The World's Best Kuchen from the Tri-County Area Contest come to the Tri-County Fair

By Carmen Rath-Wald, Logan County Extension Agent and president of the Tri-County Tourism Alliance

Rath-Wald, Carmen. "The World's Best Kuchen from the Tri-County Area Contest come to the Tri-County Fair." Official Publication of the Tri-County Fair, 1B-2B. Napoleon Homestead, 5 August 2017.


Summer may not be the typical time to enjoy kuchen. German-Russian bakers interviewed for the new Gutes Essen - Good Easting in German-Russian Country documentary and companion recipe book, shared that kuchen was always available at Easter time, and Wedding kuchen especially for weddings but not necessarily in July during fair season.

“Kuchen, well that was for Easter. Like certain words of the Germans from Russia language, you could tell a person’s religion by the kind of kuchen they baked. If it was raised you were Lutheran, if it was flat you were Catholic.” --Sue (Kaseman) Balcom

Kuchen originated in the Russia-Germany region and has since evolved into innumerable variations. In Jenny Dewey Rohrich’s (Ashley, ND), blog post for the Prairie Californian, Jenny writes, “If you think back to when you used to visit grandma’s house as a child, I am sure grandma always had some special kind of dessert for you. Whether it be some sort of cookie, brownie, or cake. For children who grew up in Germans from Russia household, that special treat is kuchen, pronounced “ku-gen,” which is the German word for cake. Kuchen is a rich custard desert with fruit poured into a sweet dough for the crust.”

Wedding kuchen has no fruit just cream, cinnamon and sugar.

Photo courtesy of Marge Horner, Napoleon, ND

Germans from Russia who made their way to this country and found a new home in the Tri-County area almost all had a variety of animals on their farm including chickens and always a cow or two. Not all memories of those days are nostalgic, because some today still remember cleaning the cones from their hand-cranked cream separator.

May German-Russian Country residents do remember being fascinated by their mothers cooking, and some shared that they would stand on a chair by the stove so they could watch their mother make strudels and kuchen. It seems like everything that was cooked or baked had a lot of cream in it.

“The old German-Russians only had flour, sugar, cream and eggs. They were endless resourceful in the use of these ingredients. It is necessary to watch a good German-Russian cook or baker (most of them are both) for those little things that are not in the recipe…” --Marge Horner.

This year, The Worlds Best Kuchen from the Tri-County Area Contest, returns to the Tri-County fair. Check out this video, for information about the cash prizes and ribbons awarded in adult and junior (18 and under) divisions. This year there will be a Business Category with a traveling trophy award. Kuchen categories include: Peach, Prune, Cottage Cheese, Rhubarb, Wedding Kuchen and other. Participants should bring one kuchen for each category they wish to enter. This contest is co-sponsored by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance and BEK Communications.

The contest is Saturday, July 15 at the Tri-County Fairgrounds near Wishek. Registration is from 11 AM to noon with judging at 1 PM and awards at 2:30 pm. For questions about the contest or for more information, visit: germanrussiancountry.org, or call Acacia Stuckle at (701)254-4811 or Carmen Rath-Wald at (701)754-2504.

“Kuchen? … If I had some fruit that the kids were tired of eating, or apples, I sliced them and you put the little bit cream and egg on top and put the sugar on top. A little brown sugar…that’s when they really get good. You can’t bake all the time cause you get FAT.” --Rose (Voller) Glas.

"I couldn't wait until mealtime. We did a lot of hard physical work back then, but we also learned a lot of values such as respect for others and common courtesy." --Sue (Kaseman) Balcom

Reprinted with permission of Napoleon Homestead.


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller