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The History of Spiessbraten and Schwenkbraten from Idar Oberstein

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(schwenk= swinging arm)
An actual Swinging grill over the beechwood coals for this Steak

Schwenkbraten Recipe

(spiess=Spit or Skewer)

Spiessbraten Recipe
adapted in case you don't have a spit or rotisserie

The Spiessbraten and Schwenkbraten (A Pork or Beef Steak dish), belong to the city of Idar-Oberstein Germany, as well as the jewelry and precious stones. It started in the 1800's when Gem stone prospectors returned from South America and wanted to do their own version of steaks like the Gaucho's did.

It is known as a typical meal in the whole area, even far away from the borders of Idar-Oberstein.

Idar-Oberstein is known as a gemstone centre. Until the 18th century, the area was a source for agate and jasper . A combination of low-cost labor and energy helped the gemstone-working industry flourish. The river Nahe provided free water power for the cutting and polishing machines at the mills

In the springtime when the days become a little warmer and even more sunny, the Spiessbraten and Schwenkbraten barbecue time starts. At some days in the summer time even whole streets are surrounded by the fragrance of the meat that is cooked on an open beach-wood-flame.


This is the famous "Rock Church" in Idar-Oberstein

Idar-Oberstein is in the Rhineland-Pfalz area of Germany

From my friend Trudy Maynard,
..I grew up 15 km from Idar Oberstein, the famous Spiessbraten city in Germany . We cooked the rolled roast several times during the summer, outdoors on a spit that turned, over a beechwood fire. The only seasoning used were salt, pepper, crushed onions.

A distinction is made between Idarer Spießbraten and Obersteiner Spießbraten. The former is a kind of Schwenkbraten, whereas the latter is a kind of rolled roast. Spießbraten is rooted fast among Idar-Oberstein's and the surrounding region's culinary and cultural customs.

When making the more often consumed Idarer Spießbraten, the meat – originally prime rib, today often also roast beef or pork neck – is laid the day before cooking in raw onions, salt and pepper. The onions are good to eat while cooking at the fire with a beer. Locals favor beechwood for the fire, to give the roast its "traditional flavor."

The variations on the Spießbraten recipe is also the subject of the town's slogan, which bears witness to a patronizing cosmopolitanism: Rossbeff fa die Irader, Kamm fa die Uwersteener und Brot für die Welt – dialectal German for “Roast beef for the Idarers, pork neck for the Obersteiners and bread for the world.”

Pattie Abott who has great memories of this dish from Germany, has been talking to me about Schwenk and Spiessbraten for a year now. here is what she said.... Just the thought of Schwenkbraten and Spießbraten bring back many happy summer memories.  Both are very similar but use different cuts of meat.  Schwenkbraten is from the German state of Saarland, typically pork sirloin is used.  Spießbraten is usually a pork shoulder roast.  They can be made with beef but the pork tastes so much better.  They are both marinated in onions and spices.  Both are grilled over a beech wood fire.  The beech smoke is essential for the 'echt' flavor.  Here in the states I've come close using oak but it is not the same.  The grill, a schwenker, is a hanging swinging grill.  They are both served with Br ö tchen, either potato salad or fried potatoes,  and usually a green salad [like boston lettuce with oil & vinegar and finely chopped onion and Maggi] or cucumber salad.

The spice recipe that Pattie gave me I use in the Spiessbraten.


Why do they use Beech Wood?

Beechwood has a long history in Germany since ancient times. It is used to smoke malts for German smoked beers and is used in the making of Budweiser beer where they add the chips to the beer when aging, not for flavor but because it "smoothes out the flavor".

Just for interest the word Book comes from the German word Buch or Buche which meant beech.
because books were made from the tree, Yeah really,.... I wondered how they make a book from a beech tree?


Young Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis was born in Idar Oberstein

They found the ruins of a Celtic community in Idar Oberstein dating back to 300 BC. It was reconstructed so you can step back over 2000 years in time.

More information here


A brief movie of a Schwenker ( swinging grill)

More pictures of Schwenkers

The legend of the Felsenkirche (Rock Church)

Actually not a legend but true! At least probably most of it. The idea for the Felsenkirche (Felsen = Rocks Kirche = Church) started with 2 brothers that loved the same woman living in the Castle Bosselstein in Oberstein, Germany in the 15th century.

Literally means Rock Church

All that remains today of "Castle Bosselstein" as the home of Wyrich and Emich was once known.  It was errected around 1196.

The church is the centerpiece of the town. What other city has a church built into a large rock formation and you enter through a tunnel, and the houses are built into the rock?

High above the city of Oberstein, above the church, stands the ruin of what was once the seat of the Lords of Oberstein. 

In the middle of the 14th century, two brothers lived there: Wyrich, the oldest, and young Emich.  Unbeknownst to each other, they both loved the beautiful maiden Bertha, a Lady of Castle Lichtenburg (not too far away from Oberstein).  She, in turn, had lost her heart to Emich (and vice versa) and consented to become his wife.  Wyrich was absent from the castle as the engagement took place. 

Learning of this upon his return, he felt betrayed and being quite hot-tempered, he attacked his brother and threw him out of a window; the young man plummeted to his death on the rocks some 450 feet below (death by defenestration!).

When he realised what he had done, Wyrich was overcome with remorse and fled the castle, travelling for long years, in vain seeking his own death in battle until one day he decided to return home.

  Bertha had died in the meantime ... presumably of a broken heart.  At her grave- side, Wyrich confessed his horrible deed to the abbot.  For a penance, this abbot bade him to build a chapel on the place where his brother's broken body had been found, build it with his own two hands.  Wyrich went to work like a man possessed, all the time praying that he might find forgiveness.

When this labour was completed, it was taken as a sign that his penance was complete also, his sin forgiven, as a spring opened up within the chapel (a spring which remains active today).

Wyrich himself died at the steps of the altar as the chapel was being consecrated.  He was buried in the same tomb that he had hewn out of the hard rock for Emich -- the two brothers united, at last, in death

The Spring inside the Felsenkirche


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