Mennonite Morsels: Werenekje en Schmauntfatt

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Author: Adanys Wynterwulf, May 2018

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Werenekje (Perogies) en Schmauntfatt

This month’s recipe is one you will either love or hate, I am not sure if there is an in-between. There are many different ways to make it, and many different ways to serve it. I will be sharing what I know as the “classic” way of making it.

If there is one thing you can learn about Mennonite food, it is that every home makes it slightly different, or serves it differently. That’s mainly because most recipes are not written down. Girls are taught to help in the kitchen from a young age, and they watch and help Mother make food without a written recipe. Then, when they get married and start their own home, they use Mother’s recipe, but over time they might modify it and it becomes their own to pass onto their own daughters.

Another thing that makes writing down Mennonite recipes so hard is that often you’ll ask a woman how she makes them, and what the measurements for the ingredients are. Her answer: She doesn't know. She’ll shrug, stare blankly and try to come up with a number, or respond with “soo fäl aus daut bruckt,” which translates to “as much as it needs.” That last answer always made me roll my eyes when I asked my mom how much of something to add to whatever I was making.

Werenekje en Schmauntfatt is a huge part of the Mennonite food culture. It is a very rich meal. Werenekje are dough pockets filled with dry cottage cheese. They are served either boiled or fried. If they are boiled, they are topped with schmauntfatt and jam or preserves, if they are fried, they are usually served dry. Schmauntfatt is a heavy cream with butter, lard, brodfat (or grease) in which you’ve fried ham or bacon [which adds extra flavor], or some kind of oil. We’ve always added a browning and seasoning sauce to it as well, along with sautéed onions. My mom would always scoff at the pale and flavorless schmauntfatt other people made. But now, on with the recipe!

Dough Ingredients

6 Eggs
½ Cup of Cream
½ Cup of Milk
1 Tbsp Salt
Flour - add gradually until you get a smooth dough that doesn’t stick

Mix the ingredients in a mixer, gradually adding flour until the dough becomes firm and no longer sticks. Let sit for about an hour.

Homemade Cottage Cheese Ingredients

1 gallon Buttermilk
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
3 eggs
16oz regular cottage cheese OR cream

Pour 1 gallon of Buttermilk into a pot, and heat on low. Leave on heat until the milk curdles. This can take about 4-6 hours. Just make sure to stir occasionally and don’t let it boil. After the buttermilk curdles, let it sit overnight.

Drain the curds, thoroughly draining and pressing the whey from the curds. Add salt and pepper to taste, 3 eggs, and about 16 ounces of regular cottage cheese. The cottage cheese adds moisture and helps it to stick. You can forego adding the cottage cheese by using cream instead. Simply add enough until the mixture sticks together.

Now that you have your dough and your homemade cottage cheese, you’re ready to make Werenekje.

Directions for Werenekje

Roll out the dough, and using an ice cream scoop, place balls of the filling about 3-4 inches from the edge along one edge of the dough, leaving about 3 inches between each one. Fold the dough over the filling, and using a round cutter, glass or small bowl, cut out the perogies. If the edges don’t stick, pinch them with your fingers. Trim your dough to a straight edge and repeat until you’ve used all your dough.

Place on lined cookie sheets until you’re ready to boil them. Or you can freeze them, bag them and boil them later. To boil, fill a large pot with water and 1 Tbsp or so of butter. Boil for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes if frozen. Remove them from the water and lightly oil them to keep them from sticking together.

Schmauntfat (or gravy)

(This is only an approximate recipe. Use your own judgement to adjust the measurements according to your preferences)

1 ½ cups heavy cream
About ¼ cup butter or lard or bacon grease
Optional: 1 Tbsp browning and seasoning sauce and/or sauteed onions

Heat slowly, stirring often to prevent sticking, and let it come to a boil. Be careful, as it will easily boil over the side of the pot.

Serving Werenekje en Schnauntfat

Serve Werenekje and top with Schmauntfat and jam or preserves. I have always found strawberry jam (homemade or Smuckers was the norm in our house) to be the most delicious. They pair excellently with fried ham or smoked sausage.

Please let me know if you’d like me to clarify anything, or if you have any questions.