The first German Lutheran settlers arrived in the Barossa Valley in 1842, settling at Bethany. German language, culture and cuisine were preserved in the area, where some towns had as many as 25 German speaking inhabitants to every one English-speaking person. Barossa Food retains many of its German roots. German immigrants were important in the establishment of the wine industry, with names like Gramps, Seppelts and Henschke still familiar today.
Strangely, the Barossa owes its German heritage to an English merchant and businessman with a Scottish name. George Fife Angus was born in Newcastle, England, his Scottish ancestors having settled in Northumberland in the 17th century. Angus was a devout Baptist and vigorously promoted the South Australian colony as a place with no established church and no convicts, where his fellow nonconformists could expect civil and religious liberty. Although he did not relocate to Australia until 1851, in 1841 he purchased land in the Barossa Valley and searched for suitable immigrants to become his tenants.
Angus came in contact with August Kavel, a Lutheran Pastor who was seeking a place to resettle his congregation of Silesian farmers and tradesmen facing religious persecution in Germany. Angas helped to fund the first three ships that left Hamburg in 1838, and the first group of Lutheran settlers set up townships in the Adelaide hills. It was a subsequent wave of Lutherans travelling with their Pastor, Gotthard Fritzsche who formed the settlement at Bethany. The settlers grew cereal crops, vines, vegetables and fruit, but from the late 1840s there was an increasing emphasis on wine.
Barossa Food still retains its German heritage. Locals pride themselves on using “every piece of the pig except the squeal” in various pork dishes and sausages. Each year, they hold a harvest festival which includes a thanksgiving service, followed by a traditional lunch served under the gums in the churchyard. Here the church ladies are happy to discuss the merits of sliced versus grated cucumber in the traditional cucumber salad, challenge the verdict of the judges in the previous day’s Tanunda Show Dill Pickle competition or tell you who made the best Rote Grutze (a red pudding made of sago and boiled down grape juice). The Rote Grutze is made in Europe with berries, but it’s thought that the Barossa Valley version, using grape juice, is a unique regional dish.