The Germans, I’ve come to realise, are terribly fond of cream cheese. Supermarket cold aisles and delicatessens are stacked full of small plastic pots of it for spreading on slices of dark bread or dipping a carrot in; at restaurants, you might be served a ramekin of it alongside a basket of bread or a small bowl of seasonal radishes. The big cream cheese brands offer flavoured versions with fresh herbs, red pepper, horseradish, sun dried tomatoes or chunks of smoked ham – I’ve even spotted pineapple and mango. But amongst the new and experimental flavours, there are traditional variations tucked away on the shelves, too. In this part of Germany, that’s Spundekäse.
Spundekäse (or Spundekäs’) is a cream cheese dip from the northern area of Germany’s largest wine region, Rheinhessen, in the east of Rheinland-Pfalz, though these days, it’s popular across the Rheingau region, too. It’s an oniony, garlicky affair that tastes glorious scooped up on crunchy, salty pretzels and washed down with glass of white wine. Spundekäse pops up very regularly on menus in restaurants and wine taverns here, often served, in varying shades of orange, as a long, smooth quenelle reminiscent of the plug on top of a wine barrel known in German as a Spund, from which it gets its name (Käse is German for cheese). In the Dietz household, there’s a little less attention to detail with the presentation – I ran out of paprika when I made the one pictured above – and it’s a firm family favourite for taking on a picnic or as an accompaniment to evening drinks.
There are, as ever, plenty of regional variations to the recipe. Some like to add melted butter to make their dip firmer, use crème fraîche or sour cream instead of the quark, and/or chop the onion more roughly or even cut it into thin rings. I like to make my Spundekäse looser, and with just a little bit of a crunch, so I chop the onion finely; for a really smooth dip, you could mince or grate it. Caraway seeds, capers or chopped fresh parsley or chives make for interesting traditional alternatives to the paprika garnish.
200g cream cheese
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
To serve: crunchy pretzels (there are some pretty good gluten free ones available in German health food stores and at the chain drugstore DM).
Stir the cream cheese and quark together until smooth; add the onion and garlic and mix well. Continue stirring whilst adding pinches of paprika until your dip is a pale orange colour. Sprinkle a little extra paprika on top to garnish and serve with the pretzels and cold drinks.
I haven’t heard of this before, but I am liking the sound of it! Always wondered what to do with Quark, and now I know! 😀
The only other thing I’ve ever been told to do with Quark is apply it after breastfeeding!! I’m more into the Spundekäs’ 😉
This reminds me of Obatzda — is that a thing outside of Bavaria?
Not round these parts, but it reminds me of it too 🙂
O.k. So I moved back from Germany almost three years ago now. Today, at a local German restaurant, I got the urge for spundekase. Therefore, I decided to look for a recipe. I ran across this recipe on a couple of blogs, but here’s the rub…while I could readily find quark on my local Aldi shelves in Ingelheim, it’s a bit harder to find it on the local Safeway shelves in Colorado Springs.
Any thoughts on substitutes for quark?
By the way, the best two places I found for spundekase were Kastel Brauhaus in Mainz Kastel, and Goldener Engel in Ingelheim. (For the record, Goldener Engel was my favorite restaurant (food, beer, atmosphere, even kid-friendliness) anywhere in Germany! It’s worth the drive to Ingelheim!)
Hi Cory, thanks very much for your comment. As far as I know, there’s not really a decent substitute for Quark, but the good news is that you can easily make it – it’s just a bit time consuming. I haven’t tried making it myself, but it seems all you need is either buttermilk or milk and lemon juice and a bit of patience. Luisa Weiss has a recipe for it in her new book; I also found a recipe in the LA Times. There’s plenty of other recipes online in both German and English, so I guess you can just take your pick!
Thanks for the Goldener Engel recommendation, I’d not heard of it and having googled it, the food looks really good! Will have to visit when we’re back 🙂
A good substitue for Quark is Greek yoghurt, both for baking a cheese cake, and for all sorts of quark dishes. All you need to do is drain the Greek yoghurt ( I use Faje plain) for about an hour in a cheesecloth lined sieve. That’s all!
This is very useful to know, thank you so much!
An easy substitute for Quark is Greek yoghurt after it has been drained for an hour or so. I use Faje and am very happy with it.
Thank you very much for sharing this tip!
This is a very good tip, thank you for sharing!