Celebrate the Holidays with German Comfort Food
Traditional foods are at the core of every culture and community around the world. They're the foods prepared for birthdays and holidays growing up, to celebrate milestones and achievements, and to cheer you up when you're under the weather. As an adult, nothing compares to Grandma's signature Sunday dish or the healing powers of Mom's homemade casserole after getting bad news. Far more than just delicious, traditional foods are quite literally comfort foods.
“These important German dishes bring a sense of nostalgia and harken beautiful memories of our grandmothers and families baking together in the kitchen. German comfort foods warm our hearts and give us a connection to the past,” said Rochelle Holder, owner of Lakewood Meats & Sausage.
Being located in Lodi, California, where there's a large population of people with German heritage, two dishes immediately come to mind when we think of comfort food: cheese buttons and kuchen. These rustic dishes originate in the Dakotas, which experienced a late-1800s influx of German immigrants who had been living in Russia. As Lodi's best butcher, Lakewood Meats & Sausage has been offering these cheese buttons and kuchen for years.
Although we're well aware that we probably don't make them quite like Grandma did, we treasure the fact that these scratch-made foods bring our customers a comforting sense of nostalgia and fond memories.
Also called kase knoepla or käse knõpfen, cheese buttons are made from a noodle-type dough and filled with farm cheese – much like pierogi or cheese ravioli. While cheese buttons are almost always prepared in the same basic fashion and with the same base ingredients, there are several flavor variations and no rules when it comes to eating them. Some people prefer to top their cheese buttons with fruit jelly or jam, while others like to include onions, spices, or cinnamon in the filling. Still others eat cheese buttons with freshly prepared "bread sauce," which is essentially made of deep-fried croutons.
As a butcher shop known primarily for its gourmet meats and hand-tied sausages, many of our customers are surprised when they learn we make homemade cheese buttons. They are so synonymous with the Dakota plains that they're often referred to as "North Dakota cheese buttons!"
Kuchen, pronounced koo-gen, is the official state dessert of South Dakota. The German word for "cake," kuchen typically consists of a moist, sweet dough crust with a filling or topping made with fresh fruit, spices, and decadent custard, resembling a hybrid fruit pie-cake-tart.
There are many variations of kuchen, dictated largely by regional or family preferences. Popular versions include apples, peaches, berries, or rhubarb, while others prefer chocolate or even savory cheese versions. Most people – like us at Lakewood Meats & Sausage – have their own personal secret ingredient or little trick to put a unique twist on their kuchen.
Did you grow up eating kuchen or cheese buttons? We'd love to hear how your family prepared it! Connect with us on Facebook or Instagram @lakewoodmeats and let us know! To order yours from Lodi's best butcher, stop by the shop Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. We also have a large selection of gourmet meats and hand-tied sausages, all lovingly made in-house. Schöne Feiertage (Happy holidays)!