This weekend, you don’t have to hop on a plane to visit Germany. The 12th annual Schnitzelfest transforms Hillsborough’s Butler Park with brews, pretzels, an Oompa band, streusel and, of course, schnitzel.
“It’s got a very authentic German feel to it,” Hillsboro-Deering School District Food Service Director (and Schnitzelfest chef) Amanda Venezia said. “I am basically up to my ears in schnitzel all day.”
Schnitzelfest is on Saturday, Sept. 27, from noon to 5 p.m., and the highlight of the festival is its authentic German food. You can find all the sausage, sauerkraut, streusel and more under the big tents that will be set up in the park.
“You come around and grab your schnitzel first — which is the star of the show — and you can pick two sides,” Venezia said. “Basically schnitzel is just pounded-out pork. We get a huge pork loin and break it all down. … I would say that’s probably the number one highlight of the folks coming through.”
The fried schnitzel is hand-breaded and hand-fried, Venezia said. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, there’s also grilled schnitzel. Venezia said they started offering the grilled version four years ago. Instead of breading, the pork loin is pounded out and then marinated in extra virgin olive oil, oregano, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper before it’s grilled during the festival.
“It’s just been literally sitting and sucking in this deliciousness for 48 hours,” Venezia said.
This year, the knockwurst and bratwurst are being made locally at The Sausage Source in Hillsborough. (Knockwurst is sausage made with pork and beef, and bratwurst is made with pork, beef and veal.) Both sausages are served in hot dog rolls at Schnitzelfest. Venezia said that it only made sense to source the festival’s sausage from a local business.
“We were originally buying it from an authentic German manufacturer,” she said.
A meal ticket includes a meat option (schnitzel — fried or grilled — bratwurst or knockwurst), two sides, authentic German bread and a bottle of soda or water. Sides include traditional white sauerkraut (with apple and caraway seeds) or rotkohl, a red sauerkraut that uses shredded red cabbage cooked with bacon, red wine, apple juice and honey.
“We also do a German potato salad, which is very distinguishable to people,” Venezia said. “That’s the most popular side by a landslide. We do six 50-pound bags of potatoes, so we’re doing 300 pounds of German potato salad.”
The traditional German potato salad is made with beef broth and red wine vinegar and prepared on Friday night, “so that’s going to taste fantastic Saturday morning,” Venezia said.
All the food preparation is done Thursday (when that grilled schnitzel starts getting its marinade) and Friday night before cooking on Saturday morning.
Sweets will include struselkiukle (a streusel cake similar to funnel cake, Venezia says), tortes, kuchen and strudel.
“Those are all authentic German desserts which we get from German John’s,” Venezia said. “The Schnitzelfest was originally the brainchild of German John’s Bakery.”
The festival originally started as a way to bring something different to Hillsborough, Venezia said, and she said that Schnitzelfest is probably the busiest day for the authentic German bakery since it’s located on the same street as the festival.
“I can’t even tell you how many pretzels they sell that day,” she said.
The community gets involved, too, including the high school’s hospitality class. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Chamber of Commerce’s Hillsboro-Deering scholarship fund for seniors.
“It’s a great sense of community as well because there are so many people from around Hillsborough and the area that come to the event and have been before,” she said. “We’ve got our sign on the highway, and they know it’s coming. They’ll get excited. We start to sell tickets beforehand.”
Local beers are also highlighted during the festival. Redhook Brewery has partnered with the festival since the beginning, and last year, organizers added beer from Henniker Brewing Company. There’s wine and mead, too.
“We go through about probably six to eight kegs for the day,” said Jim Bailey, who helps coordinate the beers. “How do you go to a German festival and not drink beer?”
“People are always looking for something to do in the fall, and tourism is a big part of what makes southern New Hampshire in September and October,” Venezia said. “I think it’s just a different experience for folks. … People are always looking for a different aspect of cultures to embrace, and Schnitzelfest is a great way to do that.”
As seen in the September 25, 2014 issue of the Hippo.