Friday, January 2, 2015
Don't Forget the Kuchen!
What has value?
If you have ever been in the unenviable position as I have in the past few years of having individuals in your life pass to the great beyond, you find yourself questioning that.
In cleaning up my in-law's home after my father-in-law's passing, you realize that the things that often have the most value are the things that would have the least monetary value. Standing in the detritus of someone's life, what do you keep and what do you pitch?
When we were cleaning out their household the most valued things were those that were passed down or had meaning. Steve's grandmother's upright baby grand piano, her music chest (I didn't even know such things existed!) that housed not only his music from college and his sister's but even his grandmother's from college in 1923!
Then of course are the pictures, many dating back to the turn of the century with faces and names lost in the passing generations. It's always interesting to see the younger versions of people that you've always known in only one way. To see what they were doing in pictures, what they were interested in and who were their friends. Also their younger school days.
And the history that you never experienced that died out before you were born. S&H stickers, ration books and institutions that went away long ago.
Then the goldmine...
In a two drawered metal box which had the look of a library file system where the family recipes. Generations of women's lives in little 3x5 index cards. Some typed, some handwritten, some with notes to tell you what to add or delete for next time. I love old recipes and cookbooks for this reason. These were women's everyday lives, creating meals for their families to not only keep them fed but to fed their soul. The pieces of paper passed between friends, cut out of newspapers or passed down from mother to daughter. In my book, Marguerita Acworth's Georgian cookery, it is mentioned how her mother wrote many of the recipes found in the early pages of her cookbook from the 18th century and how this was passed down to her son upon her death. Cookbooks have been a tie to the past in this manner since time immortal. I love that my college even has a special collection of cookbooks because they recognize the value of women's experiences in feeding their family through history. http://clements.umich.edu/longone-archive.php
My mother-in-law's family was Dutch and German. Her recipes often read, "mix until it looks right" or "season until it tastes right", which is always fun when you've never tasted the original. In making her stuffing for my husband over Thanksgiving, I had a personal triumph when he said it tasted just like hers! Yeah. So here is one of her recipes I thought I'd share from the "treasured box". This is for her Kuchen that my husband raves about. (He also said she made a mighty fine spaezle I may have to try.
Preheat 375 degrees for 20-25 mins
2 cups milk (lukewarm)
1/2 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 yeast cake (2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
5 cups flower
1 Tbsp salt
As you can see as a typical recipe from someone that knew how to make it, there are no directions. I did a websearch and so I mixed it per their directions and I think it turned out alright. I did not add the 1cup of Crisco (honestly I simply forgot it) but I think if I did it may have been too soupy.
Dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Let cool a bit and then add beaten eggs and butter. Mix the remaining dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and incorporate into wet mixture gradually. Once it forms a dough, knead for about 5 mins and put in a bowl to rise for about 1 hour. Now having never made this I asked my husband, should the dough be sticky?
"I don't know", he said, "I was a kid. I ate it. It tasted "Kucheny".
Not a lot of help, but funny.
Mine was so I added about two more cups of flour. It came out a bit too bread like, I should have followed the recipe.
Now my husband's mother never put in a custard but I've seen several versions both with and without custard. My mother-in-law's recipe put sour cream and a mix of sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. I had no sour cream so choose to put on some drained fruit that I canned and mixed it. It was good but my husband said that he remembered his mother putting cottage cheese into it with drained fruit, usually apple. Steve said that the flavor was what he remembered but the edges should be a bit more crispy.
Otherwise he said it was dead nuts. So we'll try it sometime in the future again. If you make this recipe, don't add in the additional flour and let me know how it turns out.
On a side note, the boys baked bread on their week off for the holidays. It turned out pretty good! They wanted a little web-cred sent their way so here it is: