Volga German Recipes

Oktoberfest is fast approaching and is celebrated as well in western Kansas where many of my mother’s relatives live. If you are driving towards Denver, Colorado, stop in at Hays and try the Volga German brewery there called Gella’s. It is a neat place. A lot of folks from around Hays, Kansas come from Volga German roots.  The Volga Germans were actually Russian immigrants.  They got their name from settling in Russia during the Reign of Catherine the Great. They were of German descent but lived near the Volga river.  In the late 1800’s, they moved in masse to America and settled mostly in the plains of the Midwest.  Some Volga Germans that remained in Russia were later persecuted and sent to Siberian work camps in the early 1900s.

My own vocabulary today is peppered with some Volga German words.  If someone sneezes near me, my automatic reaction is to say like my Grandfather used to for us when we were little, “Gesundheit!”  It was a Volga German form of saying, “Good health to you!” instead of the usual “Bless you.” My grandfather also had a tradition of giving everyone a dollar on New Year’s Eve. He said a person should always start off the New Year right with at least a dollar in their pocket.

Last night, I made for my family a Volga German recipe for ham, green bean, and dumpling soup along with my Mom’s peanut butter pie recipe which comes from Hays.   Here are three recipes you can try for a hearty Volga German meal:

Ham, Green Bean & Dumpling Soup

4 cups fresh green beans

1 finely diced potato

1 cup chopped onion

3 quarts water

2 cups diced ham

1 can chicken or beef broth

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup sweet cream

Dumplings mixture:

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Cook green beans, ham, and potatoes in water until tender.  Add salt, pepper, and broth.  Saute onions in butter in small saucepan and set aside.  Spoon out dumplings about the size of a dime by dipping the spoon into the hot soup and then the batter.  When dumplings raise to the top of the soup, reduce the heat.  Add the onions, butter, and cream.

Another Volga German favorite is bierocks which are similar to hot pockets.  They consist mostly of hamburger, cheese and cabbage rolled up in a sweet bread that you dip in ketchup and mustard.  Here also is that Volga German recipe:

Bierocks

4 and 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

2 packages dry yeast

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup shortening

2 eggs

Measure 1 and 3/4 cup flour into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in sugar, salt, and yeast.  In a separate bowl, heat milk, water, and shortening until warm.  Pour into flour mixture.  Add eggs and beat with electric mixer at low speed for three and 1/2 minutes.  Then add remaining flour.  Cover dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel.  Let set for 20 minutes, then roll the dough out.

Filling:

1 lb ground beef

1 onion chopped

2 cups chopped cabbage

cheese (either American cheese slices or shredded cheese of your choice)

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Brown the beef and onion.  Wilt the cabbage in butter and add to beef with salt and pepper to taste.

To create a bierock, section out a square of the rolled out dough.  Put 3 spoonfuls of meat/cabbage mixture in the center of the square with some cheese on top.  Bring the corners to the center and pinch the dough edges together.  Place smooth side of the bierock on a greased baking sheet (or parchment paper).  Using a brush, coat the top of the bierock with melted butter and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

This recipe is similar to a pie served at the Pheasant Run restaurant in Hays which is frequented by hunters during pheasant season out in western Kansas.

Peanut Butter Pie

1 baked pie shell

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 package vanilla pudding mix

1 package Dream Whip

Bake and cool the pie crust.  Make a filling by crumbling together 1/2 cup peanut butter and the powdered sugar.   Put most of this at the bottom of the cooled pie crust.  Reserve some to garnish the top of the pie.  Make the package of vanilla pudding according to the directions.  Cool and pour over the crumb mixture in the pie shell.  Mix 1 package of Dream Whip and pour on top of the pudding.  Sprinkle with rest of crumb mixture and garnish the top with a cherry.  Chill the pie in the refrigerator until served.

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