Ever heard of Catawba Catsup for your burger? Or ever heard of Concord Grape Pie? These are all leftovers from Cincinnati’s Catawba Craze, which lasted from the 1830s to the 1860s. This was the era when numerous German immigrants grew catawba grapes that fed into Nicholas Longworth’s wine industry. Some made their own wine, rather than selling the grape juice to Longworth.
One German immigrant wine enclave that was not part of Longworth’s German tenant system, was the community called South Bend or Trautman along what is now River Road. The largest wine grower there was Charles Schumann. Charles was born in Bayreuth, Germany, into the Lutheran faith, but was a member of the Freemasons in Germany, and was what was considered a Freethinker. He came to Cincinnati in 1841 with his wife and oldest son Emil and bought land on the Ohio River. His vineyards stretched close to 100 acres on the hills below Mt St Joseph and the Sisters of Charity. Other growers were the Trautman family, after whom the community would be named after the Schumanns left for Saginaw, Michigan in the 1870s. Still others were Max Wocher, to whom the Schumanns sold land, and one of his workers Ignatz Benz, and Michael Germann. Oddly enough, Michael Germann’s mothers maiden name was Hopfenstock, which means hop vine in English, the ingredient used to preserve and flavor beer!
Charles Schumann Jr., son of Charles Schumann. He helped tend the family vineyards and his wife made the family Catawba recipes. Note the grapevines on the fake wall Charles is leaning upon.
Schumann was the first Cincinnati wine grower to write a book, which he did in 1845 on methods of vine dressing. It was groundbreaking and referred to many decades by other winemakers in Cincinnati and beyond.
While Schumann and his neighbors all grew Catawba, Schumann experimented with making unfermented ‘wine’ – sort of a catawba version of the California wine called Angelica, made by the Franciscan missionaries and considered the first American wine. The angelica is still made today, with the Mission grape, a European grape brought to the area by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries and used for altar wine, as it still is today. Some don’t consider Angelia a wine because it is fortified with Brandy and usually unfermented, creating a super sweet wine that is largely considered a dessert wine. An unfounded legend in the Bens family is that Angelica wine is named for his wife Angelica Jonas Bens, but this is probably unlikely. These growers would have sold their altar wine into the Catholic community through a downtown dealer, Fred Stretter, an immigrant from Oefflingen, Baden Wuertemmburg, who was approved by Archbishop Purcell as the only dealer of church wines to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, and provided an income for winemakers throughout prohibition. Stretter was kind of the George Remus of Catawba altar wine in Cincinnati. His wine distribution system started in 1852 continued through his descendants until after Prohibition. Because he supplied native catawba wines to the Archdiocese, to this day the California and other altar wine suppliers had to make catawba wines for the Cincinnati and southwest ohio market.
Louise Schumann as a girl (left) with brother, and later in life.
Several grape recipes were passed down many generations in the Schumann family and survive in a family history in the collection of the Delhi Historical Society. Most of the recipes survived through the recipe book of Louise Schumann, the youngest spinster daughter of Charles Schumann. The recipes would have been made first by Charles wife Mathilde and also by Louise for relatives who came to the original two story frame homestead, which was torn down in 1907.
The original Schumann homestead on River Road, torn down in 1907, where many of the Catawba recipes were made and devoured.
To diversify their income, many German wine growers also grew other fruit. So it is no surprise that a recipe for Meatless Mincemeat survives in the Schumann recipe book. It calls for one pound of (catawba) raisins, 1 pound currants, ½ pound lemon peel, 1 pound sugar, 4 pounds apples, and spiced with nutmeg cinnamon. The recipe says to chop the fruit fine, mix with a half pound of butter and , put in jars, and it will keep a year without cooking. One can imagine the Schumann’s taking this out periodically to make large pies, hand pies, and to top their pfannkuckan (pancakes) or biscuits.
Another recipe is just a “cake” made with shortening, sugar, eggs milk, flour 1 cup grape or blackberry juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.
This feeds into the popularity of grape confections others made in Cincinnati’s West Side at the time and later. There was a long standing and popular Concord grape pie made by Habig’s restaurant in Westwood. Our local pie maker Simon Hubig (who would move to New Orleans and become famous there) made an Ives Seedling Grape Pie here in Cincinnati, when his bakery was in Price Hill.
One recipe that survived through Charles’ great grandson Arthur Schumann is Catawba Catsup – which is spiced with cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper. The recipe says to boil the grapes until soft, then strain through a food mill, add sugar and vinegar and boil a second time until thick, and then add the spices and boil again for fifteen minutes. Arthur says It is good, “highly spiced and great on hamburgers.” With a couple of mods, this Catawba Catsup could probably be made into a great Catawba BBQ sauce to enter into Our Lady of Victory’s Holy Smokes competition.