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Published: Tuesday, 8/17/2004

Many American foods have German roots

Hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, beer, mustard, pickles - these All-American foods are also part of German food history. While at least three Americans are credited with the creation of the hamburger a century ago, a German cook named Otto Kuasw in Hamburg, Germany, created a sandwich with a thin, fried patty of mild beef sausage, which he topped with a fried egg and placed between two slices of bread, according to the German Agricultural Marketing Board.

Today a classic hamburger might be garnished with sliced onion, tomato, and lettuce. To add a German flavor, top a burger with Beer Glazed Onions: Heat four tablespoons of olive oil or butter in a large saute pan. Then add 4 large yellow onions cut into 1/4-inch slices, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of cayenne. Cook until the onions reach a golden caramel color. Pour in 1/4 cup of beer and cook an additional four minutes.

The hot dog, a.k.a. frankfurter, was a finely ground sausage link named after Frankfurt, Germany, where it gained popularity in the 1400s. In the 1860s, German immigrants in New York City began selling "franks" with rolls and sauerkraut from pushcarts. In 1871, Charles Feltman, a German-American butcher, opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand. For a decidedly German flavor, add a German-style sweet mustard or sauerkraut.

In addition to the classics, plenty of German foods and recipes can be enjoyed at Oktoberfest celebrations in the coming weeks. Oktoberfest dates back to 1810 when the citizens of Munich were invited to attend the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese. (From Sept. 19 to Oct. 3, Munich will celebrate its 171st Oktoberfest.)

Closer to home, enjoy German foods at the German American Festival Aug. 27-29 at Oak Shade Grove in Oregon. According to chairman Danny Ash, the menu includes smoked pig hocks, veal loaf, bratwurst, knockwurst, barbecued chicken, roast pork, mashed potatoes, and sauerkraut. "We have nine 55-gallon barrels of sauerkraut from Hirzel's," he says. There are also potato pancakes, sauerkraut balls, and German cheeses such as bierkaese and Liederkranz. Not to be overlooked is the classic German potato salad with an oil-and-vinegar dressing instead of mayonnaise. Krist Abel is among the volunteers who make 2,000 pounds of potatoes into the classic favorite. Admission is $4; foods are individually priced.

Other German-flavored celebrations include the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival held Thursday through Saturday and featuring roasted bratwurst and other foods. For information: www.bratwurstfestival.org.

The 2nd Annual Mackinac Island Oktoberfest will be Oct. 14-16 on Mackinac Island, Mich. The event begins with a beer and regional food tasting dinner on Oct. 14. On Oct. 15 and 16, there will be beer tents with Michigan microbreweries and special events. Information: 800-454-5227 or www.mackinacisland.org.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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