Bits of Bavaria

Joanna Lobo | Updated on April 13, 2018 Published on April 13, 2018
Willkommen! Hahndorf was born when Captain Dirk Meinertz Hahn brought 200 German-Lutheran migrants, fleeing religious persecution in Prussia, to Adelaide Hills

Willkommen! Hahndorf was born when Captain Dirk Meinertz Hahn brought 200 German-Lutheran migrants, fleeing religious persecution in Prussia, to Adelaide Hills   -  istock.com

Spread is the word: Monique Mandarin curd at Beerenberg   -  JOANNA LOBO

Crumbs up: Hänchen schnitzel at Hahndorf Inn   -  JOANNA LOBO

In Hahndorf, Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, food tells its own story

Think Adelaide and open parklands, indigenous art, understated beauty, good weather, and live music come to mind. You certainly don’t picture an old German village where beer jostles for shelf space with wine, where brick houses with sloping roofs reveal antique stores and craft breweries, and where you can find sausages and pretzels at every corner.

This is Hahndorf, a heritage town, about 25 minutes away from Adelaide. It is Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement.

It was in 1839 that Captain Dirk Meinertz Hahn brought 200 German-Lutheran migrants, fleeing religious persecution in Prussia (north-eastern Germany), to Adelaide Hills. Today, 189 years later, though Hahndorf (Hahn’s village) has seen much change, it remains at heart a German town.

“Its old world charm is very popular with tourists,” says David Sly, a journalist and author from Adelaide. “History apart, they are very serious about their food and wine here.”

Crumbs up: Hänchen schnitzel at Hahndorf Inn   -  JOANNA LOBO


I spend a day in Hahndorf and Sly’s words ring true at every place I visit.

I begin my day strolling through the Beerenberg Strawberry Farm picking dew-dusted strawberries. It is nine in the morning and the farm, a few minutes outside the town, has just opened for business. It’s a calming experience, walking through neatly segregated rows of strawberry plants, digging through the leaves to find the fruit nestled within. I take my slim pickings to the Beerenberg Family Farm shop to be weighed and packed, and meet Monique Lomax, a staffer who doubles as a guide. “The founders, the Paech family, are among Hahndorf’s first settlers. They started with dairy but soon decided to branch out. Now we grow chillies, gherkins, cherries, plums, satsuma, and Lincoln roses,” she says. Everything finds its way into marinades, jams, chutney and dipping sauces. I sample a few, and am impressed with the smooth and fragrant rose petal jelly, and the tart mango and Mandarin curd named after Monique (staffers for over five years get products named after them).

Beerenberg, which means berry hill, is in its 50th year of strawberry picking and needless to say, strawberry jam is a bestseller. People queue up for the freshly-churned strawberry ice cream, swirls of creamy goodness piled high in a cone. Over 80 per cent of their products are gluten free and they also collaborate with locals products like Cooper Ale and Gaucho sauces.

Ice cream in hand, I stroll down the picturesque main street. This historic street is lined with 100-year-old elm trees, and shows off timber and German-style stone or brick houses with their steep, sloping roofs and cosy verandahs. Here I find boutiques, German pubs, restaurants and cellar doors, cafés, gourmet bakeries and delicatessens, and sweet shops. On sale is Aboriginal art and puppets, German clocks, and candles — the 3 Wishes Candle Barn that allows you to create your own.

A life-size yellow cow with a milk pail underneath greets me at my next destination, Udder Delights. “Cheese” is written in bold letters for those confused about the offerings at the place. Run by the husband and wife team of Saul and Sheree Sullivan, Udder Delights’ Cheese Cellar sells goat’s and cow’s milk cheese, hosts fondue and cheese-making classes and is best known for their cheese wedding cakes. I opt for a tasting. The goats curd is tangy with a smooth finish and the cow’s milk brie is velvety with a sharp earthy flavour. My favourite is the Heysen Blue, a firm and moist cheddar-like rich cheese.

Fresh cheese is difficult to carry back home so I regretfully leave the store and set out in search of something more travel-friendly. Sly takes me to an ‘iconic place’. The Menz FruChocs Shop is known for their FruChocs — milk chocolate-coated apricot or peach. A happy accident, the Menz family developed these in 1948 to use up excess fruit. Today, the product is a South Australian icon. I snack on honeycomb and coconut variants thinking that this sweet treat really deserves a FruChocs Appreciation Day (celebrated on the last Friday of August).


Spread is the word: Monique Mandarin curd at Beerenberg   -  JOANNA LOBO


Another place chock-a-block with history is the Hahndorf Inn. Built in 1853, it is owned by the Holmes family, whose German descendants arrived at Port Adelaide in 1847 to settle in the Barossa Valley. The food here is traditional Bavarian — big portions of schnitzels, sausages, beef and pork ribs, pork knuckle, and hot dogs. These come with steamed greens, mash or fries. I try the Hänchen schnitzel, crumbed chicken breast cooked to perfection and paired with a creamy mushroom sauce. Dessert is the German apple strudel (apfelstrudel), which we learned to make (assemble) at a class earlier.

I end the day at Prancing Pony Brewery, located a short drive out of Hahndorf. Here, they use the traditional method of fire brewing, resulting in beer that has caramel and toffee-like malt flavours. I sample the India Red Pale Ale, which was the 2016 supreme champion in the International Beer Challenge, London. Hints of tropical fruit mellow down the strong caramel notes and intense hop bitterness.

A day in Hahndorf and I realise that it takes its food, wine and beer very seriously.

Joanna Lobo is a freelance writer based in Mumbai

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Published on April 13, 2018
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