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A legacy of love and custard

Jenny Schlecht ponders the continuing legacy of her husband's great-grandmother, whose recipe continues to be used to raise thousands of dollars for good causes and whose progeny show up to help in the efforts.

Two women move boxes filled with packaged pastries.
Melissa Meidinger and Tammy Schlecht package orders of kuchen on Oct. 16, 2022, in Crystal Springs, North Dakota. The two women are among the organizers of an annual baking fundraiser, and the recipe used to make the kuchen was Schlecht's grandmother's.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek
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The first time I helped out at a church kuchen bake, which was raising money for a missions trip, they needed an extra set of hands on the dough rolling crew. I make pies, and I quickly found that the yeast dough was far less fussy than pie dough. Plus, my husband's Grandma Pfaff, a sweet, feisty, funny lady, was next to me and showed me how to roll the dough just right and get it to fit into the pan. She was beyond proficient at the skill, and she kept us all in line and laughing throughout the long day.

What I didn't know at that time was that the recipe used to make the kuchen was Grandma Pfaff's mother's recipe.

That first fundraiser was a hit. In the years that followed, the kuchen have become something that people in the area look forward to buying. This year, some even was headed all the way to Texas after the first round of baking.

The annual bake — now held over two weekends in the fall — has raised thousands of dollars for more missions trips and for medical needs in the community. In recent years, the local high school music program also has gotten involved. My sister-in-law is the music teacher, and she lines up parents and students to work at two of the baking days. The church and music program split the funds. Every other year, the music students get to go on a music-themed trip to a big city where they experience live music and perform, and the kuchen bake is a big lift in helping them get the money to do so.

This year, one of the volunteers at the first baking day asked about the recipe and how this all got started. My mother-in-law quite proudly explained that it was her Grandma Enzminger's recipe. And the volunteer pondered something that has made me think ever since.

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"Do you think she could have ever imagined all that would be done with her recipe? With how hard their lives were then?" she said. "That's quite the legacy."

Electricity didn't come to rural North Dakota until the late 1930s. And even then, it took time to get to everyone. Grandma Enzminger certainly didn't have a dough rolling machine, as we use at the fundraiser, to flatten the dough balls. She wouldn't have had the reliable appliances and gadgets we have today to make baking easier. She likely worked for years before she'd have a freezer available to store up baked goods and other foods. She certainly had many, many more tasks to complete around the farm and home, including the work of raising children.

But still, her legacy continues today in the recipe that has raised thousands of dollars that have been used to give people opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have had. The money has helped build earthquake-proof houses in Haiti and helped people serve at orphanages. It has paid medical bills for people in difficult situations. It has helped teens from a small, rural town expand their horizons and experience the joys of music.

A girl and a boy hold trays filled with pastries.
Reanna Schlecht and Elijaeh Schmieg were among the volunteers at a kuchen bake fundraiser on Oct. 16, 2022. Both are among the great-great-grandchildren of Lydia (Ruff) Enzminger, whose recipe is used at the annual event in Crystal Springs, North Dakota, who helped out in the 2022 bake.
Jenny Schlecht / Agweek

It also continues in other ways. Grandma Enzminger has a granddaughter, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren who were involved in the most recent baking weekend, during which more than 1,400 kuchens were baked and packaged. Grandma Pfaff died about a year and a half ago, and we still miss her. But stories about her inevitably come up during the kuchen bake. These ladies inspired legacies of love and giving that they couldn't possibly have expected.

The ladies who have headed up this effort year after year also are leaving quite the legacies. They aren't ones to sit at home and just ponder the problems of this world or reaching the next. Instead, they live out their faith by doing what they can to serve others. I can't think of a better legacy and example for the rest of us than that.

Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.

Opinion by Jenny Schlecht
Jenny Schlecht is the director of ag content for Agweek and serves as editor of Agweek, Sugarbeet Grower and BeanGrower. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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