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take-a-bite in the amana colonies


April 26, 2019
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charcuterie board cropped
Every year the Amana Colonies prepares a wonderful weekend for foodies during the month of April when everyone is ready to get out and do some spring sampling.
This year I participated in many of the events and had a great time with friends and came away with recipes to try and ideas for making an artful charcuterie board. I also now know what Bockwurst is and how to make sauerkraut; not that I ever will!
My first event for the Take-A-Bite weekend was on Friday morning at 11:00 at the Amana Meat Shop and Smokehouse. They took all 8 of us into their back kitchen. I didn't know there was so much space behind the showroom at the meat shop. Sue was stirring up a batch of Easter Bread. After mixing the yeast dough and letting it rest, she divided and rolled the dough into two 30" strips and then loosely intertwined them, placed a colored (but not hard-boiled)" Easter" egg in 5 of the loops. We got to taste it fresh from the oven and it was delicious with the freshly grated orange peel and sliced almonds in the dough. This is a colorful dish to take to an Easter breakfast.
We also observed them making Bockwurst – it's a mixture of ground pork, chives, spices, milk, salt, sugar, and egg powder. It was interesting to watch him stuff it into the casing with the casing machine. We also got to eat a Bockwurst sandwich for lunch and went home with a jar of sauerkraut and a mini-Easter bread.
The third demo at the meat shop was the sauerkraut making. Linda made it look easy as she demonstrated how she and her mother and grandmother before her made kraut. I'm not a huge sauerkraut fan, but it looked so simple to make.
My Friday night adventure was attending the Communal Dinner in the one remaining Amana communal kitchen in Middle Amana with my friend Dianne. The Heritage Society prepared a meal for about 20 of us using a traditional menu from the communal days cookbook, "Amana Colonies Recipes". The menu was written in German at our tables, but the English translation was Bockwurst (a spring sausage made by the Amana Meat Market), Mashed Potatoes with mashed apples, Sauerkraut, Green Beans with Bacon and several cold salads; Yellow Beans and Faux Zigorriesalat (salad greens), as well as both white and brown bread and butter. We had the traditional Amana Easter Bunny cookies for dessert – they are like a sugar cookie, but not very sweet.
We sat on the backless wooden benches and pictured the hard working Amana folks coming into the dining room 3 times daily to refuel and head back out to their places of work. The "kitchen baas" was the women in charge of the constant cooking for 30-40 people that also included 2 coffee breaks. She had a staff of young women who rotated doing the different types of work; food prep, clean-up, and cooking.
After the meal, Jon Childers from the museum, took us on a tour of the rest of the house. He has plans to restore it into a traditional Amana House for people to tour. The out buildings include a wash house, chicken house and a wood shed and are all quite well preserved. These will be part of the authentic home and kitchen that visitors will be able to tour.
Image may be subject to copyright
Image may be subject to copyright
Image may be subject to copyright
Sat. morning I took my Take-A-Bite brochure and started at one of the earliest scheduled events which was noodle making demonstrated at the Woolen Mill. Cindy used her mom's simple recipe and showed us how to mix the dough, roll it out and then use a wooden rolling pin cutter to cut the dough in strips for noodles. After that they are hung up to dry for several hours. Cindy had a fancy pasta dryer, but she remembers her grandmother hanging them over a cloth on the window or just on the counter to dry. I remember my Grandma Miller making pasta and laying the strips all over white sheets placed on the beds in the downstairs bedrooms to dry. So about anything will do.
I tried my hand at it for our Easter dinner – my noodles were tasty, but fatter than Cindy's, so I guess I'll need to roll them out thinner next time.
Next we went to the Amana General Store to learn how to make some quick and easy appetizers. The best part was that we got to taste them. I mean how can you not love "Candy Bacon" which is smoked bacon sprinkled with brown sugar and a bit of cayenne pepper, topped with glazed pecans and baked for 20 minutes. The people attending the workshop could hardly wait to get their hands on a sample.
I think my favorite part of the day was making a charcuterie board at Ackerman Winery. Beth gave us each a round slate ‘platter' as well as all the ingredients for making a dazzling and tasty display of ‘bites' on our board. There were cheeses, meats, fruits, nuts, chutney and mustard, and pickled things. Once we had everything gathered at our tables we were free to be as artistic and creative as we wanted in arranging items on the board. I guess I always thought a charcuterie board was just meats and cheeses, but wow do I have a different idea now. It was fun to take the finished product to my family dinner that evening. Anything goes and the more variety, texture, color, and taste the better!
There were many other things scheduled for this weekend that I didn't get to do. There was a vintner's dinner, a beer pairing dinner, pizza, and a progressive lunch. There was also a sampling stroll and beer and wine and chocolate tasting, as well as unique offerings like a flight of pickles and wine and cheese pairing and Bloody Mary sampling (made with wine instead of Vodka). There was also a special Tea featuring scones, savories, and sweets on Sunday afternoon at Zuber's Hotel. There is certainly plenty more for me to do next year. And I'm sure there will be new things added. What a fun and tasty weekend; Take-A-Bite in the Amana Colonies every April. 
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Image may be subject to copyright