Rhenish MusselsCourse: MainCuisine: German – RhinelandDifficulty: Easy
Rhenish Mussels are a celebration of the international trade networks that existed in pre-modern Europe. Enabled by the ease of river-based transport networks, the seafood could be transported in good time from the North Sea. This enabled the great inland cities of the Rhineland such as Cologne to develop a rich seafood culture. Though much of that was lost when the local fisheries died out during the Industrial Revolution, this recipe continues what was once a vibrant Rhineland cuisine.
The distinguishing features of the Rhenish dish are its use of a vegetable-wine soup as a base. While French and South European dishes typically rely on butter or a thin sauce of wine, the Germans essentially cook their Mussels in a hearty vegetable stew.
2 kg Mussels
Half-Bulb of Celery Root (Substitute Parsnip or even Potato)
1 Large Onion
1 Tb Vegetable Oil
1L Vegetable Broth
750ml Dry White Wine e.g. Dry Riesling, I would get a decent wine as its flavor will come through strongly.
1 Bay Leaf
1 Tbs Juniper Berries (roughly 5-6)
1 Tbs Sugar
- Other Ingredients
Butter (for the Bread and optional dip for the mussels)
Dark Rye Bread
- Clean the mussels carefully with a brush or abrasive pad under cold water. Make sure to remove and discard any mussels that have already opened. If you are unsure, gently push the mussel closed in cold water, if it remains closed then it is ok to eat.
- Dice the vegetables for the broth into small cubes. Start by frying the onion with the oil until the moisture is largely gone. Add the remaining vegetables and fry for a few minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock, herbs, and sugar, then bring to a boil for about 15 minutes.
- Add the wine and bring to a boil once again
- Now add the mussels to the broth and boil for 10 minutes. By this point, all of the mussels should have opened up. Those that remain closed are bad and should be discarded. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Add the parsley, either chopped or broken up, to the mussels. Let sit for a moment.
- Serve the mussels in a bowl with the soup and the vegetables. Enjoy with some dark German bread and butter.
- The recipe can be easily modified for a more traditional mussel dish. When serving, remove the mussels from the broth and toss in melted butter. Then add a small amount of broth back to the plate and enjoy the vegetable soup separately.
Learn more about the regional foods of Europe
The protagonist of this region’s cuisine is the Rhine River. Barges from the North Sea would bring seafood and spices, and barges from the south would bring cloth and potatoes. The wealth of the Rhine led to a wealth of dishes in this region.