The History Dish: Beer Soup

beersoupHot German beer soup.

The History

Beer soup!  Soup made from beer!  And there is no cheddar cheese or Guinness in sight–this is a sweet, German lager soup.

This recipe comes from the generically named Practical Cook Book one of the most popular German cookbooks of all time.  First published in 1844 (first English version in 1897), the book was written and compiled by Henriette Davidis, a woman known as the German Mrs. Beeton for the scope and scale of her work.

A reprint of this cookbook is available, titled Pickled Herring and Pumpkin Pie: A Nineteenth-Century Cookbook for German Immigrants to America; the evocative title makes me  think of this book tucked in the suitcases of the thousands of German immigrants that made their way to America in the middle of the 19th century.  Separated from their mother, young women could have brought this book with them as a reminder of the tastes of home.  Or, as the different German cultures mixed and married in the Kleine Deutschlands of the U.S., perhaps they used it to learn to cook a new regional cuisine for their husband.

I first worked with Davidis’ book while researching food for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s new Shop Life exhibit, which features a fully restored 1870s German lager beer saloon.  I made lebkuchen, a honey spice cake, and sauerbraten, a sort of pickled pot roast, from Davidis’ recipes.  They were molded in latex and cast to create the faux food on display in the exhibit.

But a few more recipes in this cook book caught my eye, so I’m going to revisit this tomb of classic German cooking to see if we can discover some gems.  First up, beer soup!

The Germans were responsible for bringing lager beer to the United States: a lighter beer with a lower alcoholic content, it became wildly popular in America, replacing ale as the favorite draught.  Currently, all of this country’s major beer producers make lager beer.

The Recipe

beery_soup_reciptbeer_soup_recipe2

Beer Soup

From The Practical Cook Book by Henriette Davidis, 1897 (English Version)

1 cup beer
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Place egg and flour in a heat safe bowl; set aside. Heat beer, water, sugar, and salt until just before boiling.  Pour beer slowly over egg and flour, constantly whisking.  Return to pan. Serve hot.

beersoup2Beer, measured for soup.

The Results

I ended up using a hefeweizen beer, which is not a lager, because I thought its natural sweetness would work well in this recipe.  When I sipped my soup, it had a wonderful, soft, creamy mouth-feel.  But it tasted like the day after a party smells: warm, stale beer.

 

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