My mom had not made deep-fried Mennonite treats in a very long time… until this past summer, when she made roll kuchen with great success.
“You’ve still got it!” I declared to her, as I devoured yet another tasty kuchen.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when she suddenly announced, “I’m going to make Nie Joasch Kuchen!” She said she’d do this on New Year’s Eve, so I told her I’d be there at noon. You know, to “help”.
I was expecting to find her still heating the oil and rolling out the dough. But no. Somehow she had breezed through the entire process, and I walked in to see her like this:
She had just removed that last batch from the hot oil.
My timing couldn’t have been better! Oh YUM!
My family is a little different than any others in this area when it comes to Nie Joasch (sounds like “YASH”) Kuchen. First of all, in the name. Most others go by the fancy High German name, Portzelky. And sure, that’s what my mom’s family called it too. But, my mom was quite influenced by her mother-in-law when it came to New Year’s Cookies, and so Nie Joasch Kuchen it always has been. My mom also makes Grandma Koop’s recipe. You see, my Grandpa Koop was a dairy farmer, and my dad took over the farm… so when my parents got married, they established a home on the same yard. And so, my mom got to know her mother-in-law pretty well. And thus Grandma Koop shared her recipe for Nie Joasch Kuchen with my mom, and so I grew up with this particular version of this tasty Mennonite New Year’s treat.
It’s really not at all like the Portzelky that you find around Steinbach: dense little balls of dough, deep fried and tossed with icing sugar. Oh no. My mom rolls out the dough and cuts it into random shapes and fries it like that. It’s not dense, it’s actually light and yeasty. And then… we put icing on it:
I don’t know if anyone else puts icing on their Nie Joasch Kuchen. So far, this seems like odd behaviour to almost everyone. But you know, my Grandma Koop’s family wasn’t really from this area (I’m still trying to figure out that mystery) so I’m not sure where this Nie Joasch Kuchen thing emerged. Or maybe it was just my dad’s preference, or my grandpa’s preference. Or, frankly, I can well imagine this being my grandma’s preference. I have no idea. All I know, is that this has largely ruined me for typical Steinbach Portzelky, sorry to say: I do not care for its density, nor for the icing sugar falling everywhere.
In my opinion, my mom makes the ultimate Nie Joasch Kuchen, and that’s just how it is.
I’ve been told before that I’m not from Steinbach. I may be descended from original pioneers of Steinbach Village, and I may have been literally born here, but my family is not from here. That’s not even a slight. It’s just fact. A very specific fact. (I was raised 20 minutes away, so yeah… not in Steinbach.) I suppose this proves it:
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!