It started in the vineyards in Germany that the farmers would test the grapes by making a quick wine that fermented in a few days. It was cloudy because the yeast hadn't clarified and it was fizzy with the carbonic acid produced by the fermentation. It was refreshing in the Indian summer heat and soon became popular as more than a test drink. They called it Federweisser (feder = feather and weisser = white). This making the federweisser along with the beautiful autumn colors and harvest of the grapes turned into a tradition. To go along with the wine a dish called Zwiebelkuchen was cooked that was the perfect pairing with the crust and sour cream was the perfect food (or some would say "booze mop") to absorb the alcohol and cut the acid in the Federweisser.
First the Zwiebelkuchen
There are many different recipes for this onion pie but two distinct styles. One is more like a pizza and the other is more like a quiche. The Pizza style Zwiebelkuchen comes from the German French border of Alsace and the deeper quiche style comes from the south or the Schwabian area.
The Alsatian Zwiebelkuchen is a thin yeast based crust that is topped with a base of sour cream or similar, chopped or thin sliced onion and Speck or German style smoked bacon. Of course you could use american bacon or an Italian prociutto would be similar. Optional is to dust some caraway seeds on there. Over the border to Lorraine France you find a similar creation called Flammenkuchen
This pizza like creation I guarantee you will NOT miss the cheese. I have over and over seen folks go for a second and third piece, it is light and flavorful.
The Schwabian version has a little more body to it. A pie pan or a springform pan is necessary. In this version the onions are sauteed first in butter till glassy but not brown, sometimes with the Speck and other garnish is added but seldom. Instead of just sour cream, eggs are added and just as often heavy cream instead of the sour is added. crispy bacon or Speck then is topped and caraway seeds if you like.
The result is a deeper egg, onion pie.
At this time of the year in German supermarkets you will see Federweisser and similar young wines pop up in the supermarket as well as some Zwiebelkuchen's in the bakery. The yeast is still fermenting in the wine so CO2 is given off and so the bottles in the store have a loosened cap.
You may see this sign that says don't lay the bottle down, the wine will leak onto the floor and you will likely still have to buy it.
The wine is about 4% alcohol mostly but watch out some may be as much as 10%.
Don't tighten the lid on the way home it may explode all over your groceries.
You will not only see bottles of white Federweisser, but reds called Rote Rauscher, Roter Sauser, and also a pink Rose style.
The Federweisser was very difficult for me to find here in the states. I checked at the all the international markets we have here with no luck. I am sure that it would be hard to import because you would have to tighten the bottles and it has a short life before it turns to fully fermented wine.
So I decided to see if I could make some myself since it is a quick and simple to make. I knew it probably wouldn't be perfect but may be just a nice addition to the Zwiebelkuchen and with the Fall colors and music the imperfections wouldn't be noticed.
I had a airlock stopper that I used on the white grape juice and I popped some holes on the lid of the red grape juice put the lid back on and then fitted a balloon over it with a couple holes poked in it.
You want to keep it covered to keep any wild yeast to get into it and you could get a very strange flavor that way.
There is not much in the recipe for the Federweisser and the Rote Rauscher.
I bought a jar of the 64 oz Welch's grape juice, I was told it needed to check on the label to see if it had at least 20% juice. This had 28%. I poured the juice in a large gallon measuring container and added 2 cups of sugar.
I then added a packet of wine yeast. (do not use yeast made for bread)
I then poured as much as I could back in the container I bought it in.The rest I covered in a container with plastic wrap and poked a few holes in it. I then put on the air lock but you can also poke holes in a balloon and attach it to the top. How long you let it sit is up to you. I taste it every day to see how the flavor is. It should be a bit effervecent, a balanced sweet and tart flavor and there will still be a bit of "yeast" flavor which makes it cloudy but it is still very pleasant. It should be drank fairly quickly when you feel it is done, so chill it and it will stay bubbly for several days until the yeast converts the sugar to about 10% alcohol. It will soon loose all it's fizzy texture.
Very interesting recipe for Schwabian style
Zwiebelkuchen that has grapes and walnuts
in it by Nina, a German food blogger.
A recipe book and short biography of my Grandmother Emma Block. Her recipes, culture and cooking styles that were brought over from Germany. How they evolved when she came to America in the early 1900s and settled in Portland, Oregon on the west coast of the United States. Over 100 recipes