Maultaschen - A Swabian Delicacy
Enlarge image Swabian Maultaschen can be served in a clear broth with a sprinkling of fresh herbs. (© picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb ) Baden-Württemberg, with its rich array agricultural products, is known for offering a large selection of culinary delicacies. In particular, Swabian Maultaschen, sometimes also called Grüne Krapfen, noodles, or Herrgottsbscheisserle, are known as a delicacy of Swabian cuisine well beyond regional and German borders.
Swabian Maultaschen, are made with a noodle dough generally filled with meat or vegetables, eggs, spinach, parsley, onions, leek, dried bread, and spices, such as marjoram or nutmeg. There are, however, numerous variations, depending on family tradition and modern cooking methods. For example, Maultaschen are now often enhanced with ingredients such as ham, smoked pork sausage, ground beef, or roasted leftovers.
Swabian Maultaschen are square or rectangular in shape and can be served either as an appetizer or as a main entrée. The weight of each noodle varies between 40 and 150 grams. Soup Maultaschen are smaller and weigh 10 to 40 grams.
Enlarge image The Maultaschen dough is folded or rolled over the filling before being cut into pieces. (© picture-alliance/ dpa ) The European Union began protecting the Swabian noodle pouches as a regional specialty in November 2009. With the status of an EU-wide protected geographical indication, Swabian Maultaschen are protected in the same way as Black Forest ham, Allgäu Emmentaler cheese, Nuremberg sausages, and Lübeck marzipan, among other delicacies. Under the protected label, Swabian Maultaschen, as an authentic or traditional food, may originate only from Baden-Württemberg and the government district of Swabia in Bavaria. Moreover, they must be produced according to a defined process. In cooperation with representatives of the Swabian Maultasche Cooperative and MBW Marketinggesellschaft mbH, the minister of food of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Peter Hauk, included the Swabian Maultasche in the “Land of Enjoyment Gallery.” According to the November 4 press release by the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Food and Rural Areas, protecting this designation will result in greater food safety and consumer enjoyment in the medium and long term. Maultaschen products have been carrying the corresponding seal of approval since May 2009.
The origin of Swabian Maultaschen traces back primarily to three legends, which were handed down through oral tradition and first mentioned in written texts in recent times, around 1831.
Enlarge image These Swabian Maultaschen have been sautéed and then sprinkled with cooked bacon and chives. (© picture-alliance/ dpa ) According to the first legend, the Maultasche was a “pirated copy” of the Italian ravioli and/or tortellini. It has been said, for example, that the Italian form of the dough pouches was introduced on the other side of the Alps by the Waldensians, Christian evangelical refugees from northern Italy, along with the mulberry tree, alfalfa, and tobacco. The Waldensians settled in the region of Maulbronn, where numerous forest sites still today bear witness to their cultural historical migration. In the ensuing period, Maultaschen were enhanced and refined with various ingredients. Sometimes, a relationship between the Maultasche and Chinese wonton noodles, the Russian pierogi, or Jewish kreplachs is also assumed.
With respect to the origin of the southern German noodle specialty, some people, especially in the Swabian spa region of Bad Urach, claim Maultaschen originated from a legendary countess by the name of Margreth Maultasch. This noble lady is said to have brought the pasta dish back with her from Tyrol. It is credible that Maultaschen originated from Tyrol to the extent that wide swaths of Württemberg once belonged to Austria.
According to the third popular legend, the noodle pouches originated in the 17th century during the Thirty Years War, through a “fasting trick” by the Cistercians of the Maulbronn Cloister. Since time immortal, the strict Catholic Swabian has been forbidden from eating meat on Fridays and, above all, during the fasting season. The monks, who did not want to cause a scandal by enjoying meat, chopped it up and mixed it with herbs and spinach to create the impression of a meatless dish. To further bolster the impression, the monks hid the meat-and-vegetable blend in a noodle dough, which was served in small portions.
There are a variety of ways to prepare Swabian Maultaschen, regardless of the season. Most frequently, they are sautéed in butter, whole or in pieces, or served boiled.