French do it, Arabs do it, Indians, Dutch and Germans do it… grandmothers and guys do it… non-cooks and cooks do it: bring back typical foods from their home country that are impossible or difficult to find in the United States, or very expensive, or not the real thing.
Bringing meat products or fresh fruit into the United States is not allowed. Each time I return from Germany and wait at the airport baggage claim, I watch the dogs of the U.S. Customs sniffing their way through the crowd. Then I run through my mind the foods I brought and properly listed on the customs form, and just hope my father did not sneak a salami from the local butcher into my suitcase to surprise me when I get home.
I expected that the list of the foods I need to bring back from Germany would grow longer with the number of years away. To my surprise, it did not, on the contrary. Of course there are lots of “nice to have’s”, and when friends or family ask before their visit what I would like, I can always come up with a list. But nowadays many ingredients I used to load up on are available, or viable substitutes. So I have narrowed the “must have’s” down to two items: pectin for jams and jellies, and green spelt (Grünkern).
It took me a good while to realize that soft wheat farina is the same as Grieß (Weichweizengrieß, to be precise) in German. In America it is almost exclusively prepared as a hot breakfast cereal, and that’s where it is located at the grocery store – a place where it had never occurred to me to look. In Germany, soft wheat farina is used in desserts and baking, and I love it.
That’s one less item on the list. Yet knowing myself, I can always find ways to fill my suitcase with other goodies on my next trip to Germany. Just not sausage.
Farina Pudding (Grießpudding, Grießflammeri)
The pudding is especially pretty when made in a mini fluted tube pan, pudding mold, or Bundt pan. It is served sliced with fresh or poached fruit, fruit sauce, or compote. This time I made it with odds and ends I had handy: a mix of frozen rhubarb and fresh cranberries, cooked in orange juice until soft, and sweetened to taste. Anything goes.
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup (80 g) slivered almonds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups (480 ml) milk (2% or whole milk works best)
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup (85 g) wheat farina
1 very fresh egg
1. For the almond crunch melt the butter in a skillet. Add the almonds and toast until golden. Sprinkle with the sugar and let caramelize. Remove from the head and distribute immediately in the bottom of a well-greased small tube pan or or pudding mold.
2. Put the milk in a saucepan with the sugar, salt and vanilla bean, and bring to a boil. Remove the vanilla bean. Add the farina while beating with a wire whisk. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat until the pudding gets very thick. .
3. Remove from the heat. Separate the egg and add the yolk to the pudding. Beat well to combine. Transfer to a large bowl and beat until slightly cooled.
4. Beat the egg white until it stands in stiff peaks. Fold it into the pudding. Pour into the mold and even out the top with a spatula. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until set and thoroughly chilled. Unmold onto a serving place and serve sliced, with fruit of your choice.
Makes 4 servings