Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heaven and Earth

or Himmel und Erde in German.

I love traditional foods. I enjoy learning about other cultures. And I'm fascinated with history. All these interests are satisfied in a fabulous cookbook my sister gave me years ago -- Elisabeth Luard's The Old World Kitchen. Actually, I don't think my sister so much as gave it to me as that I borrowed it and never returned it! :-) Then, much later, she said I could keep it. Thanks, sis!

Here's a very simple, traditional German recipe that combines three distinctive flavors, potatoes, apples, and bacon. For the bacon, I recommend if at all possible that you get some locally raised, pastured, without the nitrates and nitrites.

The German kitchen has some particularly good potato recipes, inluding delicious pancakes made with raw grated potatoes and served with apples or stewed fruit; and an excellent dish known as "Heaven and Earth" which mixes boiled potatoes with apples and crisp fried bacon. This mixture of fruit and vegetables, sweet and sour, is characteristic of northern country cooking -- Holland, Belgium, Alsace, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Scandinavia all have similar mixtures. Immigrants to America, particularly the German and Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania, took their sweet-salt dishes with them and adapted the recipes to local ingredients. The resident Indians already used sweet maple syrup to dress their meat. Thence developed those peculiarly American dishes such as pumpkin-and-marshmallow pie to eat with the Thanksgiving turkey. Waffles with maple syrup and bacon, even the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, belong to the same tradition.

This makes an excellent supper or light luncheon dish.

Serves 4

Time: 40 minutes


2 pounds (6 medium-sized) potatoes
2 pounds apples
one 8-ounce slab of bacon in thick (1/4 inch) slices


You will need a large saucepan and a small frying pan. If the potatoes are new and small, you merely need to wash them. If they are old, peel them closely and quarter them. Put them to boil in plenty of salted water. Peel and cut the apples into chunks the size of the potato pieces. Add them to the potatoes after 10 minutes. Finish cooking both together. By the time the potatoes are cooked, the apples will be soft but still holding their shape.

Meanwhile, dice the bacon and fry it in its own fat. Drain the cooked apples and potatoes. Pile them into a hot dish and scatter the crisp bacon, with its cooking juices, over the top. Serve immediately.


Cook 1 pound of fresh sausage (bratwurst would be most appropriate) with the bacon. Serve all together.

Fry a handful of fresh bread crumbs in the bacon fat until crisp and golden. Scatter of the potatoes.

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