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While home for Christmas this year, I realized something. I completely took the culture of my heritage and the region I grew up in for granted. As it was with peppernuts, it wasn't until I moved away that I even realized that there was something special going on around me. It even took a trip to Las Vegas and dining in a German restaurant to help me see how much the food I grew up around wasn't just from a place, but really defined the heritage of my family.

In Vegas, we stepped into the dining room as the German band broke out into a rendition of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire — it's really hard to get away from Nashville! We opened our menus and, aside from the potato soup, nothing looked familiar to me. Granted it was a Bavarian restaurant which I'm led to believe is different than just general German, but still, nothing.

That got me thinking. Perhaps I'm less German and more German-Mennonite. One one side of my family, my Great-great-grandparents came the the States with a Mennonite colony that is still in South Dakota. In fact, my Grandmother is buried there. The community share work, cooking, eating and worship, but each family has their own house.

They are a very progressive colony as the women are permitted to wear pleated skirts. We visited with my entire extended family (my grandfather has 8 brothers and sisters, so when I say entire extended family, I'm talking about all of siblings, their kids, and their kid's kids. There's a lot of us!) one summer when I was 10 or 12. It was very interesting, but I am glad that Grandpa & Grandma decided to leave the colony!

LoriDanelle_Verenika_01

I grew up around Verenika, Zweibach, Borscht, Bierock, Sauerkraut,  and New Year's Cookies, amongst other delicacies — only I've never made  any of them! Verenika, the dough pocket stuffed with cheese curds, with ham gravy is pictured above. Definitely one of the first things I'm going to master!! I may have had too many at the weekly all-you-can eat German buffet while visiting home. . . twice.

We went the day after we got into town, and then, because it was SO good, we went again the next week! So I've sort of made a personal quest for myself. I'm going to try my hand at making these and other dishes that I grew up around. Not only because they are SO YUMMY, but because I want to make sure my girls know about these dishes. I don't want this part of my heritage to end with me.

So! Do any of you Kansas readers, or others who may have German or Mennonite roots have recipes for me?? I have an ample supple of recipes in random cookbooks, but I want tried-and-true recipes! Give me the good stuff! Seriously. ;) I'm also interesting in exploring similar recipes. In the tiny bit of research I've done I've seen that there are more general German, Russian and Ukrainian versions of many of these items, but there are characteristics that definitely make them Mennonite. I'd love to try the other versions as well to compare if you recipes to send me! I think I'm doing this in part because of the whole heritage thing, and in part because I really, really like to eat.

xoxo Lori Danelle

Comments

Sara Meisinger:

Lori, I grew up with verenika and hot cream over the top. Salt and pepper the cream first. I think that’s the way Grandma Schmidt made it. We also just deep fat fry ours rather than the boiling/griddle thing. You know, it only adds a few more calories ; ) I always use the recipe in the Schmidt cookbook. Someday, I’m going to make zwibach, but I know it won’t be as good as Grandpa John’s…something about using pure lard. Healthy stuff!! Enjoy!

May 27, 2015

Lori:

I know all about Schmeckfest! While my own private Christian High School didn’t host it, my cousins’ school did nearby. I’ve not heard of Pancoka. Is it anything like these flapjacks that I shared a few years ago? (http://loridanelle.com/family/flapjacks-with-charlie) (Although, I’ve just now seen that all my photos are gone. . . going to have to investigate that. . .)
I’ve heard of and seen Cherry Moos, but don’t think I’ve ever tried it. It’s made in other flavors as well, right?
Have you tried any of the recipes? I have a few recipes myself, but would love to start with a version that someone uses and swears by. I think I’m most nervous about the gravy! Bad gravy could ruin great Verenika. :) I’d love to try the white peppernuts though! If you want to send me any recipes, my email address is: lori[at]loridanelle[dot]com :)

May 27, 2015

Becca Reddig:

I (and my husband) were born and raised in a small German Mennonite community in Lustre, MT. Our community has a yearly Schmeckfest at the private Christian High School to raise money to keep it running. It’s a German festival of tasting and we have all those yummy foods there. On a good year we can have up to 1,000 people join us in the gymnasium for the food and the auction and the entertainment. I have a couple of cookbooks with the “official” recipes that are used by the women of the community to prepare enough food to feed an army. :) I was curious if you’ve had Pancoka (large thin pancakes) or Cherry Moos? Also, we have dark peppernuts that are like the ones you posted and then there is a recipe for soft white peppernuts. Let me know if any or all of these interest you! I could maybe scan a few of my cookbook pages for you! :) Verenika is my all time favorite!!!

May 27, 2015

Lori:

No worries!!! Please, enjoy Hawaii and don’t think twice about me! I’m so busy, I’m not quite sure when I’ll have a chance to make them anyway. Plus, I think I saw sauerkraut in the fridge, so I think my husband has some plans of his own. ;)

May 27, 2015

Lori:

I think that’s just the church they ended up at. I’m fairly certain the Walters are German, but could be wrong as I have not done as much research on the topic as you have on the Stucky/Schmidt side! But living in the South I’m realizing how special it all is and want to make sure my girls don’t miss out on that part of their history. Plus, it’s really fun to learn more about my personal heritage. I know less of it than I thought!! :)

May 27, 2015

Becca:

I’m not ignoring you! I am packing to go to Hawaii in a few days and haven’t had a chance to email anything to you yet. When we get back next week I will sit down and get some sent your way. There is also a easy/quick version of verenika that is in a casserole form. No need to stress about gravy and it’s delicious. I will send that one your way too when I get a chance to do the others. Sorry to keep you hanging!

p.s. my in-laws are Schmidts! :)

May 27, 2015

Bobbi Rexroat:

Can’t find it in either of my Schmidt cookbooks either! Sara, care to enlighten us?

May 27, 2015

Bobbi Rexroat:

Hey Lori! I don’t know about your Walter side of your family, but I always thought they were Swiss Mennonite, not German. Is that just the church your Grandparents ended up in? And as far as your Stucky/Schmidt side of the family, you are Russion Mennonite, not German Mennonite. These Mennonites did speak “low Dutch” or “low German” but never lived in Germany. They were all originally from Switzerland and Holland, then migrated to Ukraine (Stucky) and Poland and Russia (Schmidt & Buller) by invitation from the Prince there because they were such good farmers. Then in 1874 all came to America for religious freedom. You know our beloved flapjacks? They are also called Russian pancakes. Loved your article in the magazine on peppernuts!

May 27, 2015

Lori:

I looked through the Schmidt family cookbook & didn’t see a recipe for verenika! I have it in front of me now & see zwieback & bierocks, but no verenika. Am I missing something?

May 27, 2015

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