A Tasty Tradition to Welcome the New Year
by Debra Hiebert, HCHM Director
Many cultures have favorite dishes for the holidays, including New Years Day. The many Mennonite immigrants who settled Harvey County in the 1870's and 1880's brought a traditional recipe used to welcome each new year. New Years Cookies are less like a cookie and more like a fritter or sugar doughnut. The low German name is portzilke, and means "tumbling over," a reference to the way the fritters turn themselves over in the frying oil. Many recipes exist, but all are fairly similar. One recipe is from Augusta (Dirksen) Schroeder, wife of Herman P. Schroeder. The Schroeders lived on Anderson Avenue (between 12th Street and Old 81) and farmed the surrounding fields. Both Augusta and Herman were first-generation Americans, living in Harvey County for most of their lives. Augusta's recipe for New Years Cookies follows the basic format:
New Years Cookies (Augusta)
1 c. raisins or prunes - soak overnight. Next morning boil up with water.
Take 1/2 c. of this juice and soak 1 cake yeast, 1 T. sugar, 1 t. salt.
Add 1 c. milk, 2 eggs and enough flour to make a bubbit dough. (Authors note: Bubbit was a holiday baked bread dressing to accompany roast meat, and contained either dried fruit, such as raisins, or small meat pieces.) After it has raised, stir or fold dough over. In meantime, heat Crisco and fry by spoonfuls in Crisco 'til brown.
The fried "cookies" were then rolled in sugar or drizzled with frosting. Augusta's recipe shows a modern substituion with Crisco, as the fritters were traditionally fried in lard. New Years Cookies are still served in Harvey County at special events, such as Fall Fest at Bethel College in North Newton. And, of course, in many private homes to welcome in a new year.
Does your family have a traditional meal or recipe to celebrate New Years Day? Share with our readers in the comments section. And have a 2013 filled with both traditional favorites and the best of today on your table!