Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everyone had a job

The Tools We Used
If Grandma (Muttie) was making Kartoffelklösse, almost everyone had a job. My Dad was in charge of bringing the wine. He always brought two bottles of a German white wine called "Weber Zeller Schwartz Katz". As children we didn't care about the wine, we did however fight for the little plastic black cat that came on the neck of every bottle. Grandma always had an ample supply of 7Up™ and Maraschino cherries  on hand so that we could make "Kiddie Cocktails".  She often has a bottle of raspberry syrup (Himbersaft) on hand to mix with water and ice to make a great beverage. My mother often brought the spinach and red cabbage, my aunt brought water rolls (not that we needed them) from the bakery and, sometimes, her famous mile-high feather sponge cake with lemon butter frosting. It was the tallest cake that we ever saw. My grandmother would make her chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, and streusel kuchen to be served with coffee after dinner. At Christmas time Dresden Stollen had to be served.

Grandma needed fresh russet potatoes. If she bought 24 pounds of potatoes, 8 pounds would be reserved for mashing, and 16 pounds for grating. I must remind you that this is no simple task.

The most dangerous job
How do you make Kartoffelklösse? Well first of all, you will need some supplies. You will need a potato grater with a fine grate (see the picture to the left). Grandma's potato grater was made from the brass of fired bullet casings from WWI. Apparently the abundant supply of spent brass shell cases in the fields were cleaned and melted down and formed into all sorts of things. The grater that Grandma had (mine now) actually never gets dull and is quick to tear off a strip of skin from your knuckle while you are grating the potatoes. Hey, a little skin, a little blood, it is part of the process. The 2/3rds of the potatoes had to be grated quickly, or they would begin to oxidize and turn from white to a grey green color (Grüne Klöße).

The grated potatoes are placed into a cloth sugar sack (Klöße Sack). The sugar sacks were very strong  and porous, which was why one could squeeze water out of the potatoes more easily. My  Grandmother sent her  daughter, my Aunt to a local bakery and ask them to save us some more sugar bags.  I can assume that you don't have any heavy-duty sugar sacks lying around the house, so you will need to go to a fabric store and buy some canvas. You make a bag out of the canvas that is about 12 inches wide by 18 inches deep. The seams must be triple stitched. You will also need a large pot, one of those blue porcelain-coated canning pots. Today, a large stainless steel (not aluminum) pot will do.
You must squeeze every drop of moisture from the potatoes, leaving just the potato pulp. My aunt and one of my cousins usually got there first and would handle this job. Sometimes I would arrive early enough to help. While squeezing the water from the potatoes we always tried to come up with an easier way to squeeze the potato pulp dry. Why not put them in the bag and drive a car or steam roller over them? When the potatoes were done you would have to break the pulp into little pieces so that they mixed well with the mashed potatoes. If you squeezed the potatoes right, your hands will feel like you have flour on them. 

The water from the squeezed out potatoes must be reserved. The starch from the grated potatoes sits in the bottom of the potato water. The next step is to carefully dump the potato water without loosing the starch on the bottom of the bowl. It's like panning for gold. When all of the water is removed from the bowl, all that remains is the paste like starch. This will be added to the mashed potatoes later.

Grandma always said that somewhere in Germany there was a machine that would squeeze the potatoes dry, but she never had one. I just had to find this machine. One day I called the German Consulate in Chicago. A very pleasant German woman answered the telephone. I asked her if she was, in fact from Germany. She told me that she was from Hamburg and asked how she could help me. Judging from her reaction, I guess nobody ever asked her if she knew of a machine that made Kartoffelklösse. She told me that they just buy the Kartoffelklösse in the store, or they buy a mix in a box. She told me the name of the boxed product. I told her I was looking for authentic Kartoffelklösse and not a boxed version. She had never heard of a Kartoffelklösse machine.

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