled a years-long dream by taking ownership. He promised the family that he would keep the original spirit of Lüchow's alive, and by all accounts, he kept his word.
The cookbook was published in 1952, and, sadly, Lüchow's closed in 1882 (oops) 1982.
I love cookbooks like this. For one thing, it's obvious that Bill's mom used it a lot. The dust jacket is worn, and newspaper and magazine clippings of recipes (some of them other Lüchow's recipes) are tucked in the yellowed pages. I also noticed (as I was writing this post, in fact) that this edition was a Book Club Edition. I wonder if Bill's mom bought the book, or found it at a church bazaar, or if it was a gift.
Another treat is that Ludwig Bemelmans did the illustrations. Yes, that Ludwig Bemelmans.
From this book Bill selected the Pickled Mushrooms…
"To make Pickled Mushrooms in the traditional German way, buy fresh button mushrooms; use only firm, white ones.
1 pound small button mushrooms
1 tablespoon salt
1 medium-sized onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
4 coarsely ground peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme or chopped fresh thyme
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice 1/2 lemon
Wash mushrooms thoroughly in cold water containing 1 tablespoon salt. Drain.
Mix all other ingredients; pour over mushrooms in an enameled saucepan. Bring to a boil, then let simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Let cool. Keep covered in refrigerator, (or) seal while hot in sterile glass jars. Makes 6 large servings. Serves 8 or more small servings."
The recipe filled one quart-sized mason jar and smelled awesome. Bill made it on Wednesday of last week, and we left it in the fridge until Saturday. I took the jar out a couple of hours before our guests were due to arrive, and Bill and I each tried a mushroom.
Tangy, herby, with some earthy flavors from the mushrooms, and a kick in the back of the throat at the finish. These are really delicious.
Bill picked them because he loves marinated mushrooms, especially the ones at the salad bar of a restaurant we used to go to and that he'd gone to when he was a kid. I think he was thinking these would be something along that line. But they're not. They're way better. I find that marinated mushrooms tend to have a higher ratio of oil to vinegar, and as these mushrooms are technically pickled, rather than marinated, the ratio is in favor of the ZING factor.
We served these as an appetizer along with a selection of grilled, sliced wursts, three mustards of varying degrees of intensity, three cheeses (limburger, muenster, and a cave-aged ementhal) and assorted crackers.
I think people liked them. We have exactly 6 mushrooms left.
Well, we did.