Texas has a rich history that many don’t know about.
Growing up in Texas, you learn all about the Alamo, San Jacinto and Stephen F. Austin. But there’s another piece of history that’s a big part of Texas’ formation: the great German migration.
In the 1830’s, German migration to Texas was spearheaded by a German gardener named Johann Friedrich Ernst. Ernst was supposed to move to the New World and settle in Missouri, but life had other plans.
While in Louisiana, he heard about large land grants for Europeans in Texas and quickly swooped up 4,000 acres of land. He wrote to his friends and family about how wonderful Texas was and soon his friends and family were moving to Texas and writing their friends and family about how wonderful the state was, too.
My family was part of the great German migration in the mid-19th century. My grandmother’s grandparents and great grandparents moved to North Central Texas somewhere around the 1850’s and 1860’s. German stores and restaurants started popping up all over Texas and in no time, German immigrants made up the backbone of the population.
Even in 1990, the US census showed people claiming pure or partial German descent made up 17% of Texas’ population. By that count, Germans were the third largest demographic in terms of population.
You can still find enclaves of German settlements around Texas. Vernon, Windthorst and Muenster are three towns in North Central Texas that were settled by mainly German farmers. German family names proliferate those towns (all Americanized over time, of course): Wolf, Vietenheimer, Schroeder, Schiwart and Knippa (my families!).
Then there are coastal German communities and towns in the Hill Country. Ernst, who started the great German migration, settled near Austin, the state capitol. His lasting legacy remains in that area as well.
There’s a German restaurant in Austin called Scholz Garten that’s been in operation since 1866. August Scholz founded the restaurant and biergarten that’s served state lawmakers for over a century. LBJ was also a frequent patron.
Scholz is Texas’ oldest beer garden and Austin’s oldest business.
Though I’ve been to Austin many times, I’ve never been to Scholz. I did, however, find a recipe from Scholz in a cookbook I picked up in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
I searched Scholz’ menu online and couldn’t find “schnitzel beans” but this 1987 cookbook had a whole write-up about it. I was intrigued because I love a good green bean recipe, and it seemed simple enough to make. German food is simplistic yet necessary–always building enough flavor off of genuine building blocks of taste. That’s what this recipe reminded me of–simple, yet to-the-point. No frills yet delicious.
I hope to try Scholz one of these days. Schnitzel and spatzle are two of my favorite dishes in the world and from what I’ve seen, there’s look incredible. In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate my German heritage by cooking up these schnitzel beans.
Simple and savory skillet cooked green beans with bacon and tomatoes.
- Place cleaned and trimmed green beans in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.
- Add tomatoes, onion, bacon, water, cayenne and salt to the skillet. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, until beans and onion are tender, about 15-20 minutes.