ACKLEY — The name in German suggests a type of pancake made with bacon or side-pork.
But any way you stack it, “specken dicken” is delicious.
The hearty pan-fried treats are served up on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day by members of the Ackley Heritage Center to folks who travel from as far as Algona, Boone and Grundy Center.
“Ackley’s a German community for the most part, and specken dicken is a German pancake traditionally served at New Year’s,” said Heritage Center spokesman Jim Daggs. “We get a lot of people that come. They remember their parents and grandparents making them.”
The tradition originated in East Friesen in northwest Germany, near the border with Holland, said Marie Arends. “(Ackley) is one of the few places that they can find this.”
Ackley resident Bill Koop, 87, son of a German immigrant, comes every year for the specken dicken because no one in the family makes it much any more.
“It’s just a treat for New Year’s,” he said.
Made with rye graham flour, whole wheat flour, white flour, lard, anise flavoring and heavy syrup, the pancakes also feature bits of bacon or sausage and are served with warm maple syrup.
But the recipes vary.
Dave and Judy Dannen of Sheffield are more apt to use bologna and metwurst — a fine pork sausage — in their specken dicken, they said. Dave also likes it with raisins.
Buttermilk is often used instead of milk, said Esther Meyer of Wellsburg.
Harvin Meyer said the German specken dicken was heavier and fattier than the variety typically made in America today.
“That region of Germany was poor,” he said. “I think it was a way to indicate a good year. You weren’t going to be hungry. At least you got your fill on the first day.”
Harvin Meyer recalled once eating 36 specken dicken at one sitting.
“Now six will do me.”
Like many of the North Iowans who grew up eating specken dicken, Marlene Meyer of Ackley said it was served on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day.
“We ate them cold or hot,” she said. “We’d just eat them until they were all gone.”