Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance
FAMILY HEIRLOOM RECIPES
Wisconsin State Fair
August 4, 2013
James Papala, Cudahy, Wisconsin
This recipe was handed down to me from my mother (Bess, who is now 83). She got it from her mother (my Grandmother “Anna”), who came over from her native land (back then called Czechoslovakia) “on the boat” in 1929, and was making this recipe in the early 1930’s for my mom as she was growing up. We are not sure of the correct spelling as my Grandmother could not spell or write well Roughly translated this is “cabbage dumplings”. My Grandmother and Grandfather (John) lived in Cudahy, where my Grandfather worked at Patrick Cudahy meat packing plant. They were hard working immigrants, and learned to live on meager incomes. My Grandfather did have the good fortune to work where he was able to get excellent bacon (i.e. Patrick Cudahy bacon). This provided my Grandmother with the means to make this wonderful treat. I can remember eating Haluski while I was growing up in the early 1960’s. My Mom and Dad and 3 brothers lived upstairs from my grandmother at the time and she would make Haluski downstairs. We could smell it cooking and would come down to enjoy dinner with Grandma. Grandma would tell us how she learned to make this from her mother (my Great Grandmother Katherine) in the early 1900’s “in the old country” (Czechoslovakia). This dish is an ethnic, Eastern European dish (I can’t say that Czechoslovakia had sole bragging rights to it).
When my family moved into our own house in 1964, Mom continued making this main meal for our family (my mom, dad, my two brothers and me). Mom and Dad were both “Depression Babies”, having grown up learning to make do with very little. My dad had served in the Navy in the late 1940’s and never attended college. He worked for a factory that made bottle filling equipment (George J. Meyer Mfg. Co.). My mom explained that this meal allowed us to have a filling meal using common ingredients that we normally have around the house. The key point is that we did not have a large “meat” component to the meal (too costly), reminiscent of the difficult times and meatless meals of the Depression Era. It certainly helped that Grandpa could “bring home the bacon” (literally). As a kid, I just thought of how well this meal tasted (not that it had very little meat.
The recipe for Haluski was not written down for many years. The list of ingredients has changed over time. My Grandmother indicated that the recipe would change based on what was available in the home when the Haluski was made. In fact, the “Slovak” origins of the recipe meant that the recipe had to be translated into English by my Mom, who wasn’t even sure how to spell the name of the recipe (see copies of the early versions of the recipe with different spellings). Basically, Haluski is a type of dumpling or spatsel that is made from simple ingredients (flour, eggs, and water). It is combined with other relatively common ingredients that were found in most homes in Czechoslovakia at the time (bacon, because farming was very prevalent at the time; cabbage, ‘because it was plentiful on the farm, and onion to offset some of the cabbage flavor).
The great point about Haluski is that it is very simple to make and you can “size” the amount of the recipe very easily to accommodate varying numbers of table guests. The original recipe my Mom wrote down called for grated potatoes that gave this a very different texture. We have used that ingredient only occasionally, preferring the traditional flour based recipe. We use this recipe when we want a “meatless” meal, realizing that the relatively small amount of bacon is mainly used to create the fat to fry the onion and cabbage and add flavor to the meal. It truly is a family favorite for me (4th generation) and my two brothers, who all make this recipe for our families. In fact my brother’s teenage son requests Haluski as his “birthday” meal. Imagine that!
The 2013 Family Heirloom Recipe Contest is the perfect opportunity for me to present this family favorite meal to you, sharing a little bit of our past with you. Try the recipe and I am sure you will agree this is a simple and satisfying “old country” recipe that deserves to win. It is not flashy or exquisite, rather it is very “blue collar” reminiscent of my family heritage. Enjoy!
James Papala, Cudahy, Wisconsin
To make 4 servings:
4 strips bacon, cut in small strips
2 slices of Vidalia onion, diced
4 cups cabbage, shredded
4 TBSP water
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups Flour
4 Eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup water
4 TBSP Butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place sliced bacon in large fry pan and cook until browned. Do not drain
Add chopped onion and sautee for 1-2 minutes. Add shredded cabbage and water to frying pan and cook until tender. Season with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Set aside.
In a large kettle, boil 3 quarts of water.
In a medium sized bowl, combine flour, eggs and water. Stir until soft dough forms. Place a large spoonful of dough on a cutting board and cut small pieces of dough (about 3/4 inch by 1/4 inch) into the boiling water. Boil approximately 1 minute, or until dough floats to the top. Remove from boiling water with a sieve and place in a bowl. Add about 1/2 TBSP butter to each batch and season with salt and pepper. Repeat cutting spoonfuls of dough on a cutting board into the boiling water, allowing each batch to boil approximately 1 minute before removing from water and adding butter and salt and pepper. [Note: you may have to add water to the kettle to replace water that boils off]
Add haluski to bacon / cabbage mixture. Stir to mix and serve immediately.