german protected products

Germans hopped onto the train of awarding their signature products protected designations comparatively late into the game. They did follow the example of Spain and Italy and started with wines. 

Eleven wine regions were awarded what is the equivalent of the modern PDO status on September 17, 1973. For over a decade, the wines produced in those regions would be the only German products with any kind of protected German indication. On December 8, 1983, German authorities awarded a number of Landweins (rural wine regions) the equivalent of the modern PGI status. Nowadays, there are 13 wine regions with PDO status (the other two were added to the list in November 1996) and 26 Landweins with PGI status.

Germans started granting protected designation to food and agricultural products only in 1996, several years after the unified EU system had been implemented.

What are Protected Food Designations?

German food with protected indication is divided into three categories. 

g.U.: geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung

Geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung or g.U. is equivalent to the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin or DOP indiciation. It’s the strictest classification, the hardest to obtain, and reserved only for products that follow stringent guidelines for the raw materials used, the production method, and the production process.

For a product to qualify for the g.U status, it must prove that:

  • Its origins are tied to the specific geographic area;
  • It’s fully prepared, processed, and produced in the determined geographic area;
  • It uses only ingredients produced in that specific geographic area;
  • Its characteristic properties are historically tied to and almost exclusively determined by the specific geographic area (such as the recognized know-how of local specialists).

g.g.A.: geschützte geografische Angabe

Geschützte Geografische Angabe or g.g.A. is equivalent to the EU’s Protected Geographical Indication or PGI status. The rules for qualifying for g.g.A. status are fewer and a bit laxer, but by no means easy. Once again, there must be proof that the product in question is intrinsically tied to the specific geographic area through history, traditions, or production process. 

But unlike the g.U status that doesn’t allow any part of the product to be processed, prepared, or produced outside the region, g.g.A. products can qualify as long as either of these processes takes place within the designated geographic area.

In other words, for a product to qualify for g.g.A. status, it must prove that:

  • Its origins are linked to the particular geographic area;
  • Its characteristic properties are historically tied to and almost exclusively determined by the specific geographic location (such as the recognized know-how of local specialists);
  • At least one of the stages between preparation, processing, and production takes part in the determined geographic area. 

g.t.S.: garantiert traditionelle Spezialität 

Garantiert Traditionelle Spezialität or g.t.S. is equivalent to the EU’s Traditional Specialty Guaranteed or TSI

Unlike products granted u.G/PDO or g.g.A./PGI status, a product with g.t.S./TSI status can be made outside of the area (and even the country) it originates from. But to qualify for a TSI status, it must satisfy specific requirements:

  • Either production method or processing must be “traditional,” i.e., proven use of no less than 30 years in the domestic market, a period that allows for transmission between generations;
  • The food name must identify with the traditional character of the product;
  • Certain raw ingredients must be used if the recipe specifies.

Interestingly, despite traditional German cuisine not lacking in interesting and unique dishes, there seem to be no German dishes that have been awarded g.t.S. status as of yet. In the EU’s Database of Origin and Registration (DOOR), there are 186 products registered under Germany, but all of them are under either PDO or PGI status. 

So, as matters stand right now, the existence of the g.t.S. status is a mere formality, a translation of existing EU designation into German language and no more. It is, however, available for any German dishes that the authorities will submit for consideration as long as they satisfy the qualifying requirements. Which German dishes do you think should be awarded the g.t.S./TSI status first?

Top 12 Protected German Products All Epicurians Must Try:

As STG products are more often dependent on the cooking process and ingredients but can be made anywhere in the world, in the article below, we’ll concentrate on g.U./PDO or g.g.A./PGI products.

The following products can only ever be produced within German borders, in their designated geographic areas. If any other EU state (or a state the EU has trade relations with) tries, they’ll be committing fraud and producing counterfeit.

Nürnberger Lebkuchen, PGI 

On July 1, 1996, Nürnberger Lebkuchen became the first German food that was awarded the protected status. Lebkuchen are German gingerbread cookies. Invented by Franconian monks in the early 13th century, they have since become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable Christmas foods.

Nürnberger Lebkuchen is a specialty and main export product of Nuremberg city (Bavaria). It was supposedly invented in the late 14th or early 15th century. What makes this Lebkuchen special is a unique recipe: it’s made with almost no flour. Authentic Nuremberg Lebkuchen must contain at least 25% almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts and no more than 10% flour. They can be decorated with almonds and candied lemon peel. Bakers are also allowed to coat the cookies with chocolate (Schokoliert).

Authentic Nuremberg Lebkuchen cannot be made outside Nuremberg: even if a baker follows the recipe to a T, they won’t be allowed to sell their product under the name.

Another type of German gingerbread cookie with protected indication is Aachener Printen, PGI. A specialty of Aachen city, they’re firm dark brown rectangular cookies with very high spice content. They’re typically decorated with whole almonds and glazed, but chocolate and marzipan can also be used.

Lübecker Marzipan, PGI

The second food item (interestingly, another traditional German Christmas treat) to get the protected indication was Lubeck marzipan. According to historical documents, Lubeck was first identified as a notable producer of German marzipan in 1530. However, the production and distribution remained somewhat local until the 1800s, when the city established itself as a primary marzipan producer due to the efforts of confectioner Johann Gerhard Maret.

Lübecker Marzipan must be made up of at least 70 parts raw marzipan mass and no more than 30 parts sugar. If the marzipan is made with 90 parts raw marzipan mass and less than ten parts of sugar, it might be labeled as Lübecker Edelmarzipan PGI.

Lübecker marzipan is one of only two marzipans with protected status, the other being Toledo marzipan.

Dresdner Christenstollen, PGI

Interestingly enough, Dresden stollen, arguably the most famous German Christmas food with a documented history over a century longer than Lubeck marzipan, was only awarded its protected designation in 2010. 

Dresdner stollen is mainly baked in Dresden, but some neighboring areas are also allowed to label their product as such. Authentic Dresden stollen must adhere to a very strict recipe. The dough can be made only with type 405 or 550 flour, and key ingredients must be used at a specific ratio: butter has to be at 50%, raisins at 65%, candied oranges and lemons at 20%, and almonds at 15% relative to the amount of flour.

Nürnberger Bratwürste, PGI

With German sausages having such a strong association with traditional cuisine, it’s a little surprising that the first time German authorities thought to award any type of bratwurst a protected designation was in 2003.

Nürnberger Bratwürste is made with only very specific meat cuts: it’s a combination of pork without tendons and bacon without the rind. The meat is finely minced and seasoned with a variety of spices, the most important of which is marjoram. Other spices include a combination of cardamom, ginger, pepper, salt, and sometimes lemon powder.

Nürnberger Bratwürste has a very homogenous look: each sausage is 2.8 to 3.5 inches long and weighs between 20 and 25 g. They’re most often served grilled, with the dish being so popular that the sausages are sometimes called Nürnberger Rostbratwürste (Nuremberg grilled sausage).

Thüringer Leberwurst PGI, Thüringer Rotwurst PGI and Thüringer Rostbratwurst PGI

A few German sausage varieties have gotten protected geographic indication since Nuremberg bratwurst, but the Thuringian trio is likely the most interesting of them all. They were all granted the status at the same time, on December 17, 2003.

Thüringer Leberwurst is a type of German liver sausage. The meat paste is made with fresh pork and pig liver (which must amount to no less than 25% of the whole mass) and flavored with spices (most notably, Thuringian marjoram and pepper) blended with braised onion. It’s usually a very pale color.

Thüringer Rotwurst is a type of German blood sausage. It’s made with no-tendon pork shoulder, pork rind, pork cheeks, pig liver, and pig’s blood. All ingredients are pre-cooked before being mixed, aside from the liver, which is raw, and blood which is pickled. The sausage is generously seasoned with salt, black pepper, marjoram, allspice, cloves, and onions. Thüringer Rotwurst is sometimes called the “Queen of Black Puddings” in Germany.

Thüringer Rostbratwurst is a typical German bratwurst mainly set apart due to its visuals: it’s very long (typically between 5.9 and 7.9) and thin. It’s also very generously spiced with a unique spice blend, using caraway and garlic along with the common marjoram, salt, and pepper. Due to this, it has a robust flavor and aroma. 

Glückstädter Matjes, PGI

German seafood is likely among the most underrated in the world. Matjes - or herring - is the king among German fish, and Glückstädter Matjes (Gluckstadt soused herring) is one of the oldest foods made with it, being invented at the end of the 14th century.

It’s made with young (but they must have spawned at least once) herring fish that’s frozen when caught. Once on the shore, the fish is grooved, generously salted, and transferred to barrels whole (internal organs included) for aging.

Schwäbische Spätzle, IGP

Sometimes called the “National Dish of Swabia,” Schwäbische Spätzle is a type of egg pasta. The curious thing about Spatzle is that, unlike many other protected products, its recipe allows for a lot of variety. 

It can be made with either durum wheat semolina or spelled flour, the dough consistency isn’t standardized, and various flavoring ingredients can be used (several herbs and spinach are popular).

Due to the inconsistencies in dough-making, there’s no standardized cooking time and temperature for Spatzle pasta. 

Salzwedeler Baumkuchen, PGI

Baumkuchen is a type of spit cake. It’s made by having multiple layers of a thin dough or batter deposited upon a large spit (a long cylindrical rotating skewer) while it’s rotating over an open fire or a specialized oven. Baumkuchen batter is usually deposited on the spit without taking it off the heat to dip it in the bowl, making it a very labor-intensive pastry.

According to historical records, Baumkuchen was invented in Salzwedel, a tiny town in Saxony-Anhalt. It typically has twelve to fifteen layers. 

Salzwedel Baumkuchen batter doesn’t use yeast. It may sometimes have ground nuts, brandy, honey, or marzipan for a filling and is often covered with thick chocolate or sugar glaze.

Interestingly, Baumkuchen is considered a regional treat in Germany and can be quite hard to find. You’ll have an easier time getting Baumkuchen in Japan, of all places. Here’s why.

Allgäuer Emmentaler, PDO

As you can see, Germans are rather stingy with PDO status: most PDO products are either wines, spirits, or cheese (though there are a few exceptions). 

Emmentaler is usually regarded as a Swiss specialty, but Allgau, a Bavarian region, has managed to create a very distinct version of it. Allgau Emmentaler is made with raw grass-fed cow milk. It has a strong nutty aroma, somewhat sweet, grassy undertones, and a robust aroma.

Westfälischer Pumpernickel, PGI

Pumpernickel is one of the seminal German bread varieties, likely the most famous right after pretzels and Brotchen bread rolls (and also stollen, if we include it in the same list).

Westphalian pumpernickel is often considered the original, with the earliest mentions dating back to 1450. It’s a dense and heavy bread, made with a combination of coarsely ground rye flour and whole rye grains (rye berries).

Westphalian pumpernickel has a dark brown, almost black color due to its long baking period that lasts between 16 and 24 hours. It has a very thin crust, and the bread itself is surprisingly moist.

Westfälischer Pumpernickel can be flavored with malt or sugar beet syrup, which adds a touch of sweetness to its distinct earthy, slightly bitter flavor.

Weißlacker or Allgäuer Weißlacker, PDO

Allgäuer Weißlacker is likely one of the least famous but most interesting among protected German cheese varieties. It’s the first patented cheese in the world! Josef and Anton Kramer, Wertach-based cheesemakers, invented the recipe in 1874 and received a 15-year-long royal Bavarian patent for their invention in 1876.

Weisslacker is a semi-soft cheese made with cow milk. It has a slightly crumbly texture, and a salty, piquant flavor. It’s traditionally eaten with pumpernickel bread and beer (sometimes after being directly dipped into it).

Visit Yummy Bazaar’s Online German Grocery Store for More:

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