Whether you're simply sitting in one of the many mountain huts, breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying the feeling as the sun warms your face after a hard climb. Or sitting comfortably in the hotel restaurant and enjoying culinary delights from a local chef. One simply cannot ignore the “Tiroler Knödel” (Tyrolean dumplings).
It is impossible to holiday in South Tyrol without coming to appreciate these tasty dumplings, of which South Tyrolean cuisine has so many different varieties and forms.
Necessity is the mother of invention
After all the Knödel has graced Tyrolean plates since the 12th century. Tradition has it, they were invented in an emergency situation by a country woman. Her farmhouse was invaded by a marauding (and seemingly very hungry) group of mercenaries, who threatened to burn down her property if they weren't all properly feed. Fearing the wrath of the hungry soldiers, she immediately ran to the kitchen with her maids to gather all the food they had. In the end, all she could find was a piece of bacon, eggs, stale bread, onions and flour. With some milk and a few herbs from the garden, she mixed every thing she had into a dough and then formed it into individual dough balls. They were then thrown into salt water and the pot laid out on the table in front of the men, who afterwards were so full of Knödel, they forgot all about committing acts of arson and had a nap instead.
Since then the triumph of the Knödel has been unstoppable. No wonder then, that the South Tyrolean know how to handle a Knödel.
Knödel creativity? To be continued!
Over time the Knödel evolved in various regions to include the classic bacon, beet, spinach, cheese and liver Knödel, among many other variations. While on your holiday admiring the fascinating mountain world of the Dolomites of Sesto in Pusteria Valley, sooner or later a local will put a “Pressknödel” (pressed dumpling) on your plate. A “schwarzplentenen” Knödel is another variant which is made from buckwheat flour and can be found in the Passeier Valley. If you happen to be cycling in the Vinschgau Valley, at the time of the apricot crop it is worth a stop at the annual 'Marble and apricots' fair, where you can enjoy a juicy apricot Knödel along with the locals. Don't be surprised, however, if two or three of the locals tell you with a devilish smile that his wife “makes the best dumplings of all.”
The Knödel etiquette guide
If you would like to delve deeper into the Tyrolean tradition, simply order a dish of dumplings in a rustic mountain hut and eat "uaner to Wosser uaner to Lond” or “one with water, one with land”. First in soup and then with lettuce or cabbage. You will not regret it and you will gain the favour of the cook! Unless, however, you were to cut the Knödel with a knife. This applies throughout the South Tyrol land as an insult to the cook, for a real Knödel must be strong enough so as not to fall apart, yet soft enough that you can cut it with a fork. The Knödel etiquette can't be ignored! Challenge yourself and make your own Knödel by using this recipe:
Traditional Bacon Knödel
80 g sliced Bacon into small cubes
½ onion (40 g)
150 g stale, dry white bread
20 g butter
40 g flour
100 ml milk
1 TBSP parsley or chives
Cut the white bread in cubes.
Onion finely chopped and fried in butter, will be mixed with the bread. Mix in bacon and flour. Stir eggs, milk, parsley and salt, pour over the bread and mix well. Let the mixture settle for 15 min.
Form dumplings with your hands and let them steep half covered in salty water. Bacon Knödel are best served with broth, goulash, cabbage and homemade sausage or with brown butter and parmesan.
Cooking time: 15-20 min