From the Teutonic chicken to Mennonite sausage
– People worked hard in the past in Żuławy (low land), so the food was greasy and in big quantities. There was also an alcohol – beer and strong vodkas. Many times in old memories there is a story of a bottle of Machandel put at the end of the field – so the work in the field would go faster – says Marek Opitz, expert and the passionate of Low Land, the director of Nowy Dwor Passionate Association, called “Klub Nowodworski”, the owner od the arcaded house “Little Dutchman” in Zelichowo.
Pomorskie.tarvel: – Today, we want to talk about the Low Land kitchen…
Marek Opitz: – To know more about he kitchen in Low Land , We have to know more about the Low Land, the youngest part of Poland, development first. We can treat this area as a big opened book where every generation left something from themselves.
Pomorskie.travel: – So, let’s start form the Teutonic times.
Marek.Opotz: – I would mention a black chicken (chicken rubbed with gingerbread, roasted black and turned into ashes) served, along with medieval tradition with spices. But poultry is one just thing. Second is fish. The Vistula Lagoon was controlled by the Teutonic Order and the Fishing Master.
Fish always have been part of Żuławy cuisine, on the photo herring prepared for smoking, fot. Marek Opitz
In the castle of Szkarpawa he checked the catch of fish and divided them. For example, sturgeon was transported to Gdansk markets and Malbork castle, where it was marinated, smoked and salted. The records prove that there were special sheds where the sturgeon masters worked… What’s more the village names show that there were really a lot of crayfish here as well – Rakowe pole (Crayfish Filed), Rakowiska (Crayfish Area) or Rakowo (Crayfish Place).
Pomorksie.travel: – Going forward while talking about the Low Land kitchen, we have to mention Mennonites…
Marek Opitz: – Along with the religion tolerance development in XVI c. Low Land became the place where Mennonites settled. Thanks to them the cheese and alcohol production develop.
Stobbes Machandel – juniper vodka produced by the mennonite Stobbe family. Fot. Marek Opitz
Those who came from the Netherlands were famous from special cheese production, called “podpuszczkowy cheese”. Those, who came from the Northern Germany, especially Stobbe Family, were famous form producing famous juniper drink – “Machandel”.
Sampler with cheese werderkase. Fot. Marek Opitz
Mennonites were also sausage experts. They added the best pork and beef meat. There was an old saying that is something is really good, it is as good as the Mennonite sausage. Thanks to Mennonites there are also so many kinds of fruit trees here (so unusual for this part of Europe). Mennonite leaders ordered to plant the fruit trees, so people had a lot of jams and marmalades and famous apple butter – made in a similar way as the lump jam. Till today there is a apple butter competition organised in Canada.
The variety of flavors of Żuławy cuisine was also apreciated by Karol Okrasa. Fot. Marek Opitz
Pomorskie.travel: – After eating such Mennonite sausage, You had to drink something probably…
Marek Opitz: – Since the Teutonic times every farmer brewed his own beer, we know that from old drawings. In a household registers there are usually a copper boiler to brew beer. The local beer production was so huge, that Gdansk and Elblag forbidden to brew beer at home, except the harvesting time. Reading the old XIX c. newspapers, We know that in Nowy Dwor Gdanski, called before the WWII Tiegenhof, there were “Kozlak” beer competition organised. It was strong 6, 7 % alcohol beer, known from XVII c from Einveck in Lower Saxony.
Brewing beer at home was the domain of almost every host. On the photo old beer bottles. Fot. Marek Opitz
Pomorskie.travel; – What about the Low Land deserts?
Marek Opitz; – We have to mention the marzipan and the gingerbread. Till today in the Marzipan Museum in Lubeck, You can admire the cake forms from Low Land and in the Ethnographic Museum in Torun, a gingerbread form from Nowy Dwor Gdanski – the capital of Low Land.
Marzipan cookies from Żuławy. Fot. Marek Opitz
Pomorskie.travel: – Is the Low Land kitchen still alive?
Marek Opitz: – Today, as more people, who live here are ware of their local identity, they want to have their kitchen, too and as You see we have ready recipes and inspiration. There are culinary books being published, for example “Low Land Culinary” by Artur Wasilewski as well as regular culinary competitions organised by the Low Land Association in Trutnowy. A very good inspiration are alos books by Bogdan Galazka from “Gothic” restaurant in Malbork Castle or Low Land climate in Cedrowy Dworek restaurant oi Cedry Wielkie. A big promotion of a local kitchen is done by the Rural Ladies Associations, who offer their food during the festivals, fairs and harvesting time. “Zulawskie Smaki” concentrate the Low Land food producers, which are “as good as Mennonite sausage”. Important role has also Low Land Museum, promoting the food with the kitchen and machandel exhibitions. For many years, we also have a feast of “The day of Settlers”, organised by the Nowy Dwor Club.
Old kitchen in Museum of Żuławy in Nowy Dwór Gdański. Fot. Marek Opitz
Pomorksie.travel: – Many restaurants appreciate now the old recipes and traditional Low Land kitchen. You, as the owner of “The Little Dutchmen” think the same.
Marek Opitz: – “The Little Dutchmen” appreciate old tradition and promotes the Low Land kitchen. In a saved and moved old, arcaded house for Zelichowo, we have a restaurant, where every dish has its history and inspiration. Starting from the baked sturgeon, goose form the bread oven, dumplings with geese, Werderkase cheese, kings meat and meat soup according to the recipe of our former neighbour, Mr. Andreas and the cheesecake recipe of our grandmother Agata from Brzesc. When we add 15 kinds of local beer and the machandel, we have a typical, traditional Low Land kitchen, a combination of different history generations. It is a big satisfaction to bring the Low Land its food tradition back – like for example the story with the Werderkase cheese, which original recipe we tried for two years. Our effort was appreciated during the culinary market in Lodz, but he most important for us are our clients opinions’ – elderly Mennonite ladies, who recognised among many others, our Werderkase cheese, as the one they remembered form their childhood. We managed to reconstruct the recipe of that cheese thanks to our hard work in archives, simplicity and the processional support of the cheese master, Krzysztof Jaworski and dairy in Skarszewy.
Tasting regional cheeses in Mały Holender. Fot. Marek Opitz
We invite You to the “Little Dutchmen”from May till November. Food for the groups we recommend to book in advance, as well as the culinary lessons of making cheese, beer and how to recognise wild growing plants.