Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast:The Food Culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota

By Sue Balcom

Tri-County Tourism Alliance, Napoleon, North Dakota, 2013, 120 pages, Hardcover.

Book Review by Bernelda Becker, September, 2013

Prairie Legacy: German-Russian Country

Making of Kase Knephla (cheese buttons) with Sue (Kaseman) Balcom, Mandan, North Dakota, author of Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast

Ewiger Saatz – Everlasting Yeast tells an engaging story of how the Germans from Russia fed their families in the early years of homesteading in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota.

This 120-page full color, 12-inch by 12-inch hardcover book contains recipes, handwritten recipe cards, photographs and interviews done with residents of the three counties. The stories and memories are heartwarming and depict a time when everyone worked for food.

Sue Balcom, author of the book shares: “This is not a book written about the Germans from Russia, this is a book written BY the Germans from Russia that still live in the three counties today.”

On these pages, the food culture of the immigrants that came to North Dakota in the 1880s and 1890s with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, is told with their own voice. This book published by the Tri-County Tourism Alliance of the three counties was created by volunteers who collected transcripts of recorded interviews, old photographs, handwritten recipes and oral and written memories donated to the project by the descendants of this unique group of hardworking people.

True to the familiar mantra of the Germans from Russia “Arbeit macht das Leben süß” which translated to the English means “work makes life sweet” to survive everyone had to work for food. Included in the stories are recipes for familiar foods like sauerkraut and pickled beets and the not-so-familiar recipes for “flesch kechla” and “swatamaga.”

Whether you can duplicate the delightful dough dishes of these recipes or just want a good read, this book will provide many vignettes of life on the Northern Plains, which bound together make up the rich food culture of the Germans from Russia.

Sue (Kasemen)  Balcom, editor for the book, said, “This project brought me home again. My heart aches for my grandparents. If I had known them, what I know now about these Germans from Russia, I may have lived my life differently. This book is a lasting legacy to my heritage. One of the most rewarding projects I have ever been part of.”

In the Foreword, Tom Isern, Professor of History and University Distinguished Professor at NDSU, writes, “ No Americans are more fiercely fond of their sausage than the German-Russians, and they pair their sausage with kraut.  At the same time, they raised pumpkins in their bashtan (Russian borrowed word for garden) and make them into blachinda (Russian borrowed word for a turnover).”

Carmen Rath-Wald, President of the Tri-County Tourism Alliance, and Logan County Extension Agent, comments, “One of my earliest memories is of standing on a chair and watching my German-Russian grandmother stirring chocolate chip cookie dough in her chipped green enamel bowl. She died when I was just four years old, but with each chocolate chip cookie I eat, I remember her, and how she made me, her ‘Mitzi’, feel as we talked in her little kitchen. It is memories like this that, “Ewiger Saatz”, recalls for me and those memories connect me to the important past. This connection to heritage and culture is the crux of the book with the food as the vehicle.”

Acacia Jonas Stuckle, Emmons County Extension Agent, writes, “It is the food traditions of the Germans from Russia that will keep our heritage alive. Every time I make strudels or knoephla, I am teaching my own children about their culture. They will not learn to speak their ancestor’s dialect and they may never learn to polka, but they will eat the foods their ancestors once prepared. This book is an important tribute to the past and an even more important relic for our future.”

"While the food was simple. It was very important for feeding the family. I hope that people continue to prepare these homemade delicacies and pass the recipes on to others who will share them with others. By doing this, we can connect with the past and let the good cooks and bakers feed us once again. I thank all the folks who share these recipes in “Ewiger Saatz – Everlasting Yeast” with us." – Merl Paaverud, Director, State Historical Society of North Dakota

"Mix equal parts history, culture, enlightening stories and classic recipes and you get “Ewiger Saatz – Everlasting Yeast.” This book conveys the rich heritage of the Germans from Russia in new generations hungry for knowledge about the early lifestyles and foodways of their Northern Plains ancestors." – Andrea Winkjer Collin, Editor, North Dakota Horizons

"This book honors the rich and enduring foodways culture of the Germans from Russia who came to south central North Dakota in the last decades of the 19th century. No stranger to migration, these emigrants brought their agricultural, livestock, gardening, preserving and culinary skills with them from Central Europe to South Russia and finally to Dakota Territory and now, through the efforts of the Tri-County Tourism Alliance, their story is preserved in this beautiful book." - Michael M. Miller, Director & Bibliographer, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Libraries, Fargo

“Described as the "food culture of the Germans from Russia in Emmons County, Logan County and McIntosh County, North Dakota," the general subject is German-Russian foodways. This is not, strictly speaking, a cookbook; it is a description of a way of life, with detailed attention to the handling of food, and with numerous recipes, including such German-Russian favorites as Kuchen, Fleischkeuchle, and Strudla. Lavishly illustrated with photographs and primary documents, this work is compelling to read and handy as a culinary reference.” – Dr. Tom Isern, Professor of History & Distinguished University Professor, North Dakota State University, Fargo

Great Food History!
By Christi Enzminger on July 22, 2014. Amazon.

I love this book! I am a food historian and love recreating meals and menus from the past. My husband has some German from Russia heritage in his family, and I have studied their foodways for about five years now. We have enjoyed reading this book and making its recipes. Sue has done a great job of sharing her own history, women's history, and the history of the Germans from Russia - a people who left overcrowding in Germany to homestead an area in Russia under harsh conditions only to be forced to leave again, homesteading on poor land in North Dakota. These are amazing people who do great things with only a few staple foods, and Sue had told their story well.

It is a Wonderful book, and Worth the Money
By Inez Rose on February 15, 2015. Amazon.

I was told this book had been sold out, but was able to find one anyway. It brought back a lot of memories of when I grew up: the way my parents and grandparents lived, the wonderful times we had butchering and making sausage, cooking strudla and blachinda, etc. There are lots of recipes and pictures to which I can relate. A wonderful historical item!

All I Can Say is 'Wow'
By Bernice c. Trautman on March 6, 2014. Amazon.

I grew up in this area, so many photos in the book are of my biological grandma. I remember the cookstove, I do not remember her, however, as she passed away before I was born. I have, and use, many recipes from the book, also. I am thankful most of them are online, now, as well. My grandmother is on the hardcover making the bread dough. I remember the dish, as well.

Cookstove: Mrs. Emma (Kramer) Bettenhausen using corn cobs for fuel. Her son, Edgar, is leaning again the stove. McIntosh County, North Dakota, 1940. (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Collection)
Sausage: Mary Voller, Pa Voller and Mike Wolf on their way to begin butchering with a good knife and a sausage stuffer. Circa 1940s. (Rose (Voller) Glas Photograph)
Milking: Bonnie (Kautz) Wiskus, daughter of Edwin Kautz, milking the cow, Jesse. “Back then we always wore dresses. I wore dresses or skirts in college. I graduated in 1963.” (Bonnie (Kautz) Wiskus Photograph)
Christina Woehl and Bertha Schaffer caught in the act of baking pies. Circa 1950s. (Randy Woehl Photograph)

Ewiger Saatz - Everlasting Yeast

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