Let’s Browse the Relief Sale Cookbook!

After reading my post about my Wurst Bubbat endeavor, my aunt decided to lend me her copy of this magnificent cookbook: Treasured Mennonite Recipes. At first I was confused because I immediately thought of the Mennonite Treasury of Recipes… but this is completely different.

It’s like I’m pitting the two cookbooks against each other or something.

The subtitle of Treasured Mennonite Recipes is this: All-Time Favorite Recipes from the Mennonite Community Relief Sales.

Did you notice the telling absence of a ‘u’ in the word “favorite”?

Yep, this is an American publication from Lancaster, Pennsylvania! So, the focus of this volume in particular is on the cookery of Swiss-German Mennonites. I was eager to dive in!

Her shirt mentions an MCC “Beef Walk”. I’m not sure what that all would entail, but I’m envisioning Mennonites parading their finest beef cattle down main street, which sounds pretty entertaining. I know that many of the famous Relief Sales have been ended, but I feel like perhaps a Beef Walk is something we could bring back?

The book offers an answer to the question “Who are the Mennonites?” I won’t go into the details of that answer because that’s not what this post is about and also that question really stirs up quite a lot of identity-related angst among Mennonites and Mennonite-adjacent folks (myself included) and many books have been written on the topic, and surely many more are yet-to-be-written. However at the time of publication, 1993, the book states, “Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is today home to the largest Mennonite community in the world. The second largest is found in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.”

I have two reactions to this:
1) yay, there we are!
2) wait, I thought the largest Mennonite community in the world was in Africa? (I don’t remember which country.)

Anyway, I guess those numbers have simply shifted since 1993.

Now let’s read the cookbook together!

The section on cinnamon buns caught my attention immediately. I have discovered why I actually don’t care for most cinnamon buns: BECAUSE I WAS RAISED ON CHELSEA BUNS!

In this cookbook there’s a recipe for Basic Sweet Dough which you can use to make many different kinds of buns, cakes, and rolls. This includes cinnamon buns. I have to say, while I like the idea of cinnamon buns what with all that gluten, sugar, and cinnamon (my favourite flavours), I find them a little difficult to fully enjoy because they’re so dry. My mom always made cinnamon buns with tons of caramel in the bottom of the pan. This infused her cinnamon buns with caramel and they were sooooo good. I always wondered why no one else used this method. (Except a few bakeries in town are now incorporating more caramel, YUM.) Now I know the reason. The entire time, I loved Chelsea Buns! But everyone else follows the very dry cinnamon bun recipe. I say, everyone should use the messy delicious Chelsea Bun recipe instead!

Okay, moving right along…

The recipe for Moist Date Bran Loaf apparently “keeps much better than a secret”. I love that phrasing. I’m sold!

Next, I stumbled upon a recipe for Sauerkraut Cake. Well. This is a first. I’ll definitely have to make it sometime. (Lucky Andrew!) (He often asks me, “Why can’t you make something normal, that I like?” I reply, “But maybe this’ll be your new favourite!” These experimental recipes have never yet been a new favourite, by the way. Yet still I try.)

I turned the page and BEHOLD: a recipe containing the essential Mennonite flavouring favourite, AMMONIA!

“Refreshing!” a great way to describe ammonia. YUM!

This was getting good. I kept reading. Next I discovered a recipe for sweet ‘n’ sour pigtails.

Then a recipe for Rum Sauce. I wondered, what’s their position on alcohol? This recipe contained only rum extract. That’s in line with how I was raised.

Another highlight is a recipe for Prune Pudding. Enticing!

This book contains a recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind. I’ve often heard that this is a Mennonite recipe yet I had never come across it in my upbringing… now I think I know why: it’s a Swiss-Mennonite thing!

Then, I saw this:

“Dandelion Drink (not wine)”

So, I thought I had my answer on this: this is definitely a no-alcohol cookbook.

I was very excited to see this next chapter heading:

Soup season is upon us!

I found a recipe for Chicken Soup and there was no star anise required. This took me aback. I can’t imagine it’s any good without that essential ingredient, featured so prominently in the Mennonite Treasury’s Chicken Soup recipe(s)!

I was charmed by the recipe for Oyster Soup, which suggests you use “as many oysters as you can afford”. Excellent advice.

THEN I stumbled upon the section containing “Special European Mennonite Dishes” from Mennonites of Prussian-Russian descent. I was curious to see if I’d find any familiar recipes here.

Sure enough! There’s a recipe for Kielke (they call it “homemade macaroni” what), Bubbat (they call it “sausage square” — okay, seems accurate), Fleisch Piroschky (they call it “meat buns” — this I can totally get behind), Glums Vareneki (they call it “cottage cheese filled noodles”… but in reading the recipe I see it’s actually just what a Manitoba Mennonite would call “verenicki” or “cottage cheese perogies”), Platz (they call it “coffee cake”), and recipes for Rollkuchen and Zwieback (with no explanations whatsoever, ha).

Also in this section I found a recipe for Krimmsche Schnittchen, which they call “Crimean Slices”. This sounds delicious. My great-great-grandmother was born in Crimea, so I feel like I should make these and think of her.

Next is a second featuring recipes from the Plain People. I think this means the Swiss Mennonites in Pennsylvania.

The intro to this section specifically endorsed this recipe for “Poached Eggs”, purporting them to be “delightful”. Check it:

“Try them!”

Wait. These aren’t eggs at all! They only LOOK like eggs.

I’m super-curious to take the cookbook’s advice and give ’em a try.

Next I encountered a menu for “Afternoon Refreshment”… which included these same “Poached Eggs”, alongside “grape drink (homemade)”. I’m so curious about that homemade grape drink.

THEN I found a recipe for “Homemade Mincemeat”. I think this might be the year I try to make this… for Christmas. (Again, lucky Andrew!) But I guess I won’t make this recipe though, since it apparently “makes 1 washtub full”. That sounds like too much.

THEN I found this quote that mentions WINE.

Wait, do these Mennonites drink?

Oh, does THIS answer your question?

There it is!

You won’t find a recipe for wine in the Mennonite Treasury, that’s all I’m saying.

Then I found a recipe for Summer Sausage and I began to wonder if Summer Sausage is a Swiss-Menno thing, and Farmer Sausage is a Russian-Menno thing? (I do know enough about Summer Sausage to know that it is delicious.)


This should be interesting.
Nothing quite like an ointment of sulfur and lard to set you right!
Or the dynamic combo of cider vinegar and turpentine!
OR drinking glycerine with lemon!

I’m excited to try a few of these recipes as we enter the lockdown phase around here. (Probably won’t try the remedies… although who knows, these might come in handy this winter!)

Related posts:

Let’s Make Wurst Bubbat!

Baking With Ammonia

Chicken Noodle Soup’s STAR Ingredient: Star Anise!