In this article our guest author, Lee McIntyre, shares some of the foods of South Tyrol she came to love while living in Bozen/Bolzano, Italy and invites us to experience the Törggellen festival, a mouth-watering celebration of autumn.
Bozen/Bolzano is a beautiful medieval town nestled at the foot of the Dolomite mountains, a town with a subtle blend of Italian style and Tyrolean tradition. But the thousands of visitors who use the town as a base to explore the surrounding natural wonders of the South Tyrol also know that there are a number of Tyrolean food specialties that shouldn’t be missed!
One way to taste many of those foods all at once is to head to the South Tyrol in the autumn to have a traditional Tyrolean Törggellen feast. I think of the Törggellen meals as sort of “harvest” celebrations, although I’m not sure that’s really quite an accurate description. Unlike the Thanksgiving holidays in North America and elsewhere, where everyone celebrates the harvest on the same day, there is no one day for a Törggellen. Rather, restaurants offer these meals throughout the autumn months.
A Törggellen meal begins with a typical Tyrolean first course of a starchy item: for example, you might start with Schlutzkrapfen/mezzelune, little squares of pasta that look like very thin ravioli, often filled with “something green” (a mix of spinach, onion and herbs, traditionally), pumpkin, or squash. This dish is topped with melted butter and Parmesan cheese.
Or you might choose instead some Knödel/canederli, which are big bread-based dumplings. These are made with bits of bread-for-stuffing (like you’d use to stuff a goose or turkey), which is then mixed with pieces of cheese, small chunks of Tyrolean cured bacon (Speck), and/or bits of spinach. This bread mixture is then shaped into balls or ovals and boiled in water. Like the Schlutzkrapfen, Knödel are often served in a melted butter sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese (my favorite!), although another typical presentation is serving them in a soup.
After the first course, the Törggellen feast becomes all about the meat. Specifically all about pork. I once had a hard time identifying all the kinds of pork products that were presented on a Törggellen platter, there were so many different varieties presented, including ham, roast pork, and many varieties of pork sausages. Pork dishes in the South Tyrol always appear alongside a bowl of some of the tastiest horseradish I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. It’s not sour and adds just a bit of a kick when combined with a bit of roast pork, or a slice of salami.
But the most different for me of all the pork offerings is the dark red Blutwurst sausage. In English, the literal translation of that is “blood sausage”, which doesn’t sound that appetizing, and it’s not something I ever ran across in the U.S. At a Törggellen it is served whole and hot on the central pork platter; you slice off a bit of it to transfer to your plate. It’s not as solid as the other sausages and it sort of falls apart and spills out of the casing when you cut into it. Lots of spices, including cloves, gives it a really distinctive taste. Very flavorful, very different … and very good, but definitely an acquired taste at first.
There are usually no vegetable side dishes offered at a Törgellen, apart from the piping hot sauerkraut, which has little pieces of pork mixed in, in keeping with the overall pork-theme of the meal. At the Törgellen feasts I went to, the bowl of sauerkraut on the table was constantly replenished – an all-you-can eat offering at the meal.
Of course, in some ways, even all of that food serves as merely a preamble to autumn-specific food that comes at the end of the meal: a huge pile of roasted chestnuts accompanied by glasses of the “new wine” that has just been bottled. Your fingers become quite sooty as you peel the still-warm blackened chestnuts, revealing the plump, cooked nut in side. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the slightly sweet and every-so-slightly fizzy new wine.
Although the chestnuts accompanied by new wine are available only in autumn, all of the other standard Törggellen specialties can all be found in restaurants year-round. So any time of year is perfect for a visit to sample the sumptuous flavors of the South Tyrol.
Read more about the food and wine of South Tyrol
To plan your visit to South Tyrol
For more information to plan your own visit, find accommodation and discover all the things to do in South Tyrol, visit the South Tyrol Tourism website
About our guest writer: Lee McIntyre is an American photographer, teacher and author who has lived, traveled and taken photos all over the world. Prior to moving to Tübingen, Germany in 2011, she spent three years in Bozen/Bolzano, Italy trying to master the ins and outs of life in a new language in the South Tyrol. Lee chronicles some of her adventures in her lighthearted memoir, “Life on a Gelato Diet: Everyday Expeditions with an American in Bolzano”, available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon worldwide, and for all eBook readers from LeanPub. Lee has also created a line of tote bags featuring some of her most popular photos from Bolzano. Available in a variety of sizes and designs from shop.clfoto.net, these bags are perfect for everyone’s everyday expeditions, anywhere in the world. Find out more about Lee’s current projects on her website at www.clfoto.net.
Photos: copyright Lee McIntyre except first photo by Heather Cowper
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