Potato pancakes have been served in Germany and other European countries since at least the 19th century, called “kartoffelpuffer” or “puffers” or “latkes.” German immigrants brought the food to Texas, where it has been featured in New Braunfels’ “Wurstfest” since the 1960s.
In October 2007, the Bracken Volunteer Fire Department (Garden Ridge, TX) pulled out of the “Wurstfest” and began a new festival called the “Kartoffel Puffer Fest.”
Dictionary of American Regional English
puffer n [Ger Kartoffel-puffer potato fritter]
A potato pancake.
1967 Schilla Prairies 67 ND, Nothing would do but that they should have potato pancakes—a German dish called “puffers” by his family.
1969 DARE (Qu. H20b,..Names..for pancakes) Inf M193, Puffers—potato pancakes.
Handbook of Texas Online
WURSTFEST. Wurstfest is an annual celebration of food and music, held on the Wurstfest grounds beside Landa Park in New Braunfels. The fest commemorates the German heritage of the city and the surrounding region. German foods and musical traditions have played an important role in the cultural life of the city since it was founded by Germans in 1845. In 1961 the mayor issued a proclamation setting aside one Saturday in November to celebrate the town’s cultural heritage. This celebration came to be known as Wurstfest and has increased in popularity among both residents and tourists every year since. In 1963 attendance was estimated at 10,000. The event moved into the Wursthalle in 1967, and attendance reached 150,000 in 1974. By 2002 the festival had expanded from a single weekend event to a ten-day extravaganza.
Wurstfest visitors are treated to a variety of German and German-inspired dishes, including sauerkraut, kartoffel “puffers” (potato pancakes), strudel, bread pudding, funnel cakes, pretzels, and pastries. The ubiquitous sausage, including bratwurst and knackwurst, is perhaps the most popular food item of all. Beer is the drink of choice for many visitors, but nonalcoholic beverages also are readily available.
Potato Pancakes (Kartoffel Puffer)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and grated
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
Grate potatoes by hand or use a food processor, but remember that more coarsely grated potatoes will absorb less oil than those that are finely grated. Remove as much moisture from the grated potatoes as possible by pressing between layers of paper towels.
Put the grated potatoes in a bowl and add the chopped onion, egg, salt and pepper, and sprinkle in the flour. Mix well.
Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon each of the butter and oil in a large skillet. Pack a 1/4 cup measuring cup with potato mixture and put into the pan (you can comfortably fry four pancakes at a time). Press each little mound into a 3- to 4-inch pancake with a pancake turner. Brown on both sides. Remove, place on paper towels and keep warm.
Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and repeat the procedure for the remaining pancakes. If you need to add a little more butter and oil, do so. The pancakes won’t turn that lovely golden brown in a dry skillet. (It’s also a good idea to stir up the raw potato batter between batches so the ingredients don’t separate.)
Serve at once. Makes 8 or 10 pancakes.
20 August 1883, New Haven (CT) Evening Register “German Cookery,” pg. 3:
“Kartoffel puffer,” potato pancake, is also a favorite German dish, especially with North Germans, and occupies nearly the same position in the family menu in the fatherland as the buckwheat cake occupies in the New England farm house. Its season is very limited, for only the ripe potato, shortly after being taken from the hill, will be used by a conscientious cook for a feast of “puffer.” The potatoes are freed of their outer film by means of brushing with a heather whisk while immersed in water, then they are grated, the pulp mixed with eggs, and then fried like buckwheat cakes. They must be eaten hot from the frying pan; must never be touched with a knife—to cut them would be cutting to the heart the lady who made them—and are no good unless served with “appel-muus,’ the most carefully prepared apple-sauce in the world.
3 July 1910, Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 7:
Also how are those old-fashioned “potato pancakes” made? I have tried several recipes in making them for my husband, but they are “not what mother made.” Thanking you for the favor.
MRS. J. D.
German potato pancake.Into a hot, well-greased frying pan grate enough raw potato to cover the bottom to the depth of half an inch. Sprinkle with salt, then pour on a smooth batter made with 1 cup flour, 2 level teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 eggs and about 1 cup of milk. Use enough batter to cover the potato. When the pancake is full of bubbles and brown underneath, turn and brown the other side.
Another way is to make a batter as above and add enough grated raw potato to make it of “drop batter” consistency. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Drop by spoonfuls into hot fat, deep enough to cover, drain on paper and sprinkle with salt.
German “Puffer.” Wash, peel and grate large potatoes. Soak in water and press in a cloth to remove moisture. To a large plateful of grated potato add 1 tablespoon flour, 6 egg yolks, a few spoonfuls sour cream (according to the moisture of the potatoes), add salt to taste, and fold in the stiff-beaten egg whites. Fry in thin pancakes in lard or clarified butter.
“Puffer” with yeast. Grate 5 or 6 good-sized potatoes. let soak one hour, then press in a cloth. Add 1/2 cup warm milk, 2 eggs, 2-3 cup white bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons thick sour cream, salt to taste, and half a compressed yeast cake softened in half a teaspoon powdered sugar. Set in a warm place to rise. Add a few more bread crumbs or a little flour if the mixture seems too thin to rise well. When thoroughly risen, fry in a frying pan to light brown, using half clarified butter and half lard, or clarified goose fat.
Let me know if none of these are what you meant. “Potato pancake” is a rather vague term, and might be applied to several dishes of various nationalities.
Pan-Pacific Cook Book:
Savory Bits from the World’s Fare
compiled by L. L. McLaren
San Francisco, CA: The Blair-Murdock Company
PUFFER, POTATO PANCAKES—GERMAN
Peel and grate two cups of raw potatoes and drain. Add to the pulp two well-beaten eggs, half a teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of flour and a grated onion. Beat well, drop from the spoon on a very hot griddle with plenty of grease and fry until brown.
4 November 1963, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 3A ad:
(Fried Potato Pancakes)
("From West Germany”—ed.)
6 January 1969, New York (NY) Times, food section, pg. 32:
The girls also learned that potato pancakes were called puffer in German, and in Icelandic.
11 November 1976, Big Spring (TX) Herald, pg. 10A, col. 3:
PUFFER OR REIBEPLATZCHEN
By Gudrun Burton
2 1/4 lbs. raw potatoes
1 small onion
Oil or lard
Peel, wash and grate potatoes. Drain them through a sieve. Then mix well with salt and grated onion and eggs.
Heat the fat, then put the mixture in spoonfuls and flatten them.
Fry on both sides until brown and crisp.
Serve with applesauce or blueberries.
29 July 1992, New Braunfels (TX) Herald-Zeitung, pg. B1, col. 2:
1 lb. new potatoes, peeled and grated
2 small eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients. Have ready a heavy skillet with melted shortening, about 1/4-inch deep. Place batter into skillet with a tablespoon, spreading evenly. When crisp and brown around the edge, turn and fry other side. Drain with slotted spoon and serve immediately.
(Cappy Felger Adams)
7 November 1996, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, “Wurstfest rolls up a salute to food” by Deborah J. Wolfinsohn, pg. 28:
The longest line is for a plate of ``Kartoffel Puffers,’’ golden potato pancakes and applesauce, with or without a sausage on the side.
St. Petersburg (FL) Times
History good enough to eat
It’s unclear exactly how potato pancakes came to be associated with Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, but it’s a tradition well worth serving.
By JANET K. KEELER
St. Petersburg Times,
published December 5, 2001
Though latkes are much loved at Hanukkah, it is unclear why potato pancakes became associated with the holiday.
According to Faye Levy, author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Hungry Minds Inc., 2000), potatoes were unknown in the land of Israel at the time of the Maccabees. The tubers are from the New World and only became familiar to Europeans long after Columbus’ historic voyage. Eventually potatoes made their way to Eastern Europe and Russia, where potato pancakes were most likely developed. In Germany, potato pancakes are called kartoffelpuffers, or puffers for short, and are served with applesauce and sour cream.
Cooking With Texas Highways
by Nola McKey and Jack Lowry
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
This recipe is from Aunt Hank’s Rock House Kitchen, written in 1977 by Georgia Mac Smith Ericson, the granddaughter of Henry Clay Smith (Heinrich Schmitt) and Elizabeth Boyle Smith. Known affectionately as “Uncle Hank” and “Aunt Hank,” they were early pioneers on Texas’ High Plains.
3 c. grated potatoes, drained well
1 small onion, grated, drained well
2 eggs, well beaten
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
cranberry sauce or cinnamon-flavored applesauce (optional)
Combine first 5 ingredients, mixing well. Form into patties and fry in hot oil in a shallow skillet until evenly browned, turning once. Drain well on paper towels and sprinkle with sugar. Serve with cranberry sauce or cinnamon-flavored applesauce, if desired. Yield: 6 to 8 pancakes.
Famed Bracken kartoffel puffers leaving Wurstfest for own party (October 9, 2007)
Roger Croteau EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Metro and State News Page 08B (515 Words)
NEW BRAUNFELS—For 37 years, perhaps the most popular food booth at Wurstfest has been run by the Bracken Volunteer Fire Department. Now the Bracken kartoffel puffer (potato pancake) is ready to step into the spotlight on its own—with its own festival. Like Beyoncé leaving Destiny’s Child, the kartoffel puffer is leaving Wurstfest to take its turn alone in the spotlight at Kartoffel Puffer Fest.
The kartoffel puffer booth always has the longest line in the Wurstfest food…
News from the City of Garden Ridge, Texas
KARTOFFEL PUFFER FEST
(The Original World-Famous! Potato Pancakes)
Saturday, October 27, 2007
10am - 11pm
If you haven’t already marked your calendar for this first annual festival, do it now! Bring your family, friends and neighbors; come once or come often. For sure, you don’t want to miss it!
World-Famous Potato Pancakes, Sausage, Beer, Sodas, Water
Jay Feibelman Garden Ridge Community Center.
Entertainment by the New Braunfels Village Brass Band (4 - 6 pm)
Entertainment by the Bohemian Dutchmen Band (7 - 11 pm)
October 29, 2007
Weekend Update III: Got potato pancakes!
After a Saturday reconnaissance mission to the Kartoffel Puffer Fest in Garden Ridge, I can report that the Bracken Volunteer Fire Department’s famous potato pancakes taste just as good served from a counter at the Garden Ridge Community Center as from a booth in the middle of the Marktplatz at Wurstfest.
The Bracken VFD specialty, a Wurstfest staple for 37 years until this year, when the department and the festival parted ways, were as tasty as always. Crispy on the outside, soft and greasy on the inside. Topped with the obligatory applesauce and cinnamon and served with a side of sausage — and with oompah music playing in the background — it was like Wurstfest, a week early.
Well, sort of.
Once you were done eating, then what? Seconds? Nope, I’m full. Listen to the band? After going to Wurstfest for 30 years, been there, heard that. Take your kids to the haunted hayride? Our kids are grown and have flown the coop. See old friends? If you’re from out of town, you may not have any old friends to see.
The attraction of Wurstfest is you can have your cake (which would be a funnel cake) and eat it, too. Start with kartoffel puffers if the line isn’t too long, then progress to something-on-a-stick, then to funnel cake and the chicken dance in the Wursthalle, where even on a slow night the atmosphere is far more festive than what I saw Saturday in Garden Ridge. Now if they can talk Brave Combo into playing the potato-pancake bash, then we’ve got something.
Anyway, unless the Rotary Club can replicate the Bracken group’s recipe (which I intend to find out), it would be nice if the two sides could work something out to put the kartoffel back into Wurstfest. If not, let’s hope the Kartoffel Puffer folks do a better job of publicity if this is to become an annual event. Letting us know would be a good start.
Footnote: I found out Saturday that the VFD no longer uses the old washing machine in its potato-preparation process. Workers used to run the shredded potatoes through the spin cycle to dry them out before bagging. But a guy I talked to said the Health Dept. put a stop to that about five years ago. Now they have to wring them out by hand. Too bad.
Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels, TX)
Rotary carries on Kartoffel legacy
Published November 2, 2007
A Wurstfest favorite has fallen into new hands.
Kartoffel puffers — commonly known as potato pancakes — are traditionally served up at Wurstfest by the Bracken Volunteer Fire Department. For this year’s festival, however, the New Braunfels Rotary Club will be frying up the German-inspired treat.
Bracken VFD began its own celebration of kartoffel last week. Kartoffel Puffer Fest, which took place in Garden Ridge alongside the police department’s haunted hayride, “got rave reviews and will be an annual event,” said David Herschel, president of the Bracken VFD board of directors.
He said the department chose to leave the festival for practical reasons.
“With our leaving Wurstfest, we realize there’s a lot of emotion, a lot of tradition, a lot of history involved,” he said. “We didn’t make our decision based on emotion, tradition or history; we just felt our attendance at Wurstfest no longer fit our business model.”
Herschel cited no acrimony between Bracken VFD and Wurstfest.
“We left on amicable terms as far as we were concerned; we don’t view [the Rotary Club] as competition and wish them absolute success.”
Stony Williams, Wurstfest committee chair and president-elect of the New Braunfels Rotary Club, said taking over preparations for the kartoffel booth has been no small task.
“We’ve got all new equipment there, which of course came one day at a time. And we’ve unloaded about 50 cases of applesauce. That was fun — carrying all of those upstairs.”
The Rotary Club will staff its booth with 6-to-10 workers per shift during the 10-day celebration. Club members currently are learning the ins and outs of kartoffel-making.
“We’ve had a couple different training sessions,” Williams said. “First we trained the shift captains, then on Wednesday all the (club) members came. We took about 10 at a time and let them practice.”
Williams said the generations-old recipe requires a certain finesse.
“You have to get the right cut of potato, have to make sure the grill’s the right temperature,” he said. “You don’t want to overcook them.”
Williams said the club hopes to turn a profit close to that of Bracken’s last year — around $40,000 — or “twice as much as (the Rotary Club) made at Wurstfest.”
Clear Springs Catering will furnish pre-cut potatoes this year. Rotarian Kathy Muener said she’d “heard varying reports, but the number will be somewhere between 7,500 and 10,000 potatoes.”
Herald-Zeitung (New Braunfels, TX)
Business booming at Wurstfest
By Georgia Fisher
Published November 9, 2007
Wurstfest patronage is moving up at a steady clip.
“That means our president and board will be presenting United Way with a check in excess of $11,000,” said Herb Skoog, director of Wurstfest relations.
Skoog said vendors have reported quickly advancing numbers this year.
“Everything we’ve heard has been positive,” he said. “We’ve had a nice interest in the (new feature) kinderhalle; the carnival people are pleased, and the group that took over the potato pancakes — we were very surprised to see the increase that they did,” Skoog said, referencing the Rotary Club takeover of Bracken Volunteer Fire Department’s kartoffel puffer tradition.
“They stocked enough (potatoes) to match that of the year before, thinking they’d have enough to last until Tuesday,” he said. “They ran out on Saturday.”
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Friday, April 11, 2008 • Permalink
The potato pancakes / potato fritters (Reibekuchen from grate = reiben and cake = Kuchen; or simply Puffer) often served with apple juice, jam or (modern) with sour cream and salmon.
Add some nutmeg to your recipe.