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German and Russian Holiday Foods
Electronic mail message from Mary Lynn Axtman,
Fargo, North Dakota
Holiday Greetings to each of you,
Growing up in Pierce County, ND with half it's population as Kutschurganers
directly from Russia and their descendants, some of the distinctly
German and or Russian food items that
were always present during the twelve days of Christmas, Christmas
Eve to the Feast of the Three Kings in January included:
-- Halvah, a Turkish sesame treat made with crushed sesame seeds sweetened
and flavored with vanilla and/or chocolate. The primary company and
brand name is the JOYVA Company in New York. Have several blocks of
it in my fridge right now for our Christmas Day dinner. The country
of Turkey is close to the Ukraine.
-- Fruits and nuts: remember the efforts in the early German Colonies
to plant trees and vineyards surrounding their villages? In later
years, these produced copious amounts of fruits and nuts for their
use. Wine with a light alcohol content was drunk at most evening meals
or with guests. Fruits, fresh or dried found their way into baked
goods such a fruit custard kuchen or the traditional fruit cakes that
were wrapped in wine soaked fabric and aged well in a cool cellar.
Cherries, fresh in the summer and dried for the winter were used in
large amounts and were also a reminder of those back in the colonies.
Here, chocolate covered cherry or other dried fruit candies were made
in large amounts for the Holidays by my family. Have some of those
also. Almonds were another favorite nut used in holiday foods. Marzipan,
ground almond paste, was also used for candies. An overflowing bowl
of nuts and nutcrackers were always present for the usual card games
with family and guests. Peanuts and larger amounts of available sugar
seemed to have been the North American contribution to their Holidays.
-- Fish and Herring: the Holidays were not complete without a large
jar of pickled herring. The Black Sea and rivers near the colonies
had large amounts of fish and herring that were used and preserved.
Have a jar of pickled herring in my fridge for Christmas also.
-- Schnapps: The Russian government had the monopoly on all the grain
produced and a major product was the alcohol, vodka and other hard
liquor beverages. Thus, in our homes there was always a bottle or
several of prepared burnt sugar, water and Everclear alcohol ready
for Holiday guests, parties, weddings and for the evening of New Years,
those 'Shooting in the New Year' guests who made the rounds. Also
have some in my fridge right now.
-- Don't believe that chocolate might have had any Russian roots but
for each of my grandparents with some twenty to thirty grandkids,
a nickel Hershey candy bar for each was considered to be a wonderful
and special gift for us. Couldn't get by with that today!!
Hope this might give you some 'flavor' of how our Kutschurganer families
assimilated some of the old country and the new country foods into
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by contacting Michael