Barossa food traditions
Barossa’s mild Mediterranean climate and rich soil attracted early settlement by small groups of hardworking people who, forced to survive by their wits, fell back on their long-held principles of sustainability.
Although the earliest landowners were English with large holdings in the Barossa Ranges, it was German-speaking settlers, devout Lutherans, who had the strongest impact on the flavours of Barossa food. They arrived with only a few meagre possessions but they carried a wealth of culinary traditions in their baggage.
Drawing on farming practices developed by their forebears, they planted orchards, vegetable gardens and vineyards, and cleared grazing paddocks, for their livestock. They built wood ovens to bake bread, smokehouses and cellars to preserve their produce and adapted recipes from their homeland to suit their new environment.
Driven by the need to preserve the bounty of the land and a stoic belief in the waste not, want not principle, they smoked meats and dried fruit, fermented and pickled vegetables, made cheese and fermented grapes to make wine. They celebrated the turning of the seasons and gave thanks in the spired Lutheran churches that still dot the Barossa landscape. Treasured family recipes, handed down from generation to generation, tell this story again and again and preserve a foundational food imperative – nothing is wasted at Barossa tables.
Barossa townships were established early; butchers opened their doors and the aroma of their smokehouses full of ham, bacon and mettwurst drew customers. Bakeries offered traditional Streuselkuchen, honey biscuits and freshly baked bread and the culinary threads were deftly passed from farmhouse kitchens to village butchers and bakers. Inevitably supermarkets made their appearance but even they were, and still are, imbued with Barossa’s traditional flavours.
The custom of socialising with family and friends at the dining table, on food grown, prepared and served at home in a generous spirit, is deeply rooted in Barossa’s culture. Accordingly, it was no accident that the Barossa Cookery Book, thought to be the first regional cookbook in Australia, was chosen to raise funds for the war effort in 1917. It is still in print today. So deep-seated was the practice of home entertaining that the first restaurants in the region didn’t open their doors until the 1970s.
Food historian and Barossa resident Dr Angela Heuzenroeder, concerned that some of the region’s precious food traditions would be lost to future generations, spent a decade carefully researching old publications, interviewing farmers and poring over recipes with traditional home cooks. Her book, Barossa Food, was published in 1999 and immediately became a key reference for the region’s culinary traditions.
The same year, inspired by Angela’s research, Barossa’s food producers came together to form Australia’s first authenticated regional food brand. And the landscape became even richer with the emergence of a flourishing Barossa Farmers Market in 2002, still an essential weekly shopping experience.
The early settlers had no idea that their hard work and self-sustaining lifestyle would be the source of inspiration for generations to come. The history of Barossa food is a living, evolving story, reinterpreted each day on the region’s tables.
Barossa Food by Dr Angela Heuzenroeder, published by Wakefield Press available at the Barossa Visitor Information Centre.
Barossa Cookery Book – Selected and Choice Recipes available at Barossa newsagents.