The winding, picturesque Danube River begins its journey from its headwaters in the Black Forest at Donaueschingen, Germany as two little streams merge to become Europe’s second longest river. The Danube slices through mountains, forests, farmlands, vineyards and floodplains, touching countless villages, cities and the countries of Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldavia and Ukraine, before emptying beyond the Iron Gate hydroelectric dam in Romania and becoming the Danube delta, an international wildlife sanctuary bordering the Black Sea.
Many civilizations lived, traded, sailed and warred along the Danube including the Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Celts and Visigoths, the Mongol hordes and the Slavs. Later on the Ottoman and Austro-Hapsburg Empires conquered and stamped their cultural and culinary influences on the countries in their servitude. This included the importation of chefs, spices, vegetables, fruits and animals from their respective homelands.
Like the Danube, the tradition of Christmas begins in Germany on Advent night of December 6th, when St. Nicholas brings good children sweets and small toys. People dress up as the Bishop of Bari—St. Nicholas or Krampus, (the Austrian equivalent) and roam the streets in celebration. The traditional bedecked Tannenbaum or fir tree is the epitome of the holy days, a tradition brought to the United States by our German forbearers.
In the traditional recipes I have adapted, honey is the main sweetener used to flavor the various dishes. All countries along the Danube historically used honey in marinades and sauces, as a preservative for meat, in beverages, fruit soups and in sweet desserts like crepes, cakes, cookies, dumplings, strudels, breads and puddings, but to lesser degrees in main dishes and appetizers.
I think you will find these dishes to be wonderful additions to your holiday fare as they take little time to prepare and yet showcase the inventiveness of various Danube countries in creating gastronomic delights with commonly grown produce, meat and seafood. Enjoy!
AUSTRIAN CUCUMBER CRAB SALAD
Fresh and saltwater seafood of various varieties are found all along the Danube to the Black Sea. Cucumber salads are typical of many Danube countries usually served before the main course or as an appetizer.
chef’s knife or crinkle cutter
1 Tbsp salt
4 tsp honey ….