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Austrian Food, Ingredients

by Elisabeth Castleman

introduction  |  ingredients  |  recipes  |  cookbooks & sources  |  crossword


Austrian Topfen (Quark)
A type of cottage cheese used in many local specialty dishes like Liptauer. It is mild flavored, creamy, slightly acidic, white and delicious. Topfen/Quark can be also substituted with ricotta mixed with butter and sour cream.

Austrian cured ham (Speck)
Genuine Speck is a cold smoked fairly lean ham seasoned to traditional recipes, cured and matured for several months in cool Tirolean mountain air. It is often served as an appetizer with rye bread and pickles; it is a must in Tirolean dumplings called "Speck Knoedel."

Capers (Kapern)
Usually sold in glass jars pickled in salt brine and vinegar, capers are the closed buds of white flowers that grow in abundance throughout the Mediterranean regions and which are harvested while the buds are firm. They usually don't grow in Austria but are imported from nearby Italy where, in summer, they are found climbing along ancient walls like English ivy.

Mustard (Senf)
Prepared Austrian mustards come in a wide variety of flavors and degrees of spiciness. The most common mustards are the sweet types (Suess), the horseradish flavored types (Kren Senf), the spicy types (Scharf), the tarragon flavored types (Estragon Senf) and the wine flavored types (Kremser Senf).

Heavy cream (Schlag/Obers, also called Sahne)
Heavy cream in Austria is called either "Schlag," "Obers" or "Schlagobers," according to whether or not the cream is whipped. "Obers" is often served in Austrian homes and coffee houses as a side portion with either desserts, cakes, or flavored coffees.

Austrian coffee (Oesterreichischer Kaffee)
Coffee seems to be a staple nourishment to Austrians, who are very selective about the type of coffee they prepare and about the type of coffee beans they use for their coffees. By 1730 Austria's capital Vienna already had more than 30 public coffee houses. Today Austrians use three main ways to brew their coffee: the espresso way (of Italian origin), the filter way, and the Turkish way. Each coffee brewing method requires its special type of coffee grind and each Austrian "Hausfrau" has her special coffee roast and blend preference. Eduscho and Meinl Kaffee are among the popular Austrian brands. Mocha coffee seems to be the Austrian's all-round favorite. It is among the oldest type of coffee. Whether Austrian coffees are served simply black, with or without milk, or fancy -- with sugar sprinkles, with pieces of chocolate, with cherries, or spiked with liqueurs and brandies -- all have their special coffee name in the Austrian classic list of hot beverage.

Cherry liqueur (Kirschenliqueur)
It is absolutely not sherry or German distilled "Kirschwasser." It is an alcoholic sweet cherry liqueur similar to the Danish product "Cherry Heering." It is often used to flavor and color cakes.

Austrian "Schnaps"
It is not the green or colored syrupy "Schnapps" found on the North American market. It is a clear type of fruit brandy that is made from the distillation processes of various fruits. Common Austrian schnaps include: Plum schnaps ("Zwetchken-Schnaps," also called "Pflaumen-Schnaps"); Apple schnaps ("Apfel-Schnaps"); Pear schnaps ("Birnen-Schnaps"); and Apricot schnaps ("Marillen-Schnaps," also called "Aprikosen-Schnaps").

Austrian fruit bounce (Rum Topf)
It is a crock pot that in early summer is filled by Austrians with fresh seasonal fruit, sugar and sugar beet rum. The rum juice that absorbs the flavor of the fruit is usually dark reddish in color.

Sacher Torte (Sachertorte)
Yes, it is the world renowned chocolate glazed cake lined with jam. It was created in the early/middle 19th century by the Austrian baker, Herr Sacher, in honor of his benefactor, German-Austrian statesman Prince Klemens von Metternich, who played a major role in the European Congress of Vienna and in the demise of Napoleon Bonaparte. In Austria the original cake is still made, sold, and dispatched worldwide by the Sacher Hotel in downtown Vienna. The Sacher Hotel was founded in 1876 by the son of the baker who created the Sacher Torte. The Sacher Torte's recipe is said to be an Austrian national secret (see the Austrian source list below to order the authentic Viennese Sacher Torte worldwide).


Caraway (Kuemmel)
Small, brown, long and thin seeds that look like cumin or celery seeds and that, together with paprika, are vital in Austrian cuisine. Their flavor and aroma is totally different from cumin, which sometimes is mistakenly used instead of caraway for the similarity of both names. In Austrian, cumin is called "Kreuzkuemmel."

Paprika (Edelpaprika)
Dark or bright red powdered product made from Hungarian type chile peppers. It is much milder than cayenne pepper and should not be substituted with it or with chile powder. It is available either mild or sweet (Edelsuess) or hot-spicy (Scharf).

Cinnamon (Zimt)
It is the all-purpose dessert spice favorite. It is available whole, chipped, and powdered. It is a must in Austrian mulled wine (Gluehwein), in cinnamon rolls (Zimt Schnecken), in rice pudding (Milchreis) and fruit compotes (Kompott).


Chives (Schnittelauch)
Green, tubular, pointed, onion-flavored stems which are usually the first herb that is visible after the cold snowy Austrian winter season. Freshly chopped chives lift many simple Austrian dishes. Sprinkled in soups, mixed with Topfen in Liptauer, chopped over salads, and used over rye bread with butter or "Schmalz" (rendered Speck fat), chives are a must in many Austrian specialties.

Parsley (Petersilie)
Native to mild climate Mediterranean regions, Austrian parsley is available fresh, with either flat or curly leaves, and dried. It is also usually included in a fresh vegetable addition for soups and stocks, called "Suppengruen" (carrot, celery, celeriac, kohlrabi, and parsley bunched together). When fresh it is rich in vitamin C, has a pleasantly mild flavor, and is best used mixed with minced garlic or onion.

Marjoram (Majoran)
It is basically the north-central European oregano with a milder flavor than the southern European oregano. Dried, it is a must in every Austrian pantry for dishes like goulash and roasted stuffed poultry.

Lovage (Liebstockel)
Available fresh and dry, celery flavored lovage looks like a miniature celery top. In Austrian cuisine, lovage is a celery substitute for stocks and in dishes which require mild celery flavored greens.

more on Austrian Cuisine...
introduction  |  ingredients  |  recipes  |  cookbooks & sources  |  crossword

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