Away and Back Again
My Kitchen and Broccoli Soup

Dispatches From an Austrian Grocery Store


Skiing was so much fun, it really was. But one afternoon, our energy levels pooped out entirely (the infamous third day!) and so a few friends and I decided to go souvenir shopping at the local grocery store in the next town over from our little village. Ooh! We found some serious gems. Here's what I bought:

Gelierzucker is what Germans and Austrians use to make jams and jellies. It's sugar mixed with powdered pectin. Have you ever seen more beautiful packaging? I don't believe I have. It is the only reason I bought this sugar and if I could have, I would have bought a case. Wiener Zucker seems to be Austria's Domino and they make all kinds of different sugars, including powdered sugar that comes in an equally enchantingly designed box. (Austrians call powdered sugar Staubzucker, which means "dust sugar". This, for some reason, pleases me to no end.)


Another purchase just for the package. This, my friends, is pickling salt. Enough for 50 kilos of meat once mixed with a couple kilos of table salt. Apparently, it's best used when "butchering at home". Why yes, of course I need this in my new kitchen! Who wouldn't? I plan on doing a lot of meat butchering and pickling this year. Seriously, I could not pass this by. Could you have? Look at that little pig! It was too much.


The Austrians have all sorts of adorable names for things. Like the aforementioned "dust sugar" or "ice box" for refrigerator or "powidl" for plum jam. They also call black currants schwarze Ribisel (pronounced REE-BEE-sel), which is so perfect, isn't it? Of course they're little Ribisel! That's exactly what they are. Anyway, d'Arbo is an Austrian jam maker that does a lot of business worldwide (you can find their jams in New York and Berlin anyway), but I'd never seen this delicate little jelly anywhere before.


While in the jam aisle, physically restraining myself from reaching out and putting everything I saw in the basket, I made an exception for Staud's apricot jam, made with pure fruit. Austrians call apricots Marillen, which always makes me think of Marilla Cuthbert, who was Anne of Green Gables's caretaker, in case you didn't read that book 14 times (uh, I didn't get out much in the 5th grade) and so I am powerless when it comes to them. Also, Dean & Deluca sell Staud marmalades for totally atrocious prices, which always rather appalled me, so part of why I bought this was because it was cheap. Chee-heap.


My shopping companions spent a lot more time than I did eyeing, discussing and marveling over all the cured meats available at the store. Let's just say, if you're into cured pig, especially but not exclusively, there is a lot to get excited about in Austria. I liked the look of this maroon slab of dry-cured bacon (which, literally translated, means "ham bacon", har) out of Carinthia. I'll let you know what I end up using it for. Right now I just like hefting it back and forth.


Cabanossi, I have recently learned, are one of Austria's greatest salami products. Thin and chewy and completely addictive, some people I know take them skiing to gnaw on during breaks (I can't seem to even handle chewing gum while on the slopes, but that's another story). They're not that easy to find outside of Austria and certainly impossible to find outside of Central Europe. I wasn't allowed to leave the store without buying a package.


Mozartkugel! Do you know about Mozartkugel? A ball of pistachio paste covered with a layer of nougat covered by a layer of marzipan, then covered in dark chocolate. Delicious little things. These are not authentic; no, the real, true, authentic Mozartkugel are only made at a confiserie in Salzburg, where Mozart was from. But unless you go to Salzburg or pay a lot of money to have them shipped, they're out of reach. These industrial ones from Mirabell are pretty and delicious and very easily squashed into a suitcase. Also, affordable. Mozartkugel for everyone!


I mentioned Austria's gorgeous pumpkinseed oil in my last grocery store post. But what Styria, the pumpkinseed capital of Austria, is also famous for is apple cider vinegar. This near-liter bottle cost a whopping €1.99, plus the packaging was so stylish I couldn't resist. I plan on splashing this liberally into potato, cabbage and beet salads.


And now we come to the mustards. Lovely people, the mustards. I could have spent an hour in the mustard aisle and I don't even love mustard as much as I love ketchup. It was insane. Insanely wonderful. All kinds of metal tubes and bottles and flavors and oh my goodness, you would have thought we'd never even seen mustard before the way we carried on in there. I managed to get out of that store with only five (5!) tubes and I tell you, I practiced some serious restraint.

Above, in exhibit A, we have the classic Wiener Würstel mustard (semi-sweet, whatever that means). If you go to any butcher in Germany and ask for a Wiener Wurst, you will get what looks like a slightly elongated American hot dog (no bun, obvs). (Wien, in case you were wondering, is Vienna in German.) You can eat it on the spot, cold, or go home and heat it up in water. Either way it's iconic and delicious and apparently, this is what you should be dipping it in.


Austrians have a thing for fresh horseradish. They call it Kren and dudes, it is HOT. They like shredding it over an open-faced sandwich or grating it onto boiled beef and holy hotness, it should come with a warning. MAY BLOW YOUR FACE OFF or CAN PERMANENTLY RECONFIGURE SINUSES. I do believe it could be hotter than wasabi. This here, exhibit B, is horseradish mustard, labeled "hot". Um, YES. Don't let that goofy horseradish root cartoon drawing fool you.


Here, Exhibit C, we have the remaining three mustards I bought. Tarragon mustard (savory-hot), at the bottom, a traditional Austrian mustard from Krems in the middle (mild-sweet), and then something called "English Special Mustard" (sweet-hot) at the top. Aren't they darling? The metal tubes are cool and smooth to the touch. The terrible thing is this: I bought these as gifts and now can't bring myself to give them away. How can I live another day not knowing what English Special Mustard tastes like? Or the original sweet mustard from Krems? Or that spicy tarragon mustard?

Yes, there was that thing about there not being much room left in the suitcase, what with the apple cider vinegar and the sugar and the preserves and the cured meats and the freaking pickling salt, but really, I have learned my lesson: there must always be room for more mustard.