This is a cookbook published in 1975 by my church in Gackle. You can find a reproduction (think Christmas gift) at https://library.ndsu.edu/grhc/order/cookbooks/cookbooklist.html.. You can find another recipe at the bottom of this post. Please ask any questions in the comment area of this blog. And, listen to the Main Street Eats episode airing today at 3 p.m. on Prairie Public Broadcasting. You can download the podcast at a later date by clicking the link on the home page of this website, or visiting theirs.
A Prairie Legacy memory
(brought to you in part by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance)
It was not a rabbit. It was
Pfeffernusse: – a German Russian Tradition.
Pfeffernuesse are traditionally a firm cookie that nearly always showed up on the Christmas goodie table at my house. They are classified a "dunker" by most people. A cookie made just for that cup of coffee after a big meal. The spices in Pfeffernuesse are quite complimentary to an after-dinner aperitif maybe only if you are a dedicated German from Russia.
These are a cookie like a fine wine -- they get better with age. Sometimes our batch lasts until Easter time when they are at their peak flavor. The flavors include ginger, cloves, cinnamon, maybe mace; blended, of course, with dark, cold coffee and honey.
The two standout flavors are pepper and anise. Hence the name "PepperNut" or Pfeffernusse.
Round and small, Pfeffernuesse look like tiny snowballs with a fresh coat of powdered sugar. They are of Dutch or German origin. Recipes can be found all over the internet, but the vintage cookbooks and recipe cards from my childhood require a strong German-Russian hand as they incorporate up to 10 pounds of flour in a single batch.
"What," you may ask could I do with that many cookies? Oh, like fine wine, Pfefernuesse age with time. If they become too hard for your palate, place the heel of your bread in the container, it will soften them. You may need to re-sugar them before serving, but they will soften up quite nicely even if you don't have them stored in the freezer.
Baking flavorful Pfeffernuesse cookies requires fresh spice and a specific type of anise. Anise the spice is not star anise that you may find in Chinese Five Spice Powder.
Our anise is a seed.
Spice is part of a plant, other than leaves when dried can become a flavoring ingredient in cooking. Spices can be produced from seeds (anise, cumin, coriander, mustard, and many others), bark (cinnamon), fruit (peppercorns, vanilla), roots (horseradish), or flower buds (cloves). If you are fortunate enough to find whole cinnamon and nutmeg, you can grind or pulverize in a mortar and pestle you very own very fresh spices.
The anise that makes the best cookies is an essential oil. You can find anise ground, whole or as an extract. But, I prefer the oil for cookies, since the flavor is more intense and stays with the cookie.
Olive Nation, King Arthur, and Amazon are just a few places to source anise oil. Be sure and purchase from a baking supply company to make sure you are receiving food grade oil.
If you are unfamiliar with anise, it is akin to the flavor of black licorice; which is the only true licorice there is. Perhaps Pfeffernuesse are an acquired taste, one that stems from Christmas on the prairie in German-Russian country. But, we will save more on GR Christmases for future posts.
Accept no substitute for the homemade variety of this traditional cookie. SO, here is my recipe and a second smaller one for you to bake this weekend. Don't forget to allow the cookies to age until Christmas; unless you drop one on the floor - those are always fair game.
No, I don't recall my grandmother ever serving cranberries. My mother, of course, slid them from a can. As children, we loved those wiggly slices of semi-sweet fruit called cranberry.
'Tis the season of cranberry and harvest time ends in November. Most cranberries grow in the bogs of Cape Cod (Massachusetts), New Jersey, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon, and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. After harvest cranberries are bagged, juiced, or as aforementioned cooked with sugar and stuffed into a can.
Oh yeah, those little tart berries, like our North Dakota's chokecherries, need to have sugar added to make them palatable. Of course, the native population used them in combo with dried venison and fat to ma,e pemmican. The Pequot Indians of Cape Cod called them ibimi, meaning bitter berry.
Cranberries were wild until about 1816 when the pilgrims and the rest of us began grooming them as a crop. Cranberries were used to prevent scurvy (remember scurvy from history class?) and have since been proclaimed a superfood with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant compounds.
Sure, your children might enjoy them more from a can, but you can make your version of superfood cranberry sauce by following the directions on the back of the bag.
Basic sauce merely is sugar and water and cranberries and a wee bit of time. You can add to your "relish" with other in-season fruit like oranges, lemons or apples. Here is another simple recipe.
Cranberry orange relish
1 pound cranberries
2 small unpeeled oranges, quartered and seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur (this is optional, as I do not have a stocked liquor cabinet.)
Yield: Makes about 5 cups
Southern Living's website had not one, but 19 recipes for cranberries including this one making use of dried cranberries, or as we call them craisins.
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 small lemon, sliced and seeded
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
NOTE: Dried cranberries can be sourced year-round; a great addition to any salad or cookie or scone recipe you might be cooking up in your kitchen. Be sure and grab a few bags to throw in your freezer to brighten up your entire year with those tasty red berries.
To hear the rest of the story. CLICK here, and you will find the link to the PPB Main Street podcast on the topic of cranberries.
How do I know this? Well, I have been receiving seed catalogs in the mail and that means it's time to start planning the garden. When I see the snow covered garden beds as I gaze across the lawn towards the river, I visualize the cloves of garlic under a blanket of snow. I remember planting them in October on a cold and snowy day, just before the ground permanently froze.
O lovely seed catalogs. Remember the Sears wish book of long ago. Today it has been replaced by online shopping. How we waited and waited for that catalog to come in the mail. How we poured over pages of toys we never received. But the anticipation of it all was so much more rewarding than ownership.
These days that wish book has been replaced by seed catalogs. Totally Tomatoes won out this year as being the first in my mail box. I took advantage of Prairie Road Organics Small Business Saturday offer and ordered my first batch (of many, I'm sure) seeds.
Oh, yeah, I have limited garden space, but always unlimited imagination when it comes to growing heirloom and unusual varieties of seed. I'm really trying to keep it down to what sells well at the farmers market.
It's been so gray the past few weeks, I wonder what phase the moon has entered. This is the time of year it creeps across our quilts at night and disappears into the trees to the west. Once the clouds clear, it may also bring the cold of deep winter. So just for fun:
Here's a poem I memorized when I was in the memorization stage of my life...
"I heard a bird sing in the deep of December,
A beautiful thing
And sweet to remember
We're closer to spring
than we were in September
Sang a beautiful bird
in the deep of December."
That's probably not entirely correct, but it's close.
And, hey, if you need seed advice, just leave me some questions in the comments section. I would be happy to influence your purchasing decisions.
As a child, I gave no thought to where I came from, who my ancestors were, or why I do the things I do. Later in life, I began asking questions. Sometimes I was not prepared for the answers. There are things in life we cannot change.
Looking back, I see now how I might have exasperated my dad or broke my mother's heart while exercising my right to explore and grow into adult life.
When the novel comes out, be prepared. I say that jokingly ... well, sort of.
On the lighter side, when I need reminders of why I am the way I am I visit with my cousins. Holy cow. The way we speak about things and mannerisms and political views and food and such are very similar. It could be we are pretty much cut from the same four bolts of fabric, and I do not joke when I say that.
Today's memory was triggered by a memory of my cousin's daughter's wedding. We made 100 or maybe 200 kuchen together. As you know to try to live up to all those pre-conceived notions of how good kuchen tastes. Well, that's a lot of pressure.
The moment that sticks out in my mind, however, was the cream for the pudding. Emptying the carton into the measuring cup, my cousin said, "Now pour the milk into the cream carton. Then pour it in the pot, so we don't waste any cream."
We are a frugal people.
Every time I make a batch of kuchen pudding, I will think of Marion. And every time I wonder about why I do the things I do I think of all the cousins around my age. Some days I wish I could go back into time as a spectator and watch us interact as an enormous family, especially at holidays.
I'm baking today and remembering and putting all that love into the oven.
PS: I rinsed out the cream container with the milk. Thoroughly...
Main Street Eats episode on carrots.
When one brags about the size of garden vegetables grown in your own garden, there has to be a point of reference as to the actual size of the vegetable. One day while posting carrot photos, someone asked me to show how big those carrots really are. So, here we are, my spouse and I, showing off our carrot harvest using a butcher knife as reference.
Carrots are such a joy. They usually store in the root cellar so we can enjoy carrots at our Easter meal in the spring. You can make carrot cake, carrot soup and more. So download the Main Street Eats with Root Seller Sue podcast on carrots HERE .
Learn how simple it is to make a soup from your squash and carrots in upcoming segments.
If you are experiencing an over-abundance of apples this fall there are many recipes for canning, freezing and eating that harvest. The simplest and most well-received cake I have ever made has got to be German Apple Cake.
No, I don't know why it is called German Apple Cake, except that it resembles a German Apple Pancake with cream cheese frosting.
Maybe it's the frosting that does it but you have to try it. It mixes in a single bowl, bakes in an hour and wow, it's fantastic.
Try it, and let me know what you think.
CLICK HERE FOR MAIN STREET and the Root Sellers on Wishek's Sauerkraut Day coming up next Wednesday, Oct. 10.
It's like going home. A visit to the cemetery is a family history lesson and standing in line while waiting for lunch gives one an opportunity to catch up to relatives.
A bittersweet day of remembering my roots.
Last Friday was a red-letter day for mail at my house. I received not only one, but two handwritten notes, in the mail last Friday. A red-letter day. NO other mail, just real letters. There is so much to miss about real letters.
Of course, one was a thank-you note from my niece, but it was personal, the other was about the book, "Women Behind the Plow."
It was from Clayton Schaeffer, a pastor from Buchanan, who saw a Gottlieb Kaseman's obituary in the Jamestown Sun. He connected a few dots and found my address and wrote a lovely two-page letter about how he read the book and recalled the family from Wishek back in the day.
Weirdly enough, someone contacted me recently through Facebook about that book. It was shortly before my Uncle Howard died. This message said this woman, Lisa, was at a birthday party and one of her sisters, Kim, saw her maiden name on someone’s phone… (I hope I got that part of the story correct.)
So they asked, “Why is my name on your phone?" The person said, “It’s not your name, that’s my sister-in-law from Jamestown.”
“Well, that’s my maiden name, also” she said.
Then, the connections began.
It seems that the person contacted me on Facebook because we were both Kasemans. Her sister works with my brother Curt’s wife, Kim’s, brother’s wife. Follow that one home. The person who contacted me was I believe Kim Kaseman's sister, Lisa (Kaseman) Klatt, who is one of four Kaseman girls born to Lenis Kaseman. Len just happens to be the son of Gottlieb Kaseman, the person that Clayton wrote to me about.
And, yes, Gottlieb was my Grandfather Edward’s brother. He frequently attended family dinners at the holidays at my Grandparents home in Wishek. As a young girl, I was fascinated and slightly afraid of this one-eared old man. Gray hair grew out of the hole in the side of his head. We never saw that side of his head in photos of Gottlieb because he always turned slightly away from the camera.
There were many rumors about how that happened, none the least that frightened my mother so much that we were warned continually to “stay away from the pig pen. Don’t climb on the fence, don’t fall in, stay away.”
I had the opportunity to talk to Len, who I would have never known if not for the message from Lisa about the fact we were both Kasemans who had a common connection with the Sturmas.
So I asked Len to clear up the story about my Great Uncle Gottlieb.
When Gottlieb was a young boy, he was either napping or just playing the yard when the pigs got out of the pen. They would have been Bernard Kaseman’s pigs, Gottleib's father, my grandfather’s father, and father of the Kaseman family near Wishek. As one passed by the young boy, it chomped off the ear. For the rest of his life he had to live with this disability. There were never any complaints or negative comments made… it was just a fact of life.
Some days my heart aches for those times. Hard times I suppose for those homesteading families, but think about what had to take place for the connection to be made between Lisa (Kaseman) Klatt and myself. A serious of fortunate events and a chance glance at a cell phone. Then with technology, Lisa found me; while with a handwritten vintage way of communication, Clayton found me. So two things. I had the chance to visit with one of my dad’s cousins at the funeral of my Uncle Howard and maybe I will get the opportunity to join Clayton in the German Advent service he conducts in Bismarck. Another fond memory that will soon be extinct in this world.
Don't let that bread go to waste. Once your sourdough is past its prime, you can still use it for tomato and bread salad... jump back to the video on the home page here.
And, don't forget, farmers markets are loaded with wonderful tomatoes in all varieties. See bread tips under the bread header... oh wait? Are you a Bread Head? I'll let you know what kind of bread I'm baking bad for Saturday, Sept. 15.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, I will be at the TSC Farm Supply Store north Bismarck location to celebrate their farmers market promo... come see me there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.