I’ve done a couple of Oktoberfest parties in my adult life, and been to an actual Oktoberfest in Fredericksberg, TX. My first party was to celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday her freshman year at college (or was it her senior year in high school??? I forget). I decorated in balloons and streamers, because there was just NOTHING available at our local party store for this theme. I served a sampling of German Beers and soft pretzels for an appetizer until all the guests arrived, and then served them a little supper of authentic German dishes including, Sauerbraten, Kielbasa in Sauerkraut, warm German Potato Salad, Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw, and two desserts — German Chocolate Cake, and Kuchen.
The second party was a gathering of my cooking club accomplices, and as you can see we don’t mind being silly!!!
Invitations: I used some Oktoberfest clip art in my Office program and put our faces in place of the faces. Then I printed them on card stock (about the size of postcards).
On the flip side I printed our party details:
…and then slipped them into envelopes and sent them off.
Outdoor Decorations: It was my experience (a thousand years ago) that the chain party stores (at least in my town) didn’t really carry much, if anything, for Oktoberfest. Everything that I found of this theme, I found ONLINE! But in San Antonio, Texas there’s Amols Party Store, and you’re in luck, because they ship!!!
I hung a German flag on my front door, and placed balloon bunches on the left and right side of the door. I also set a CD player out there with my favorite Oktoberfest music playing (on continuous play) for ambience as my guests arrived. And when everyone was there I brought the boombox inside and let it continue playing for background music. There are lots of music CDs to choose from, but this one was my FAVORITE:
German Drinking and Beer Garden Songs 14 All Time Favorites by the Bavarian Beersingers, Legacy, 2001 (click the link in the title which will take you to Amazon.com for details and price.)
It sounds like a party! The music is very good quality, professionally recorded, and there are people laughing and having a whooping good time in the background. It makes your event seem even more like a party than it already is.
What to Wear: Your guests can come all dressed up if they want, or casual, however you wish. As the host, I’m always wanting to dress the part and set the mood with that very first greeting at the door. In October it is easy to find cheap costumes at Wal-mart, Kmart, Target, and party stores. I found dirndls and lederhosen costumes at Target.com, and those green Robin Hood hats at the same online places where I found decorations. Good luck getting your men to show up in those “ridiculous shorts” though. Maybe you can get them to wear a hat at least, or the plastic apron things with the lederhosen printed on them. And gals, we can find a cute little white gathered scoop neck top with short gathered sleeves, and then layer a black lace-up vest over it. If we can’t find one at a thrift store it wouldn’t be too hard to make one. A white scoop-neck fitted t-shirt would work just fine under that vest too. Then we just have to get our hands on a full skirt, preferably blue. Some white tights and black shoes will finish the look. Do you have long hair? Tie it up in Princess Leah braids. You sexy thing!
Greet Guests: Brush up on a few German words and phrases and answer the door in character:
Speak German? Sprechen sie deutsch? (“shpre-khen zee Doich”)
Hello Guten Tag (“GOO-ten tak”)
Cheers Prost! (“prōst”)
Come and eat! Kommen Sie und essen (“kō-men zee OOnd essen”)
Please Bitte (“bit-tuh”)
Thank you Danke (“Danh-kuh”)
Yes Ja (“yah”)
No Nein (“nine”)
Excuse me Entschuldigung (“entschOOl-digOOng”)
Goodbye Auf Wiedersehen (“owf-VEEder-zane”)
Indoor Decorations: Traditional Oktoberfest décor consists of the blue and white diamond diagonal checked design. Amols of San Antonio has tablecloths, banners, cut-outs, etc.
If your funds or time are limited you can decorate the tables by layering a blue tablecloth diagonally over a white tablecloth. Find blue and white square plates to go with the blue and white tablecloth. A cute centerpiece might be a big beer stein with a bouquet of flowers in it. You could go with blue and white carnations, or other flowers in the blue and white colors, or a nice fall assortment of sunflowers.
No matter what beverages you choose to serve, it is festive to serve them in beer steins. The kids will get a kick out of drinking “root” BEER out of their beer steins. Search your local thrift stores, and eBay, for an inexpensive set of steins. My husband already had a small collection of unbreakable silver ones that he contributed to our marriage and they were perfect.
Food and Drink: serve everything buffet style, or centered on your table and passed around, and have plenty! During dinner rove around and offer little taste tests of various German beers. I found a good assortment at our local liquor barn. In San Antonio of course we are blessed with Central Market (Broadway and Hildebrand) that carries a vast selection of beers from all over the world. Perhaps you have a store like that in your town? Little plastic Dixie cups work great for sampling beer. Do some research and collect some “trivia” about Oktoberfest or Germany that you can use as ice breakers and conversation starters here and there.
I made my desserts the day before my party, along with the Potato Salad, and wrapped them up in plastic and put them in my fridge. I made my pretzels a few hours before the party.
One of my favorite desserts is German Chocolate Cake. I’ve only ever made the recipe that comes on the back of the German Baker’s Chocolate box. (shown)
My life-long BFF’s mom was from Germany and she made Kuchen all the time. It was with major fondness that I tried to recreate her little desserts for my party. I wish I had my BFF’s mom’s recipe, but after looking high and low for it , my sweet friend decided that her mom must have made hers from memory. I remember it being sort of like a pie, but with a real thick, sort of bready crust. The fillings were always different. Sometimes it was a type of cheese/custard, sometimes stewed fruit compote, and sometimes a combination of the two. In the German language Kuchen (prounounced KOO-ken) means “cake.” My friend pronounced it “KOO-gen” (I imagine was just the lazy way to say it).
I found this recipe from the Erbele Family online, and it is pretty close to my BFF’s mom’s: “This recipe is from Grandmother Hulda Erbele. It was passed down through generations. Each family makes it a little differently. My personal favorite is rhubarb or dried apricots.”
To make dough:
2 cups milk, lukewarm
½ cup oil
1 cup cream
2 packages dry yeast 3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground is wonderful)
3 eggs, well beaten
7 or 8 cups flour
Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar into warm milk. Let stand for a few minutes. In a mixing bowl, mix sugar, salt, nutmeg. Add oil and cream, mix well. Add 2 cups of flour to make a batter. Add yeast and beaten eggs, beat well. Add remaining flour to make medium stiff dough. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Let rise till double in size. Knead down. Repeat. Let rise and shape into balls the size of your fist (about 9). Roll out and put into pie or cake pans. Let rise ½ hour.
To make Custard Topping:
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart half and half
3 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix sugar and flour together. Whisk together half and half and eggs. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and blend well. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thick (be careful not to burn). Let cool and add vanilla.
To make fruit topping:
Any fruit can be used. Raw fruits like apples pears and rhubarb should be sliced thin. Canned fruit or berries should be drained well. Dried fruits are nice when you cook and drain them.
(I used fresh raspberries for some of my kuchens and also some fresh sliced peaches for others).
Streusel Crumb topping:
Cut flour and sugar into butter to make crumbs
To assemble: Spoon about 1/8 cup of custard topping into a depression in the center of each round of dough. Arrange a layer of fruit topping over custard. Sprinkle with about 1/8 cup of streusel crumbs. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
CHEESE KUCHEN (this is just like my BFF’s mom’s)
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweet cream
¾ cup cottage cheese
1 heaping tablespoon flour
Mix together and bring to a boil. Spread onto Kuchen dough, top with streusel crumb topping, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 till done. Anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes
APRICOT KUGEN (Yield: 10)
1/2 cups Butter or margarine
2 cups Sugar
8 large Eggs
1 1/2 cups Flour
9 cups Halved apricots; pitted
1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/4 cups Cornstarch
1 1/4 cups Sour cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla
With a mixer, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour. Spread batter evenly in a 9 by 13 inch pan. Mix apricots with 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Arrange fruit, cut side up, in batter. In a bowl, mix remaining sugar with cornstarch, add sour cream, remaining eggs, and vanilla; beat until blended. Pour over apricots.
Bake in a 350 degree oven until cake surrounding apricots in the center is firm when gently pressed, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes; serve warm or cool.
NOTES: Frozen apricots also work well.
Bavarian Pretzels — SOFT PRETZEL RECIPE
(6 large 12 small)
3 ½ C of flour
4 T brown sugar
2 tsp. salt (sea salt preferably)
1 Tbsp yeast, dissolved in the water
1 C water (120°) fairly warm but not hot.
2 tsp baking soda mixed with 1 Cup hot water (in a small bowl)
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water (in a small bowl)
Toppings can be:
Mix water/yeast, brown sugar and salt in a food processor, or a large mixing bowl. Add flour and mix until dough is smooth. Add more flour if sticky. (If possible let the dough sit overnight in a bowl or plastic container in the refrigerator.)
Divide the dough into 6 or 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope, very thin, a little bigger than a pencil. Shape into an upside down U shape on your table. Bring the ends together and twist them. Flatten the ends and bring to the top of the pretzel and press in the dough to secure making it look like a pretzel. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
Now let the pretzels raise for a 45 minutes or till about double in size. Dip in the water-soda solution. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt, sesame seeds, parmesan cheese, or cinnamon sugar.
Bake in hot oven 450 degrees (225 degrees C) for 12 to 15 minutes or until well browned. Brush with melted butter and eat!
SAUERBRATEN WITH GINGERSNAP GRAVY
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 1/2 tsp salt
12 whole peppercorns
6 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 (5 lb) boneless bottom round roast, rolled and tied
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup crushed gingersnaps
Combine sliced onion, vinegar, 2 c. water, salt, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves. Pour over roast in large plastic Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Swish around and place in refrigerator for 2 days. Turn meat around in marinade twice daily.
Remove meat from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Brown meat on all sides in hot oil in a Dutch oven for about 15 minutes. Remove meat. Add 1 cup onion, carrots and celery. Sauté until tender (do not brown).
Return meat to Dutch oven. Add half an inch of water and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 hours or until meat is tender.
Remove meat to hot platter. Add bouillon cubes and 1 cup of water to Dutch oven. Bring to boil. Combine flour and half cup water; stir to blend. Gradually add to hot liquid, stirring constantly. Stir in gingersnaps. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 3 minutes. Serve gravy with sauerbraten. Makes 12 servings.
HOMEMADE GERMAN NOODLES
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup lukewarm water
Combine flour and salt. Stir in egg yolks and water; mix well. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Let dough rest 30 minutes.
Roll out to 18” square. Let dry 1 hour.
Roll up loosely like jelly roll. Cut dough into quarter inch strips. Unroll strips. Cut in 4” lengths. Lay out to dry again 1 hour.
Cook in 3 quarts of boiling, salted water about 18 minutes or until noodles are tender.
Drain in colander. Rinse with hot water. Drain well. Noodles can be served buttered as a side to any roast with gravy.
GERMAN POTATO SALAD
(Mary Zins Family)
“This is one made in a Cincinnati German family for more than 50 years. You need a double boiler which is a pan suspended in a second pan that is filled with boiling water. The purpose is to gently heat the sauce so it does not curdle. If you must heat the sauce over direct heat, do it over very low heat, it takes time.”
8-9 large potatoes
1 c. sugar
4 slices bacon cut to 1/4 in. bits
1 c. cider vinegar
1/2 med. onion
1 tsp. salt
1 med. stalk celery
1 Tbs. dry mustard
4 eggs, well beaten
Boil potatoes in salted water. Peel while still very warm. Dice potatoes. Fry bacon to crisp, add chopped onion and celery to bacon fat and saute until just crisp-tender (maybe 2 or 3 minutes). Pour bacon, onion, celery, and melted fat over potatoes.
Mix sugar, salt, and mustard in top of double boiler. Add vinegar and beaten eggs mixing thoroughly. Cook stirring constantly until thick and creamy. Pour hot sauce over potato mixture and fold to coat potatoes.
Good hot and often served that way, but delicious cold after a day or two in the refrigerator.
WARM RED CABBAGE, RED ONION AND APPLE SLAW
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive (not virgin) oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 head red cabbages
1 large red onions cut into eight wedges
1 tsp. caraway seeds
2 Granny Smith* apples cored and cut into eight wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut out the core of the cabbage half and cut the cabbage into small pieces.
Cut out the core of the cabbage half and cut the cabbage into small pieces.
Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
Add the cabbage, apples, caraway seeds and vinegar. Stir well.
Cook, uncovered, 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste with salt and pepper when the cabbage is soft.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately.
*Any tart apple will do. Try Pippins if Granny Smiths are not available.
WARNING: This dish cooks fast. Keep watch!
SAUERKRAUT AND SAUSAGES
Completely drain and squeeze the sauerkraut of its juice and place in a large Dutch oven on a burner of the stovetop. Pour about half a bottle of German beer over it, along with a little brown sugar and a half dozen juniper berries plucked from a backyard tree. Cover and heat to boiling. Uncover and simmer until liquid it evaporated. Meanwhile grill the bratwurst and kielbasa on the BBQ (that’s how I like them) or boil them in beer until fully cooked. Add the sausages to the top of the sauerkraut cover and heat until uniformly hot. Traditionally served on a plate with a squirt of sweet German mustard, but may also be served on bagel-type poppy seed buns with the sweet mustard. Yummy!
After dinner, I arranged people in groups of four at card tables and passed around decks of the card game DUTCH BLITZ. It is an easy game to learn and quickly draws you in to its high-speed chaos. I chose it because it was invented by the German immigrants of the Pennsylvania Dutch country in colonial America, and I like to try to match games with culture and cuisine. You can find it at Christian bookstores, and at the Christian Book Distributor’s website. If you have an Amish or Mennonite community with a little fabric store gift shop, they’ll probably have it. And certainly at Amazon.com.
Here is how the game basically works: Four people sit around the table. Each person has his or her own design of cards (pump, plow, pail, or carriage). You set up your cards in front of you colored/numbered side up in three Post piles and one Blitz pile and you work off your Blitz pile taking three cards at a time and laying the trio on the “Wood” pile. If you can place the top card somewhere, either on your post piles or to start or play on a “Dutch” pile in the center of the table (like in Solitaire but shared by all), then you can also try to place the next face up card. If you can’t place that card anywhere then you draw three more Blitz cards and turn them over on the Wood pile again and keep doing this trying to get rid of those Blitz cards. Once a person’s Blitz pile is gone the game is over for everyone. You can deplete your Blitz pile by playing them onto your Post piles and/or putting them out in the center of the table for everyone to play on (Dutch piles). The cards laid in the middle of the table must start with an ace and are played on by all the players each laying down the next number in sequence and matching the color. Your own personal Post piles work differently.
Sometimes the game gets stuck where there are no cards in the center for anyone to play on, then someone will finally get an ace to lay out in the center and the game goes wild. It gets to be a harried, frenzied, free-for-all where you either find yourself on a roll pitching your whole pile out to the various card piles in the center of the table, or you watch in stunned screams as someone else depletes all their cards so fast that you’re just paralyzed and powerless to stop them. Once someone goes out all the cards that you have left in your Blitz pile get tallied. The Dutch pile cards get sorted back into their designs and go back to the owners, are counted and recorded. Your Blitz total gets subtracted from the cards you managed to play in the center, and the scores are written down. Now everybody shuffles their cards and the frenzy starts all over again. The first person to reach a score of 75 wins.
My crowd had so much fun with the game that we all just played it over and over and over.
G’Night send-off: I made us all do THE CHICKEN DANCE! I know, I know. Super silly. But my daughters had sworn an oath to me in the planning of this party that they would let go their inhibitions, be totally unrestrained, and dance like no one was watching. Their flagrant display coaxed everyone else to join the shenanigans and we clucked and bawk/bawk/bawked our way back and forth around that circle, exaggerating our gestures and laughing at each other until our ribs hurt. It ended our evening with a huge belly laugh. Yes, we’re pretty much dorks.
Just in case you want to know…this is how to do THE CHICKEN DANCE
Anyone who’s not chicken, stands in a circle facing each other.
At the start of the music, shape a chicken beak with your right hand, fingers up and thumb down. Hold it in front of your mouth. Open and close it four times, during the first four beats of the music.
Make chicken wings with your arms (bend arms at the elbow placing your fists in front of your shoulders and holding elbows out like wings). Flap your wings four times, during the next four beats of the music.
Make a chicken’s tail feathers by snuggling your thumbs together, palms up, behind your back near your tailbone, and wiggling your fingers. Squat down wiggling your bum during the four beats of the music.
And then clap as you come back upright during the next four beats of the music.
Repeat this process four times.
At the bridge, hold your arms straight out like an airplane. All dancers wander and weave around the room in clockwise “flight” until the bridge ends. When the music switches, switch directions.
(Alternately: At the bridge, link arms with the nearest person, turn right eight steps, switch arms and turn left eight steps, as if square dancing, then repeat until the bridge ends).” You can improvise here and be totally silly!
The dance repeats, progressively getting faster and faster each time, until no one can keep up anymore.
And because inquiring minds want to know, here are the Lyrics of Chicken Dance (because I bet you never knew there were any)
“(boy) I’m a rooster on the farm
(girl) I’m a happy little hen
Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck
(boy) There’s a comb on my head
(girl) I can lay you many eggs
Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck
(All sing) la, la, la…… when it comes to the middle part of the song
(Both) We live in a chicken coop
(both) On a big and happy farm
(girl) Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck
(boy) I say Cock-a-doodle- -doo
(girls) He says cock-a-doodle-do
(boys) And the girls just cluck
(girls) Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck
(Both) We can do the chicken dance…I know you’ll like it too
(All sing) la, la, la…… when it comes to the middle part of the song”
I sent everyone home with their own deck of Dutch Blitz cards and whatever flavor of kuchen they preferred, so they could enjoy it with their morning coffee the next day.
“He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.”
Song of Solomon 2:4