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More than brats and sauerkraut

Gemutlichkeit features traditional fare

December 1, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

HUMBOLDT - Over noon Saturday, a 24-year-old tradition brought some unusual food to Zion Lutheran Church in Humboldt.

Guests feasted on sauerkraut, cinnamon pickles, lebkuchen, springerle and Black Forest torte at the annual Gemutlichkeit Luncheon, a German heritage meal.

Gemutlichkeit means "a happy good time," explained hostess Donna Day.

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Sarah Rasmussen, of Humboldt, tries a cinnamon pickle for the first time at the annual Gemutlichkeit luncheon at Zion Lutheran Church in Humboldt, while German foreign exchange student Lea Eisenberg watches. Despite her initial trepidation, Rasmussen said the pickle was very good and sweet. Eisenberg said the food was very similar to what her mother might make back home.

The Lutheran Women Missionary League puts on the meal, said Barb Zabel, but the whole congregation helps out.

"It takes a village, let me tell you," Zabel said. "There's different committees who take one - like there's a soup committee, there's a German potato salad committee, men get involved by grilling the brats."

Zabel has been on that potato salad committee for more than 10 years.

"We have a committee of about eight of us. One of the biggest jobs is we fry 10 pounds of bacon, and onions, and put it together with vinegar and water. It's really good stuff," she said.

It's not hard to find the ingredients for these German heritage foods, just time, she said.

Mary Grebe prepares another German ethnic food: cinnamon pickles. Again, it's time and not obscure ingredients that are needed.

"It's a five-day process," she said. "It's kind of hands-on every day."

She soaks the cucumbers in water and pickling lime, cooks them in a brine, and then soaks them in that over several days. The third day she makes a syrup of cider vinegar, sugar, water, cinnamon sticks and red hot candies.

"It's a very sweet, dark red syrup," she said. "It's a huge amount of sugar for about 5 quarts."

Other treats include lebkuchen and springerle, German cookies. The lebkuchen is made with dried fruits, while the springerle has fancy designs on the surface.

Mildred Torkelson has been making the springerle since the German luncheon began.

"I roll them out, then press the mold on the top. My mold makes 12 different designs. After I've pressed the mold into the dough I use a pizza cutter to cut them into squares," she said.

Susan Witzel likes the springerle, and is happy Torkelson made it.

"I made them one time in my life," Witzel said, "and I decided I would eat them whenever someone else made them. They take so long to make."

Witzel said she and her husband wouldn't miss the dinner.

"I like every single thing here. The German potato salad is also a real treat," she said.

Witzel's granddaughter, Sarah Rasmussen, 17, of Humboldt, was attending the dinner for the first time. Rasmussen came along with German foreign exchange student Lea Eisenberg.

"It's very good," said Eisenberg after her meal. "Mom would have made a lot of the things they had here."

Her favorite was the Black Forest torte, a cherry-covered chocolate cake, though she also enjoyed the German bread.

Rasmussen tried a bright red cinnamon pickle, and found she liked it.

"They're really good. They're really sweet," she said.

The Rev. Jerry Raether said the church holds the dinner for a number of reasons. Not only does it celebrate their German ethnicity, but it raises money for the Lutheran Women Missionary League to send to missions.

"They have a variety of missions locally, throughout the United States and throughout the world," Raether said. "They support about 10 missions.

"It also brings the congregation together. That's the focal point for this time of year."



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