Ducks and Flowers

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

German kuchen at last made by ME!

I finally made the plunge and tried making German coffee kuchen like my mom and grandma emma used to make in Dakota .... and Martha Stewart might even be proud! I know I am proud as can be of my heritage more and more as I discover the dauhting trips my family members took over the decades to get somehow from Germany to Russia and then to Dakota in the USA by walking, boats, wagons or who knows? ( I thought it was a long way moving to Grand Island from Lincoln or to Iowa from Dakota to college or to Kansas City after college. )

I have been on a JOURNEY to research my ancestors the last two years and especially this SUMMER and part of that journey has led me to FOOD from the Germans from Russia which I remember from my childhood in Dakota -- which was created and dispensed with love in many Germans from Russia families even if they only had the staples of life around them to cook and bake.

One of these persons in my life who I remember cooking and baking all time was my Grandma Emma *until she had her stroke and ten years of not being able to cook after that her life changed dramatically. She had taught her daughter-in-law, my mom, how to do some Germans from Russia cooking fortunately and so I was able to find those recipes and some others along the way.

This was a new way of cooking for my mom who grew up in Minnesota around Swedish food mostly from her grandparents from Sweden and some German food from her mom's side of the family. For some reason we often ate some of the German from Russia foods in our home too growing up since two grandparents were German from Russia in the Black Sea area (which we did not talk about then) and my dad grew up with these foods naturally from his parents wit the German language, accent and hard working ways.

Grandma Emma was a descendent of Germans from Russia (although I did not realize it at the time) and I only heard little bits about Grandpa being from Russia somewhere in my adult years and Mom handing me a family tree and it was many years later in the last two years I have started to think more about KUCHEN and all of those things I treasure I want to pass on or record for my kids.

I do remember German Kuchen filling the tables with all flavors from prune to cottage chees at Lehr Camp in Lehr, ND. I remember being allowed to go with my dad as I was old enough when he was a Conference Superintendent in the EUB faith which became United Methodist in 1968. I recently visited Lehr, ND trying to find the old camp in this small town on our search for a bakery with Kuchen south of Bismarck, ND.

We went to all edges of the town looking for the camp and finally found it in the grove outside of the town with the aging wooden white tabernacle, church and fellowship hall kitchen building with the distinct memory of tables full of Kuchen each day and the great smells by mid morning and sights of older german women in their dresses and aprons encouraging coffee time with freshly made german kuchen and lots of dark good smelling coffee and lots of German conversations, (and I knew zero German ..... and this was followed by German Bible studies, German worship and more food and kuchen with all homemade foods being shared.

Grandma Emma taught my mom how to make borscht (german veggie beet soup) and German kuchen along with other things but it is the KUCHEN I remember the most and which I have loved all my life. So recently I talked my husband into trying to find German Kuchen in ND on our way home from a big summer trip. After some encouragement by others, I am glad to finally tackle baking it today for the first time by myself!

I had realized earlier that the main problem to trying it was that I was not paying attention while they were making it when I was young (or so I thought); and so I had to work to get the recipes, purchase a DVD at the Germans from Russia Center in Fargo ND a year ago and searching for the memories of them making it in my brain....... and finally getting half and half cream, more eggs, flour and getting up my courage today! Yes, today was the day!

I made eight German kuchen with CA plums and apricots from the store! You can see me smiling in the picture.... and we have eaten ONE already so there are only SEVEN on the table! My husband was totally amazed I have finally jumped in to try it despite the "mystery" that seemed to shroud it from the past... and the JOY!

I am very proud of myself for doing this FINALLY and breaking the ice for future baking rounds of making German Kuchen. At least we can hope! Since I am often unsure of my cooking, this was a big step for me.... I did enjoy all the textures and smells of making the sweet dough. On top of it, I love fresh fruit and pudding so they all go together to make German kuchen with cinnamon on top!

I even had a trip down memory lane remembering mom and grandma rolling out the dough, using some flour on the counter, the rolling pin..... and feeling the elasticity of the dough as I rolled it out into a roundish shape. Next I placed it into the pie pans gently to stretch the dough to help it conform to the shape of pie pan and all the memories came rushing back suddenly. I could see grandma and mom somehow shaping the sweet smelling dough around and around the pan to get it ready for fruit and custard topping with cinnamon smells in the air.

It felt good to be remembering all those who have made this before me with similar many varying recipes from the cream of their cows and what they had on hand. Then adding the various fruits or cottage cheese as the next layer and finally the pudding that had been cooled for topping. And all the smells and sights were coming rushing back to me from my past.

I suddenly knew I was able to again birth this new and old recipe in my kitchen and home know as I remembered my family and carrying on a tradition for my family now too! FINALLY! It took me quite a few years, a DVD of cooking from Fargo, ND, watching it with my sister recently and a boost from my sister who tried it first a week ago!

And it felt good to plunge in and try it finally even after the "mystery" it had become and legend in my family..... even after a summer of trips, adventures, gardening, hot days and rainy days, friends and tasty red tomatoes now appearing in the garden to be enjoyed. Thanks for sharing in this new day dawning in my life..... now we have german kuchen in our house (but not for too long probably)!!