I guess that many of you are enjoying Rick Stein's mouth-watering culinary journey from Venice to Istanbul? Whatever the wealth of the country Rick has visited the food has been inspirational. TV cookery programmes are in the habit of taking us to the exotic and so, despite his surname, it was a real surprise a couple of years ago when Rick did a series about Germany, a country that we never really think of as being a centre of gastronomy!
We have lots of family in Munster in northern Germany, the one without the umlaut! My brother was in the British Army and stationed there. We have German family arriving today and we are always hopeful of some Munstermann patés.
Germany just doesn’t seem to beplace for gourmet food and food movements. But why not? It is one of the most discerning of world markets for fine teas and where there is a taste for first and second flush Darjeeling there is usually a taste for good food.
Munster is not one of the most sought after addresses in Germany. It is situated in Lower Saxony on the famous and beautiful Lüneburg Heath, but it is ancient, characterful towns like Lüneburg itself and Celle that draw the tourists. Munster is an army town, full of functional flats and Ministry of Defence owned land, but it is well planned and compact and a real community. The only raved-about eatery that I knew was the Eis Café Dal Bo, where ice creams defy appetites. Big is not always good, but these creations are!
We were therefore surprised and really pleased to find a farmer’s market outside our hotel on a Saturday morning. A few fish and meat vans were surrounded by real farmers with their potatoes, strawberries, currants, cherries and blueberries (we’d had our fill of wild blueberries the day before on the Heath - gorgeous). Intriguing was the enormous queue for the apples - they must have been the first of the season but not Discovery. The fruit were big and one elderly shopper was filling her pusher with her purchases. Early apples seldom are keepers - I wonder what she was going to do with them?!
Our gastro-pilgrimage was to find the Munstermann, at Wilhelm-Bockelmann-Str 8. Spotted the previous night at the wine festival with a mobile bratwurst stall, we were intrigued to see the actual shop as we are long-time fans of their preserved products, brought to our grateful larder in jars when the family visit (fingers crossed for today!). Most shopping in town is done in Aldi or Lidl. The Munstermann shop is outside the main shopping area but at 10.00 on a Saturday morning it was packed! Specialising in meats from the Heath (so that’s the local box ticked) this modern butchery was spotless, well merchandised and offered fresh meats, cooked meats and deli from the counter and then a range of convenience products, many of which were labelled as Oma’s recipe ( the business has been going since 1927). We bought jars of our favourite liver pâtés and terrines, and bratwurst in a jar, to be consumed with kartoffelsalat at home one day ‘when there’s nothing to eat’. What a joy such store-cupboard treats can be to a weary cook! The Munstermann beef olives, again in jars, are fabulous and I was intrigued to see a big purchase of bolognese sauce, simply labelled and preserved in cans, forming the major part of a transaction in front of us.
The Munstermann seemed like an ideal butchery to me. Good provenance in a short food supply chain, with total carcass utilisation being practiced through fresh, cured and cooked products, offering great food choices for both time-rich and time-poor gastronomes. What a shame Rick Stein didn’t get there on his German food journey: it is to be heartilly recommended.