I think April and May are the nicest months in Heidelberg. It hardly seems to rain and everything is green and blooming. These two months also coincide with the general celebration of May food in Germany.
I am not sure why Germans love to celebrate May with different kinds of food and drinks, but they do. There is the “Mai butter”, a famous butter that is supposed to be even more delicious because the cows have been feeding on tasty young green grass. There is the Maibock beer, a strong beer that is brewed only in May. Bärlauch, which I have spoken about already, is also a May food. The most famous though is the white asparagus, called ‘spargel’ in German.
Before coming to Germany, I never knew about white asparagus. I had only ever had green. The white version is quite different.
The cost is related to the whiteness of the asparagus. The asparagus is grown under huge tarps, which prevent its exposure from light. If it is exposed it will turn purple and hence it is less valuable. Pure white stalks can be found everywhere right now. Every region has its own special “spargel”. Around Heidelberg, the famous white asparagus comes from Schwetzingen.
The white asparagus is first peeled with a vegetable peeler as the stalks are more woody than those of its green cousin. The asparagus is boiled and sometimes the peelings are added to the water to give it more flavour.
It is served with sliced ham and hollandaise sauce and a glass of dry white wine. Restaurants go crazy this time of year offering special “spargel” dinners, which tend to be very expensive. However, it is super easy to serve this meal up at home for a fraction of the cost.
Don’t be afraid of the hollandaise sauce. All you need is egg yolks, butter and lemon and a strong hand to whisk. It can come together in no time flat. I like having a bit of dijon mustard in it. If you search the web you will find tons of recipes.
The key is to gradually melt the butter under low heat and then whisk like mad when you add the stirred egg yolks. You want to emulsify the eggs with the butter before they set and cook. Once they cook, evenly spread with the butter, you will obtain a thick pale yellow sauce.
To prevent having too high a temperature, use a “bain-marie” or just one pot over top of another filled with boiling water. We were able to make it even without whisk, because all I had was a fork. While I have to say the final plate of food lacks colour, the taste certainly makes up for it.