Sunday, December 25, 2011



My memories of Christmas go back to when I was six years old.  Weeks before Christmas my mother was busy in the kitchen making fruitcakes for family and friends.  Today, many people see fruitcakes as “old fashioned” and even make jokes about them.  Well, I beg to differ.  I have family members who actually look forward to getting a delicious cake from me.  

Last night, I reflected on my childhood Christmas Eve.  Mom made chicken noodle soup and butterballs for supper.  After we ate and cleaned up the kitchen, we went to the Christmas program at church.  Our Sunday school teacher had us all prepared to recite our poems and sing our songs.  After the program, we each were presented with a brown paper bag of candies, assorted nuts to crack, and an orange.  Sometimes even a little gift.  I still have a cup that I got when I was eight. 

After church, we opened our presents.  I don’t remember much about a Santa Claus.  I always knew my mother did the shopping and I looked forward to a doll. 

Christmas day was a time for family and food.  Mom put the goose in the cook stove oven and then prepared all the trimmings; a regular feast.  After we ate, the women went to the kitchen to clean up and the men went to the living room and had a shot of schnapps.  The rest of the day was for visiting and eating mincemeat pies, kuchen, and Halvah.

Guess I best be getting my fruitcakes wrapped and ready for delivery.  The recipe I have given here is the one I have used since 1971.  We lived in Vallejo, California, and were unable to go back to South Dakota to spend the holidays with our family.  My children, even though young at the time: Michelle (4), Chris (2) were an inspiration to me to continue my cultural traditions.  Fruitcakes were one of them.  So, I purchased the ingredients and made my first cake.  I have made them ever since.


Bowl 1
4 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ cups flour

Bowl 2
½ cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. Brandy 
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried fruit mix
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup walnuts

Mix bowl 1 and bowl 2 together.  Pour into greased and floured baking pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for l hour and 45 minutes.  Have a pan of water in the over while cake is baking.  After the cake is cooled, I wrap it in cheesecloth soaked in brandy.

May the Peace and Happiness of the Christmas Season be with you all through the coming year. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ammonia Cookies and Honey Cakes

“GRUZNIKJE” – Ammonia Cookies and HONIGKUCHEN - Honey Cakes

Some years back, 1998 to be exact, I learned about Baking Ammonia.  I was concerned about using it for leavening, but was assured that the baking time evaporates all the ammonia.  Northern Europeans like to use it because it makes cookies light and crisp.  This is certainly true with this particular sugar cookie recipe.  They melt in your mouth.

The honey cakes taste like the outside of a fig newton bar and stay moist if you keep them in a covered tin.  They have a wonderful anise taste.  I read somewhere that “Anise” is the Spice of Christmas.  

Baking Ammonia can be difficult to find.  The best place to look is in drug stores, baking supply stores, or mail order catalogs.  Baker’s Ammonia is actually ammonium carbonate and if bought in chunks, must be crushed into a powder.

My mother always made several kinds of cookies during the Christmas holidays.  She would share them with family, friends, and neighbors.  This is a tradition I carry on.  I start my baking right about now, the middle of December.  My freezer and cupboards fill with goodies and there are even some left for Christmas Day.
If you enjoy baking, you won’t be disappointed with these recipes.


1 cup shortening
½ cup butter
2 cups white sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 ½ cups flour
2 tsp. baking ammonia (mix in flour)
1 cup flaked coconut
Powdered sugar to sprinkle on cookies

Cream shortening, butter, and sugar.  Add salt, baking ammonia, flour, and coconut.
Roll into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 325 for 20 minutes
Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar


1 ¾ cups honey
½ cup butter
½ cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. liquid anise
1 ½ tsp. baking ammonia
5 cups flour

Boil honey for one minute.  Let cool and add butter and sour cream.  Then add eggs, anise, and flour with baking ammonia.
Spread l/2 inch thick onto greased pan.  Brush on egg white.

Bake 375 for 15 minutes or until golden brown

Cut into squares

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

German-Russian Received Medals after 65 Years

“If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to the voices of those who speak to us of duty, honor, sacrifice and accomplishment.  More of their stories should be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them.”    Tom Brokaw

On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1985, my brother, Albert Elenberger, was presented with the Bronze Star Medal.  It came 40 years after he left the service.  The medal was authorized by executive order August 24, 1962, but no one knew why he had not received it.  The certificate was addressed to Technician Fourth Grade Albert Elenberger, U.S. Army for “meritorious achievement in ground combat against the armed enemy during World War II in the European-African-Middle Eastern Theater of Operations. 

Albert received the Purple Heart Medal on April 28, 1945, when he was wounded.  He was hit by shrapnel about 10 miles outside of Munich.  Albert was unattached, meaning he did not have a division so he was sent as a replacement and caught the tail end of the Battle of the Bulge.  They crossed the Maginot and Siegfried lines, both of which had land mines and other obstacles to overcome.  Albert told me, "Infantry casements were a problem for the troops, with forces bunking inside and firing anti-tank and twin-machine guns.  The Rainbow Division was waiting for massive concrete barricades to be torn down on the Siegfried line.  These barricades, called Dragon's tooth, were tank traps that made crossing the field in the heavy, armored vehicles impossible."

Albert shared more of what he remembered with me.  He told me, "I remember the dense barbed wire that had to be crossed once the tank traps were out of the way."  It was difficult for my brother to continue with the story, but he went on.  He spoke of crossing fields, swimming half the Rhine, and the Blue Danube which ran red with the blood of lost men.  "I was a Corporal in The 42 Infantry Division known as the Rainbow Division.  We passed concentration camps and prisons, freeing people as we went.  When our infantry came to the small town called Leitzing, I was hit with shrapnel."
Albert was then transferred to the traffic division and became a Sergeant. He began escorting American, French, and British Generals.  Once when he escorted General Eisenhower his bike would not start at the airport.  The General heard of the problems with the bikes and provided a contact number and information to replace them.  Albert also escorted General Patton into France and back out again.  A few days later, the jeep Patton was riding in was in an accident in Germany and he was killed. 

This photo was taken in the annual VJ Day parade in France. The parade went around the Arc de Triomphe at Champs-Elysees, the Arch of Triumph.  In the middle of the arch is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Albert remembers relighting the torch when it was America's responsibility to do so.  

Christmas Eve, 2010, my brother received the following medals from U.S. Army TA-COM, 65 years after the end of WWII:  
Bronze Star Medal (November 11, 1985)
Purple Heart (April 28, 1945)
Good Conduct Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal with Germany clasp
Combat Infantryman Badge lst Award
Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII
Sharpshooter Badge with Rifle Bar 

I am proud of my brother, Albert, and thank him and all who have served our country.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

AHSGR Headquarters - Lincoln, Nebraska

“The mission of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia is to discover, collect, preserve, and disseminate information related to the history, cultural heritage, and genealogy of Germanic settlers in the Russian Empire and their descendants.”

On October 4, my husband and I took the Self-Guided Tour of AHSGR Headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska.  This is a photo of me in front of the Germans from Russia Immigrant Family Statue which depicts the typical German-Russian immigrant family as they arrived in the United States, Canada, and South America.  Pete Felten’s sculpture portrays the faith, hardship, and endurance of the Germans from Russia.

The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia International Headquarters was built in Lincoln, in part because of the concentration of the German Russians in the capitol city.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s, German Russians made up 40 percent of the population of Lancaster county.  This means that four out of every ten people you might meet on the streets of Lincoln would be of German Russian Heritage.

This photo is of the AHSGR/Jake Sinner Headquarters building located at 631 D Street in Lincoln.  It houses a small exhibit area, a library, A.A. Flegel Genealogical Research Center, bookstore, gift shop, and museum, upstairs.  Here are a few of the photos I took in the museum.

Other buildings to tour are:  the All Faiths Chapel, the Summer Kitchen, the Barn and Manger, the Robert Kincaide Blacksmith Shop, and the General Store. 
The All Faiths Chapel was built by AHSGR in recognition of the strong religious convictions of the Germans from Russia.  This chapel houses the furnishings from the historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Denver, Colorado. The Summer Kitchen is a replica built by AHSGR, and represents a common German-Russian household.  The barn and manger once stood behind the Amen house.  The barn was in use when it was still possible to have farm animals within the city limits.  The blacksmith shop is typical of a blacksmith shop found in the German-Russian neighborhoods.  Lastly, the general store houses exhibits of items one might find in local German-Russian grocery store.  
I highly recommend visiting the AHSGR Headquarters.  You will find the people to be helpful and friendly.