Holzknechtnocken is a traditional dish from Ebensee. Ebensee is located in Upper Austria at the south end of the Traunsee. The town is surrounded by picturesque lakes, namely the Traunsee, the Langbathsee and the Offensee. Ebensee is situated in the heart of the Salzkammergut – one of Austria’s most beautiful regions. In Ebensee the villagers retain a strong attachment to their traditional values, customs and beliefs. There are many customs that are still celebrated every year, for example the Fetzenzug, or the traditional Glöcklerlauf.
Salt was a highly important economic factor in the Salzkammergut in former times. It was mined there and then shipped throughout Europe and made the Salzkammergut a very wealthy area. Since salt mines require an enormous amount of wood, forestry has always played a crucial role in the Salzkammergut. In former times lumberjacks had to stay in the forest for days. What today is often mistakenly regarded as idyllic and romantic was tough work in reality. These hard-working men’s lives were shaped by austerity, a humble lifestyle, and very dangerous labour conditions. Special tools such as saws and axes had to be carried around for hours. Since lumberjacks were working and living in the forest for days, they had to supply themselves with food. Therefore, speck, flour, semolina, lard and other foods to prepare the legendary Holzknechtnocken were stuffed into the lumberjacks’ backpacks . In the evenings the lumberjacks gathered around a wooden table in their huts to have their simple dinner. Everyone had his own ingredients and pan to prepare the food. Hot water was poured over flour and salt to make the dough, which was then kneaded and formed into dumplings. Sometimes semolina was added to the dough to vary the dish. The dumplings were then put into boiling water for about ten minutes. When the dumplings rose to the surface of the water, they were done. Afterwards they were fried in a heavy-bottomed pan with deep sides, which was put directly into the fire of the stove. The special feature of this pan was that it was never ever cleaned with water, but only wiped out with a cloth. Holzknechtnocken was either served with cabbage (sauerkraut), stewed apples or plums.
Holzknechtnocken - plain version
- 1 cup (250g) flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- l cup (250ml)boiling water
- Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and add water. Batter until you get a dough. Form dumplings and put them into boiling water. When dumplings rise to the surface of the water, they are done.
- Melt lard in a heavy-bottomed pan with deep sides and fry dumplings until they get a brownish color.
- Serve with sauerkraut or steamed apples.
Today Holzknechtnocken are still very popular at public festivals, and believe it or not, they are even offered in posh restaurants. As you see, you can have Holzknechtnocken as a main dish and also for dessert. I like eating them with fried bacon and sauerkraut, but you could also add fried vegetables. When having Holzknechtnocken for dessert, I serve them with a variety of stewed fruits. In case, the traditional Holzknechtnocken version is too plain for you, here is a very refined version:
Stuffed Holzknechtnocken strawberry-curd au gratin
- 1 cup (250g) wheat flour
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 1/2 cups (375ml) boiling water
- 2 cups (500g) strawberries
- 3 tbsp butter
- sugar or honey
- lemon juice
For the strawberry-curd gratin:
- 1/4 cup (70g) butter
- lemon peel
- vanilla sugar
- 1/4 cup (50g) confectioners’ sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 l cream
- 1/2 cup (100g) crystal sugar
- 1 cup (250g) curd cheese
- 1 tbsp creme fraiche
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt and oil with hot water, and batter until you get a dough.
- Wash strawberries and remove stems. Form 8 strawberry dumplings out of the dough. Cook dumplings for 5 to 7 minutes in salted water. Roll in melted butter afterwards.
- Cut remaining strawberries into pieces and put onto heat-resistant plates. Marinate with sugar or honey and lemon juice.
- Gratin: Beat butter, lemon-peel, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until creamy. Separate eggs and add egg yolk.
- Whisk egg-whites
- Whip cream with crystal sugar.
- Mix whipped cream with curd cheese and creme fraiche, add the gratin and whisked egg whites.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Put gratin onto strawberries, place dumplings on top and sprinkle with sugar. Gratinate your deluxe haute-cuisine Holzknechtnocken and impress your friends.
Enjoy your meal!!!
- http://www.3sat.de/3sat.php?http://www.3sat.de/aufgegabelt/rezepte/22380/index.html (picture of strawberry-curd au gratin)
- Ebenseer Fotoklub. Brauchtum in Ebensee. Ed. Traudl Neubacher. 1987.
For further information check out the following websites:
- http://www.rundschau.co.at/lokales/artikel/2008/01/23/aich-bin-der-holzknechtnocken-sigia (interview with Holzknechtnocken-Sigi)
- http://www.hallstatt.net/publisher/articleview/action/view/frmArticleID/220/ (website of the lumberjacks’ museum in Bad Goisern)
- http://www.brauchtumsseiten.de/a-z/f/fetzenumzug/home.html (more about ancient customs in Ebensee)
- http://www.brauchtumsseiten.de/a-z/g/gloeckerllaufen/home.html (more information on the Glöcklerlauf)