For a food writer there is nothing more golden than a family recipe box. A visit to my parents over the weekend had me going through the family recipe box of my mom’s side of the family. While finding some gems, like the Kahn’s Braunschweiger Bavarian Party Dip recipe, and the Poor Man’s Fruitcake recipe of my paternal grandmother, I found another interesting Germanic recipe from the past.
I found a simple recipe in my maternal grandmother’s handwriting with the title “Fleisch Noodles.” Below the title was written “Fleish is the German word for meat.” I knew that many regions in Germany had their own noodles or dumplings. Like many of my maternal grandmother’s recipes, there was not much detail, more a description of what the dish was. My high school friend Kyle, who now lives in the Swabia region of Germany with his wife, introduced me last year to Maltaschen, their regional dumpling/ravioli-like specialty. I asked my mom about the recipe and she said this was something that one of the girls Jeanette Hatfield, from the bakery used to make – they were meat rolled up in egg noodle dough. She remembered that they were really good.
It turns out this is an Alsatian dish, called Fleischschnaka in their local dialect – meaning meat snail. Call it meat schnecken. It’s a simple seasoned meat stuffing (usually the leftovers of a variety of stewed meats like pork, beef, oxtail, veal, chicken or even duck) with onions, salt, pepper and parsley rolled up in a rich egg dough, cooked and then sliced. The dough of the Alsatian dish has the consistency of spaetzle, chewy and medium density. In Alsace, they are typically made with ground pork, but this recipe called for cooked ground chuck. They are typically served in a light broth, accompanied by a green salad, but some Alsatian chefs have amped them up with things like gingerbread-spiced cranberry sauce. Apparently it’s a comfort food that every Alsatian mother knows how to make.
Fleischschnaka can also be found in neighboring Baden-Wuertemburg, the region next to Alsace-Lorraine, from which many came to work for Nicholas Longworth as tenant vine dressers during the Catawba Craze of the 1840s and 1850s. According to many sites, this is a very rare dish to find outside of Alsace and Baden. This recipe was from the 1950s, when my grandparents employed the woman at the bakery, but with as much regional German food digging that I’ve done, I had never heard of the delicacy. I can imagine Germanic vine dressers of Cincinnati and northern Kentucky eating these ‘meat snails’ accompanied by a glass of sparking Catawba wine after a long day tending the vineyards.