A while back I wrote a book titled Jasper and Huntingburg, about two distinctively different but disintinctly Southern Indiana towns. Huntington might best be known as the setting for several movies including “A League of Their Own” and “The Rain” with Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater. Jasper doesn’t have movie fame but it’s a pretty town on the Patoka River. Ron Flick, a local architect who family roots in Jasper go back to 1851 did a stunning architecturally perfect re-design of the old railroad station and grist mill which is now up and running with its wheel going and stones grinding grain. Scenic train tours connecting to French Lick also leave the station regularly.
While researching the book I spent a lot of time down there and the traditional foods of both Germany and Southern Indiana can be found at many of the family run restaurants. I’ve tasted turtle soup in nearby Ferdinand, ribble (a form of spaetzle) soup, springerle cookies made with anise at the Monastery Immaculate Conception made by Benedictine nuns using centuries old recipes and cookies presses and even had a bite or two of brain sandwiches which they used to make at a Jasper restaurant called The Headquarters though since the Mad Cow disease thing, I haven’t seen them on the menu.
As good as many of the restaurants are, my favorite is The Schnitzelbank which first opened under this name in 1933. But even before that, the site had housed eating and drinking establishments stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century.
I’ve heard that 90% of Jasper’s population is of German descent and it’s often when I’m there to hear German spoken.
Both Jasper and Huntingburg had breweries and after prohibition, the local farmers continued making their own Dubois Dew (Dubois pronounced with the s sound on the end is the county name), a special type of moonshine. It wasn’t unusual for insurance agents working 50 years ago or so to get called out to inspect the remains of a barn where some farmer’s still had exploded while he was turning out Dubois Dew. And it’s said that if you knew the right person during those times, you could get a drink at many of the restaurants.
Whether that was true at the Schnitzelbank Restaurant I don’t know. But in its early origins when it was dubbed The Last Chance Saloon or The First Chance Saloon depending on whether you were approaching it or leaving it. T
Now German style home cooking is the thing and all the food including the sauerkraut, spaetzle, rye breads and mashed potatoes are made daily on site. And in keeping with all things German, the waitresses wear dirndls and the outside clock tower features glockenspiel which plays lively German music at set times.
I enjoy eating there so much that I was happy when someone sent me a copy of the restaurant’s cookbook Ein Prosit: A Collection of Fine Family Recipes and Spirits. After looking through it and noting the various schnitzel recipes like jager, berner, schwein and weiner, I would love to do a story on schnitzels—so if anyone has any old family recipes, please let me know.
Bavarian Meat Loaf
One and three quarters pounds ground beef, finely ground
Seven ounces ground pork, finely ground
Nine ounces bacon, ground
One pinch nutmeg ground
Four teaspoons black pepper
Water as need for mixing loaf
Two tablespoons butter
One medium onion, minced
Knead ground beef until smooth, add ground pork, bacon and spices and mix thoroughly. While kneading, add enough water to keep mixture smooth but not too thin, Spread butter evenly in roasting pan and evenly sprinkled minced onion inside of butter pan Form meat into a loaf and place in open pan. Brush top with water. Bake meat loaf in preheated oven about one hour at 350.
Anyone interested in purchasing the book call go to the restaurant’s website www.schnitzelbankgr.com or call 812-482-2640.