The sun’s bright beams flickered across my face. Savory fragrances wafted into the bedroom. My senses began to awaken. The aroma of garlic, onion, pork, peppers, and a variety of spices encouraged me to rise from my slumber. My visit to Texas, mixed with my rich German heritage, led me to suspect I might soon enjoy delectable German cuisine. After all, the aroma of fried pork was so distinct that I knew it could only be one thing: German pan haus.
My maternal extended family emigrated from Germany to Texas in the mid-1800s. I grew up in a region of Texas heavily influenced by German culture. German cuisine has been a robust part of my culinary upbringing. Sausages, bratwurst, and German potato salad were all anticipated dishes at family gatherings. Having the distinct joy of being a fourth-generation Texas-German American, the rustic and cultural flavors of the area have combined with traditional German fare to generate mouth-watering dishes. These dishes are full of tang, zest, and precise seasonings. Their aromas and flavors always keep me yearning for more.
History of German Pan Haus
Recalling the fragrances, a desire to understand my ancestral roots is uncovered. Aspiring to bring beloved German cuisine into my own kitchen, I also long to not lose family history to our fast-paced modern-day culture. A desire grows in wanting to share these dishes with future generations. I want to use them to tell our family’s story. Pan haus is one of those distinct dishes that beg to be passed down through the generations. After all, the flavor and spices have been developed through decades of influence from Texas-Germans and seasonings. Subsequently, there is a rich history to pan haus directly tied to their German roots.
Historically speaking, pan haus has entertained a variety of spellings through the generations (everything from panhaus, panhas, to pannas). Moreover, pan haus has often been confused with the Dutch staple of scrapple. Many of the first recipes stem from German colonists who settled around Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. The recipe, brought across the Atlantic Ocean, was used while immigrants pioneered their way toward settlement into their new surroundings. Consequently, both pan haus and scrapple had the distinct relationship of using every last scrap from a butchered hog.
Both scrapple and pan haus use broth made from the bones of the hog. Both recipes also use various parts of the pig typically considered unusable. Therefore, individuals argue there is no difference between pan haus and scrapple. However, over the generations, and through the diversity of Dutch and German cultures, pan haus has truly diverged into becoming a distinct culinary ancestor of scrapple.
German Pan Haus Passed Down Through the Family
My family’s knowledge of pan haus is directly related with our ancestry as a Low German (or Low Saxon) from the North Seas Germanic region. First, our relatives emigrated from Roetgen Bie Aachen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany and present day Thuringia, Germany, along with the northern parts of Germany once known as Prussia. Needless to say, my immediate family has a strong German heritage. Furthermore, when our ancestors boarded various vessels within the years of 1845-1846, they set sail for different ports in Texas. Ultimately landing in Galveston and Indianola, their journey would continue westward. After several months of travel, they would finally settle in the Hill Country of Texas.
As history does a fast-forward to the early 1940s, my uncle can recount memories from his boyhood. While World War II was raging and food rations experienced, my uncle witnessed the stereotypical frugal nature of our German heritage. He recalls a long-ago memory of visiting the family ranch in Guadelupe County in the Hill Country of Texas. Walking around outside, he witnessed Oma, an elder relative who had emigrated from Roetgen Bie Aachen, Germany, who readily tended to the hog’s head boiling in a cauldron over a roaring fire. The hog’s head contained the tenderized and seasoned meat for the pan haus. In my uncle’s words,
“In my boys’ mind, it was simply my German family carrying on the traditional way of German culture. Oma used every last morsel of the hog butchered from the ranch.”Bryan Klenke
Modernizing the German Pan Haus Recipe
By and large, my personal recollection of preparing pan haus is much more refined. With the days of rationing food a memory of the past, our family recipe has been adapted to embrace our modern lifestyle.
On the whole, the pan haus of my generation has deliciously taken on the seasoned flare of rustic Texas cuisine. Texas-Germans have capitalized by adding their own local spices and pan haus fries up to make a delicious breakfast dish. It is an appetizing complement to any eggs and pastries delivered to the table. Pan haus continues to live up to the legacy of being a satisfying, budget-friendly, and savory German dish.
Adapted German Pan Haus Ingredients
Overall, pan haus is prepared from a pork roast that has simmered in water over several hours. Once fully cooked, the roast is ground and placed back into the broth to simmer. Ultimately, this process ensures nutrients and minerals are fully retained within the meat. With the addition of garlic, cloves, allspice, peppers, salt and onion, even the pickiest appetite will quickly follow the tantalizing aromas!
Below is the recipe I grew up enjoying throughout my childhood. Shared by my great aunt, she was my maternal grandfather’s sister. Subsequently, pan haus was enjoyed in the German home of my maternal grandparents, Diedrich and Evelyn Klenke:
Klenke Pan Haus Recipe
- 2 1/2-3 pound pork roast
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon clove
- 1 bud garlic, (cut fine)
- 1/2-1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 flour
First, cover the pork roast with water. Boil the roast until done (approx 6 hours) or use an Instant Pot pressure cooker. If using an Instant Pot, set to Meat/Stew and cook for approximately 90 minutes (until it shreds easily and falls off the bone).
Second, pour off the juice, saving much of it. Grind the meat and place it back in the juice. Simmer on the stove in a Dutch oven adding the red pepper, garlic, onion, and spices.
Lastly, add the cornmeal a little bit at a time. Additionally, alternate with some flour until thick. (Adding more cornmeal than flour)
Ultimately, the meat should swim in juice at first and then thicken to a mashed potato consistency. Form into a loaf and refrigerate. When firm, slice and fry.
Guten Appetit! (Enjoy your meal)
In the morning, heat oil in a cast-iron skillet. Next, slice the pan haus into thin slices and place it into the hot skillet. Lastly, fry 2-3 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown.
Enjoy pan haus plain, or with maple syrup. Additionally, enjoy pan haus with a fried egg and toast. All in all, it a delicious and satisfying breakfast that hails all the way from northern Germany and the 17th century!
For additional savory food and recipes, check out these recipes from fellow We Spot authors:
Jeanne Hutchinson, A Blissful Trifecta of Flavors for a Refreshing Meal and Julie Giroux, The Best 35 Minute Enchilada Recipe.