Liv Hambrett

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German Culture, Life in Kiel

Of Kale, Childhood Food & Pinkelwurst

One day in Weiden, we went grocery shopping at an example of one of the region’s better Edekas. As we strolled through the well-stocked aisles, SG saw a glint of green on the shelves groaning with various types of pickled cabbage. There, perched among the Rotkohl, the Weißkohl and the Sauerkraut, was a Kohl I had hitherto neither given much thought to, nor consumed … Grünkohl.



SG was transported back to a simpler time, when his Oma would prepare a signature northern dish of Grünkohl, a special type of Wurst (obviously, for what is a German dish without a special type of Wurst) and sugared potatoes. He spoke so fondly of this dish, his face alight with childhood nostalgia, that the fondness soon became passion and the passion soon became a desire to consume at the earliest possible convenience. And so, it was some days later that we returned to Edeka and bought, to SG’s great relief, the last two jars of Grünkohl. Grünkohl, by the way, is kale, an immensely trendy vegetable-of-the-moment for those partial to calling their style of eating ‘clean’. Kale has been doing the rounds as a staple leafy green in many parts of Europe, for thousands of years. It is probably as surprised as I am about its sudden It Vegetable status in cities that have It Vegetables (Sydney, I’m looking at you). The Grünkohl one buys here, in jars, is – and please, someone, correct me if I am wrong – boiled and then pickled before being jarred as a uniform sort of stewed, green mass.

The next step in the quest for Oma’s Grünkohl dish, was acquiring the meat. Somewhere, SG found the Wurst, which were revealed to be a mildly alarming colour, vacuum-packed, and called, depending on where you hail from, Mettwurst, Kochwurst or, my personal favourite, Pinkelwurst. Kielers, I have been informed, call them by the former two names, not Pinkelwurst.



With a bag of potatoes, we were ready to go. SG retired to the kitchen one evening and boiled and diced and sauteed, determined to recreate this plate of childhood comfort. I poked my head in from time to time, to see what was happening, as SG moved purposefully around the kitchen, flushed with anticipation, stirring the giant pot of green and orange, keeping a keen eye on the potatoes in the pan, that were sauteeing in butter and sugar. Sometime later, he plated it up and we sat down to a classic, north-German meal of sausages, boiled pickled kale and potatoes. Running the necessary gamut of German culinary colours (white, pink, muted green) it looked a little something like this:



On the table was a pot of sugar to sprinkle over the Grünkohl and potatoes, as they apparently did in days gone by the enhance the flavour of the dish when morale was low and kale was the only thing going in the village. Kale was, after all, very likely to be the only thing going in the village – it’s apparently very easy to grow and obviously chock-full of nutrients. It’s a medieval no brainer. SG ate with gusto, relishing each bite, transported back to being a child and having dinner at Oma’s, quite like lemon butter on toast takes me right back to being a kid and Nana bringing around a supply of her latest conserves. I ate with more tentative gusto, unsure of how to feel about sugared potatoes and the Mettwurst. The former remain odd to me, the latter were very delicious.

Then I reached the Grünkohl and any gusto the actually quite tasty Wurst had encouraged, evaporated. Grünkohl tastes like old, boiled hay. The sugar does little to affect this. In my time here, I have come to appreciate the numerous things the Germans can do with a cabbage. I have a deep respect for the ways they have with Wurst. And there are many, many things I love about the north.

Grünkohl is not one of them.





  1. Kristina Met Een K

    23 June, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I liked that dish a lot when I was still living in Germany. Although we never sugared the potatoes and my father prepared the kale freshly. Mind you, we are not Northerners but from Westfalen 🙂 but oh my god, I wouldn’t mind some of that now. And I have since gone vegetarian/vegan (it is so much easier to go veggie without someone prepping all the lovely German dishes for you!!).

    About the trendy kale-thing that is happening. Growing up with eating Grünkohl, I was actually shocked to hear that the latest superfood is nothing but Grünkohl 🙂 Positively shocked and amused, of course! And you should give it another try! 🙂 it’s a great vegetable!

    1. Liv

      23 June, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      I hear all the cool people put it in their smoothies – I don’t know if I can bring myself to do it. Maybe a million other fruits will hide its taste?

  2. Jule

    23 June, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    “grünkohl mit pinkel”, wenn dieser name nicht schon appetit macht! ;D in der familie meines vaters war das berühmte grünkohlessen in großer runde tradition, wovon ich allerdings (glücklicherweise?) nichts selbst mitbekommen habe… oder habe ich es nur vergessen? 😉 jedenfalls meinte er auch mal, dass das zeug nach kaum etwas schmeckt und nur mit ganz viel pinkel, fett, gewürzen und ewig eingekocht einigermaßen geschmack bekommt. aber die kandierten kartoffeln dazu sind mir auch neu. o_O mit denen hat mich nur mal eine tante in kombination mit rotkohl (eigentlich damals mein lieblingsessen mit kartoffelbrei) überrascht, was mich vor schock fast dazu gebracht hätte, das ganze über den tisch zu spucken! o_O sie hätte ja wenigstens mal vorwarnen können… 😉 immer diese extravaganzen beim essen… tsss…
    aber mein ganz simpler kohl-tipp: weißkohl und kartoffeln kleinschneiden und mit ein paar tomaten, kassler oder cabanossi, brühe, salz, pfeffer (und eventuell ein wenig curry und zucker) kochen, bis der weißkohl glasig ist… mjam! 🙂 das sollte auch ungeübten australiern schmecken. ;D

    1. Liv

      23 June, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      ”weißkohl und kartoffeln kleinschneiden und mit ein paar tomaten, kassler oder cabanossi, brühe, salz, pfeffer (und eventuell ein wenig curry und zucker) kochen, bis der weißkohl glasig ist… mjam! ”

      Das klingt besser … ABER, es ist Betrug! Curry ist nicht sehr traditionell!

      1. Jule

        23 June, 2014 at 4:04 pm

        ;D ich streu fast überall ne kleine prise curry rein… peppt den geschmack einfach auf, ohne das jeweilige gericht wirklich nach curry schmecken zu lassen. 😉
        und traditionell ist traditionell nicht so mein ding… 😉

  3. Kerstin

    23 June, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Mettwurst and Kochwurst are the same type of Wurst, while Pinkel is a different type. Pinkel is typically eaten in the northwest of Germany (Oldenburg, Bremen) while sugared potatoes are only eaten in Schleswig-Holstein and not in Lower-Saxony. The people in Schleswig-Holstein also eat Schweinebacke with their kale, while people from Lower-Saxony and Bremen don’t do this. In my opinion, kale is an either or option. Either you hate it or you love it.

    1. Liv

      23 June, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      I LOVE the clear differences to this dish, based on the regions. THANK YOU.

      True re kale – and I am not a lover.

  4. Julia W.

    23 June, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Danke für diesen tollen Text, ich fand ihn sehr amüsant!

  5. Isa

    23 June, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Yup – couldn’t agree more – Grünkohl is kind of gross! I tried it the first time a couple of months ago – never again. Have you heard of the so-called ‘Kohlfahrt’? The actual name makes me giggle childishly, Kohlfahrt. Ask your beloved this strange and very German phenomen.

  6. Isa

    23 June, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Found a youtube vid for ya featuring a Kohlfahrt:

  7. Lutz Mowinski

    23 June, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Sounds like the Kale wasn’t prepared properly, and much like another commenter, we don’t put sugar on it.
    Also, the Wurst is fried in a pan and then put in with the Kale, so that the salty flavour of the Wurst can seep into the Kale, making it taste much better 🙂

    1. Liv

      24 June, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Oh Lutz, don’t you worry, that is precisely how the kale was prepared. THERE IS NO SAVING THE KALE!

  8. sam

    23 June, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Also als Bremer möchte ich doch nochmal auf den Unterschied zwischen Oldenburger und Bremer Pinkel aufmerksam machen, wobei die Bremer (Getreide-)Pinkel natürlich am Ende gewinnt. Früher nannte man Grünkohl in dieser Region auch Braunkohl, wahrscheinlich weil man ihn so lange gekocht hat bis die Farbe weg war. Und wenn man nicht gerade einen großen Garten und eine große Badewanne hat lautet der Geheimtipp meiner Oma: Grünkohl aus der Dose kaufen, aber nicht den billigen 🙂
    Und aus eigener Erfahrung kann ich sagen, dass man mit den richtigen Zutaten auch super Veggie-Grühnkohl machen kann…

    1. Liv

      24 June, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Es gibt immer ein ‘regional’ Unterschied hier in Deutschland! Sorge nicht Oma, wir haben eine qualität Grünkohl gekauft. Ich glaube dass, Grünkohl ist einfach nicht für mich, noch wann es ist frisch, oder super vorbereitet. Es schmeckt wirklich wie gekochtes Gras!

      1. Ursula Mitchell

        14 February, 2015 at 5:10 am

        Ich hab’ noch nie gekochtes Gras oder Heu gegessen, aber wenn es so wie richtig zubereiteter Grünkohl schmeckt, dann würde ich mich damit begrasen. Grünkohl, gekochte Wurst ind Saltzkartoffeln war bei meiner Oma das Heilig Abend Gericht. (Jedes Jahr) Und ich mache es noch genau so(70 jahre später) Es muß nur sehr lange gekocht werden, dann wird es zart und milder 🙂

  9. Janis Felidae

    23 June, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Potatoes, Grünkohl with sugar? Never heard of that *shudder* though my typist – I won´t ruin my claws by typing – however, she loves Grünkohl but with bacon, heaps of onions and naturally Wurst, Mettwurst to be specific but could be some smoked pork chop (Kasseler) too. Well, guess that´s Westphalian-style Grünkohl. But you´re right concerning Grünkohl in jars 😉

    1. Liv

      24 June, 2014 at 9:09 am

      Crazy Schleswig-Holsteiners and their sugar, eh? Tell your typist that the idea of grünkohl AND a smoked pork chop, leaves me feeling cold. Oh my goodness, no.

      1. Janis Felidae

        24 June, 2014 at 10:07 am

        Oi, my typist loves vegemite, maybe you´ll love Grünkohl too, somewhen *chuckles*

  10. Brigitte

    24 June, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Don’t throw the kale out with the kale water until you have eaten it freshly made (not jared) in the Autumn after the first frost. It is an autumn dish and for a Bremer like myself I have similar memories and the same fondness for this dish that your husband does BUT, making it in one’s own kitchen with canned kale (no, the kale is not pickled, it is ususally just cooked with spices and pork fat, I think it is pork fat, then canned) is not the same as going on a Kohl und Pinkel Fahrt (an Ausflug with the sole purpose of having Kohl und Pinkel). Also, as far as I know, and maybe it is different in Bremen und Oldenburg the Pinkle is very different from other sausage because it has barley in it.
    When I crave Kohl und Pinkel here I also have to resort to the jared Gruenkohl and if I can not get Pinkel (although Karl’s Sausage Kitchen in Peabody, MA, USA inmports it from NYC) I add barley to the kale for a more authentic but still second best experience.
    Your hubby could google some recipes for Kohl und Pinkel and start with fresh Gruenkohl, aber wie ich schon sagte das ist eigentlich ein Herbstessen.
    Kohl und Pinkel in der Spargelzeit das ist, glaube ich einen Erzsuende!
    Im Moment lieber auf Spargel und Erdbeeren konzentrieren.
    Guten Appetit,

    1. Liv

      24 June, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Hmmmmm, I MAY give it a whirl, fresh, in the Autumn – we shall see. I have a feeling kale and I just aren’t meant to be. But strawberries … now there is something I love about this area!

  11. Frau Dietz (Eating Wiesbaden)

    25 June, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    I love kale (fashionable as I am) and in its defence, I’m pretty sure no vegetable stands up well to being boiled, picked and stuffed into a jar. Fresh kale all the way. And those kale chips the Americans go bonkers for, I tell you what, they are lovely.

    P.s. Can’t compute this sugar on potatoes business.

  12. Sascha

    4 August, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Wie bereits gesagt, Grünkohl am besten frisch und im Herbst/früher Winter nach dem ersten Frost. Dann sollte man im Grünkohl die Kochwurst und Kassler kochen, dann kommt auch Geschmack in den Grünkohl 😀
    Außerdem schmeckt Grünkohl besser, wenn man ihn nach dem Kochen einen Tag stehen lässt und erst am nächsten Tag nochmal warm macht, dann ist er voll durchgezogen.

    Und bitte niemals den Grünkohl aus dem Glas, wenn überhaupt aus der Dose. Keine Ahnung wo der Unterschied liegt, aber aus der Dose schmeckt um Längen besser als aus dem Glas.

  13. Howard K. Harms

    21 March, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    My father’s parents

  14. Howard K. Harms

    21 March, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    My father’s parents came to the US from an area of Germany very close Bremen. My father prepared kale and Pinkelwurst as follows.
    After breakfast he would start a piece of pork, a bay leaf and a chopped onion in a very large pot at a low simmer.
    After lunch he would add kale to the pot, lots of kale. Late in the afternoon, he would boil peeled white potatoes in a separate pot. During the last half hour or so he would prick the Pinkelwurst with a fork and add it to the large pot with the kale and pork.
    Everything was placed in separate serving dishes, but to eat it,potatoes and pork pieces would be placed on a plate. Then kale was piled on top. The Pinkelwurst had its casing removed and the contents were spread over the top of the pile. That way the juices and fat from the sausage would trickle down and flavor everything else.
    Beer was always served with the meal; preferably German dark beer.
    My father passed this on to my wife. The meal is at its absolute best with fresh kale picked from the garden after a hard frost or two. Acceptable is kale from a green grocer. Almost passable is frozen kale from the freezer section of a grocery. We’ve never tried it with canned kale and I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

  15. The First Frost | Liv Hambrett

    10 October, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    […] but there is also the fact that the first frost is mother nature’s big old thumbs up to Grünkohl. Somewhere on my horizon is a big pot of stewed kale and wurst, which will be served with a side […]

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