You might know that there’s a famous dessert in Northern Germany called ‘Rote Grütze’. It’s a jelly made from fresh berries and often very sweet because Northern people like a lot of sugar in their desserts. This beet jelly is the same thing but it’s made from red beets and I reduced the amount of added sugar drastically for the Southern German palate.
This sweet beet jelly originated in Silesia which is not a part of Germany anymore. The area was lost to Poland after World War II and the German population from there was expelled. That way, a lot of former Silesian and East Prussian dishes got popular around Western Germany as the immigrants from the Eastern states brought them with them.
Some Eastern German favorites are for example:
- Potato pancakes with apple sauce (‘Kartoffelpuffer’)
- Poached meatballs with caper sauce (‘Königsberger Klopse’)
- Pickled herring (‘Salzhering’)
- Smoked pork belly with plums (‘Himmelreich’)
- Beet soup (‘Beetenbartsch-Suppe’)
- Steamed yeast dumplings with plum sauce (‘Häwekließla mit Pflaumaschmootsche’)
As you can see in the recipe picture, I serve this dish with tiny Southern German potato dumplings. That is because I like to eat it as a light and small dessert. Silesian steamed yeast dumplings are huge. If you want to serve these with the jelly it’s a full meal. I mean, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
If you don’t feel like preparing dumplings, then you can also serve this dish with vanilla sauce. That’s the most common way to enjoy sweet jellies in Germany.
Sago Pearls make the best jellies
For thickening the beet juicy, you need a special kind of starch. It’s called pearl sago or pearl tapioca. These pearls are extensively used in Eastern Asian cuisine. You might’ve come across them when you’ve enjoyed bubble tea ore one of the many coconut milk-based dessert soups.
These pearls cannot be substituted with anything else. They don’t work in the same way as cornstarch. The pearls will swell over time but they won’t disintegrate. That way you will have a nice chewy and bubbly texture at the end.
The potato dumplings are nothing out of the ordinary. For a detailed guide, please check out my post about Bavarian-style potato dumplings. There you will find detailed technical guidance if you’re an inexperienced dumpling maker.
I know that a lot of people will not try this recipe because to them beets in a dessert sound revolting. An earthy vegetable isn’t what many people’s dessert dreams are made up of. But honestly, beet jelly is one of my favorite desserts. It’s almost addicting once you eat a few spoonfuls of it because there is such a great balance of flavors. A lot of desserts lack the depth of flavor that this beet jelly with potato dumplings has.
Beet Jelly with Potato Dumplings (‘Rote Beete Grütze mit Knödeln’)
If you have no experience with making potato dumplings it’s best to cook a test dumpling before adding your entire batch into the poaching liquid. If the test dumpling falls apart, add 1-2 more tablespoons of semolina flour to your dough until it holds its shape when poached. Also, make sure your poaching liquid is always just below a light simmer and that the surface of your dumplings is completely smooth without any holes.
For the beet jelly:
- 1 pound (450 g) red beets, peeled and finely grated
- zest of half a lemon
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup port wine
- 1 star anise
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3.5 ounces (100 g) sago pearls
- lemon juice, to taste (1 used the juice of about half a lemon)
- salt, to taste
For the potato dumplings:
- 1 pound (450 g) starchy potatoes
- salt, to taste
- 1 egg yolk, size L
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup semolina flour
- cinnamon powder, to taste
Prepare the beet jelly:
- In a pot, combine the beets, lemon zest, water, port wine, and star anise. Bring to a light simmer and cook, uncovered, over the lowest possible heat for 20 minutes.
- Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and add the sugar and sago pearls. Return the broth to a pot and heat it gently until just lightly simmering. Leave it to simmer, uncovered, over the lowest possible heat for about 30 minutes or until the sago pearls have turned translucent. Remember to stir the mixture in between a few times to prevent it from sticking.
- Season the jelly to taste with lemon juice and salt. Be very generous with the amount of lemon juice you add. This dish needs acidity. If the jelly isn’t sweet enough for you, add extra sugar. I, however, believe it doesn’t need any more than the 1/4-cup that is specified in the ingredients list.
Prepare the potato dumplings:
- Place your potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and season liberally with salt. Bring the water up to a boil. Cover the pot and cook the potatoes skin-on for about 20 minutes or until tender. The potatoes are done once they easily slide off when pierced with a sharp paring knife. Drain the potatoes and peel using a sharp paring knife while still hot. Press the warm potatoes through your potato ricer or pass them through a tamis to get a smooth puree.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, then turn down the heat to keep it just below a light simmer.
- Add the egg yolk, butter, and semolina flour to the warm, but not hot, potato puree. Mix everything briefly and season the dough to taste with cinnamon and salt. Mix again just briefly so that the seasoning is well distributed.
- Form and poach the dumplings:
- Lightly wet your hands and form tiny round-shaped potato dumplings by rolling the potato dough between the palm of your hands. Drop the dumplings into the hot water that should be just below a light simmer. They will first sink to the bottom and then slowly float up over time. Let the dumplings poach for about 5 minutes. Once cooked, take them out of the water and place them on a paper towel to drain any excess moisture. Let the potatoes sit for 3-4 minutes before serving so that they have the chance to firm up a little.
Serve the dish:
- This dish can be served warm or at room temperature. Divide the beet jelly among individual serving bowls and top with a few potato dumplings.