10 Amana Specialties to Devour
You’ve got to try these things
An important feature of any culture is the food. Amana is no exception; in fact, our food is a huge part of the communal era culture that is still with us today. Take it from this Amana boy these are some things you must try while you’re here that will allow you to experience a taste of old Amana.
- Amana Bratwurst
Being a German community we need to start with sausage. Few things are more German and in the Colonies that means Bratwurst. The Amana Meat Shop still makes a distinctive brat that has changed very little from the recipe that was brought over from Germany in 1843. You’ll find them on the menu at most all of our restaurants and at every festival. This is not your national brand brat; in fact, we like to say “if it’s not an Amana Bratwurst it’s just a weenie”.
- Pickled Ham
This is a must try if you are eating at one of our family style restaurants. It is exactly what it sounds like, ham that has been pickled. It comes from the old communal kitchens where nothing was wasted. Ham that was leftover or left on the bone would be cubed and put into the brine with some sliced onions. After a few days, it’s ready. Served with the salad course at our restaurants it is fantastic and very Amana.
- Potato Dumplings at the Ox Yoke Inn
Potato dumplings are a German thing and I grew up eating them made by my Oma (Grandmother). She learned to make them in the communal kitchens and later she was a cook at the Ox Yoke. The potato dumplings they make are exactly like Oma’s but maybe just a little smaller in size. They can be ordered ala carte so if they don’t come with your entrée do yourself a favor and order them. You’ll be tasting a part of my childhood.
- Rhubarb Pie
When I was growing up in the 60s we had large gardens of rhubarb in the Colonies. The restaurants used the rhubarb to make the signature pie of the Amanas, rhubarb. I can even remember helping to pull it as a child. It was a lot of work and thankfully those days are gone but the rhubarb pie remains. Save a little room for a slice after your meal or take an afternoon break. You’ll find other types of pie in Amana and they’re all good but rhubarb pie has a special place in our culture.
- Pork Tenderloin at the Ronneburg
If you’re from Iowa you know about Pork Tenderloin sandwiches, if you’re not from Iowa then it’s time you learned. Pork is king in our state, and the breaded, deep-fried, pork tenderloin is the most Iowa of all sandwiches. The Ronneburg makes a great one; golden brown and crunchy on the outside and very tender on the inside. I put pickles and yellow mustard on mine.
- Hahn Coffee Cake
Baked in the only surviving brick oven from Amana’s communal, the Hahn coffee cakes are a treasure. They are filled with a fruit or cinnamon and the dough has a slight sweetness. Be warned that Doris Hahn gets up early to bake and she is sold out by 10 am every day she’s open. You might want to call and order one the day before. Just tell her you want a coffee cake and she’ll ask you what filling. You can’t go wrong but remember they don’t have preservatives so you’ll want to eat them within a couple of days. I’m guessing they won’t make it ‘til nightfall.
Yes, this is one of those long German words. It’s a special sausage made at the Amana Meat Shop that is an Amana tradition. You might hear it called Head Cheese, but it’s not cheese and it’s not what you see in the supermarket. I wouldn’t be caught dead eating that stuff. This is the real deal and it’s made from the meat of the head of the hog. Those big chucks you see are tongue. Our version has a wonderful spice to it and I think it’s best as a very simple sandwich; some bread, the schwartenmagen, and some mustard. It’s what my ancestors would have had as an afternoon snack.
- Chocolate Covered Bear Claws
I love the combination of chocolate, caramel, and nuts and at the Chocolate Haus, they call this a Bear Claw. I grew up knowing these as turtles but whatever you call them they are fantastic. You can get these hand dipped in dark or milk chocolate or just get them “naked” with no chocolate. I prefer milk chocolate, they’re so good. As an added bonus they make so many of these that it’s not uncommon to be able to watch them being hand dipped.
- Schild Brau Beer
What’s a German community without beer? It certainly wouldn’t be Amana. We have Iowa’s oldest microbrewery, Millstream Brewing here and they’ve won numerous big time awards for their beer. Schild Brau is their amber that has taken numerous Gold Medals. This is not your typical American beer but more of a European style. It is very much worth a try and if you are lucky enough to be here during the fall of the year you’ll enjoy their seasonal Oktoberfest beer. It’s made special for our Oktoberfest celebration and on a crisp autumn day, you’ll want something a little more substantial in taste. Oktoberfest is a little darker than Schild Brau and it’s perfect for the fall of the year.
- Wine from the Colonies
Winemaking is an Amana tradition and when we moved to Iowa it became apparent that we would need to make wine out of fruit instead of grapes. Rhubarb was plentiful and served a dual purpose. Pie of course, but also wine. As a wine, we call it Piestengel, a word that is part English, Pie as in pie plant and Stengel, the German word for a stalk. Together it’s Pie Stalk or in Amana; Piestengel. This is uniquely an Amana drink. Give it a try at most of our wineries. Today’s Amana’s wine scene isn’t just sweet fruit wines. Several of the wineries are offering traditional grape wines from grapes and styles that you’ll recognize. Personally, I like the drier Riesling styles; you’ll find all of the wineries provide free samples.