Rowan Museum hosts Germanfest at Old Stone House

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 18, 2011

By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — You didn’t need a German dictionary Saturday evening at the Old Stone House.
Or should we say at Das Alte Steinhaus?
In any language, the cooked cabbage, sausage, pulled pork, grilled chicken, green beans, potato salad, apple dessert and beer went down easy during Germanfest, the third annual fall fundraiser for Rowan Museum Inc.
It’s just fun sometimes to say schweinefleish (pork), kartoffeln (potatoes), sauerkraut and bier.
A good crowd of Rowan Museum supporters gathered under tents in the front yard of the Old Stone House, eating and drinking their German fare at appropriately long tables.
Having this event in September doesn’t exactly make it Oktoberfest. But think of it as bringing in the harvest, celebrating Rowan County’s strong connection to early German settlers.
The crisp temperatures and need for sweaters and jackets gave it a great autumn feel.
Rowan Museum holds a signature Colonial celebration in the spring at the Old Stone House, in addition to a Christmas gathering. Germanfest is more of a laid-back affair, with some lifestyle demonstrations, blue grass music from the Dixie Pharohs of Charlotte and the ability to tour the Old Stone House and walk the property’s new trails at one’s leisure.
“It draws people who don’t come out for the other events,” says Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of Rowan Museum Inc.
The Old Stone House, homeplace for Michael Braun (which became Brown), is Rowan County’s oldest.
“This year, the rain and cold weather have been a terrific bonus,” Candace Brown joked, sitting at one of the long tables. Then she turned serious: “No, it’s fun,” she said. “I think there are a lot of new people.”
Candace’s father-in-law, Larry Brown, is a Rowan Museum Inc. board member and descendant of Michael Braun. He worked until 10 Friday night, putting tents up and getting ready for Saturday’s event.
On Saturday, Rowan Museum staff and volunteers wore period costumes, similar to clothing worn by the early German settlers in the 18th century. Most of those Germans traveled down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania to settle in eastern Rowan County.
Lauren and Duncan Wilson, newlyweds from Charlotte, took turns shredding cabbage and “bruising “ it in a separate pot. Hirst planned to later take all the cabbage used in Saturday’s demonstrations, add salt and water and seal it up in jars.
By next year at this time, it will be great tasting sauerkraut. Hirst was selling jars Saturday that she had prepared at last year’s Germanfest.
Over an open fire, Hirst and Tricia Creel, the museum’s education specialist, were cooking sauerkraut and bratwurst, red cabbage and apple butter.
The apples came from Hirst’s black twig apple tree at home that stubbornly holds onto its fruit into November. Hirst said she started cooking down the apples and adding brown sugar and cinnamon for the apple butter Friday, and kept cooking all day Saturday.
The free samples of kraut, red cabbage and apple butter were just teasers to the big meal, which was the reward for contributing to Rowan Museum Inc.
“The Germans loved to eat,” Hirst said, “and we love sharing it.”
History tells us the German settlers’ proteins came from wild game or cows, chickens and hogs they raised. They relied a lot on corn meal and enjoyed the same kinds of foods caterer Debbie Suggs prepared Saturday.
“The food’s wonderful,” Zubecca Brown said. “And Germanfest seems like fall to me.”
Debbie Swindle, a volunteer, was putting together and handing out tussy musseys bouquets, made from flowers and herbs such as mint and rosemary.
She noted that one of the sweet-smelling plants, tansy, was an effective bug repellant for early settlers. They used it in their bedding as an effective prevention against bed bugs.
“It’s neat what they used to do,” Swindle said. “They were so ingenious to use everything Mother Nature provided for them.”
Even the sauerkraut.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.