Sunday, January 6, 2013

Traditions


Cranberry Pear Pie

Specken dicken.

Ever heard of it?
Most likely, you have not. In all my life, I’ve only met one person outside my little hometown who ever has heard of it, and that’s all he could say about it. He had heardof it.
If you’re wondering, specken dicken is a pancake with meat in it. It was derived in Germany, where my family’s ancestry begins, and it was traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck. I thought I read once that long ago it was believed that if one could afford to put meat in the pancake, then they were set financially for the year to come. But I can’t find that reference in my quick online research, so I’m not positive that’s completely accurate.
Also in my quick online research, specken dicken is the only spelling I came across. But having come from the small Iowa town of Wellsburg with strong German roots, I checked through several hometown cookbooks, as well as my grandma’s recipe, and came across a few more spellings: speck and dicken, speck-n-dicken, spec an dicken. And just as many recipes for it.
Last weekend, we celebrated Christmas with my family at my sister’s house. Since it was only a few days until New Year’s Day, my sister whipped up a batch of specken dicken so we could celebrate the start of the new year with an old family tradition. This is one we grew up with every New Year’s Day at my grandparents’ house, with my grandma and aunt spending most of the afternoon into early evening preparing these pancakes over hot griddles. That’s actually what I meant when I said my sister whipped these up, and we both understood why Grandma seemed so worn out when the dinner was over!



In our family, we eat specken dicken with the meat cooked right into the pancake. We use cooked bacon pieces and cooked pieces of metwurst, then pour the pancake batter over the top of the meat on the griddle. Metwurst, pronounced “metvuss” where I grew up, is a strongly-flavored German sausage, and chances are pretty good that if you’ve never heard of specken dicken, you’ve probably never heard of this sausage either. Traditionally, we serve the pancakes with butter and dark Karo syrup, though most people prefer regular pancake syrup.

(If you want the recipe, you can get it by clicking here.)



Another tradition that has developed over the past several months in my home is pie on mostSundays. And in case you were wondering, we did have pie last Sunday, once we let our stomachs rest a little after filling them with specken dicken. I made the pie and brought it along to my sister’s house. I found this recipe for Cranberry Pear Pie at Taste of Home.

The recipe comes from Helen Toulantis of Wantagh, New York, and it was originally published in the November/December 2005 issue of Country Woman Magazine. I loved the fresh flavor of the pears, and the cranberries added just a little zip and gave the pie some festive splashes of color. And I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a crumb topping.


Well, I have another Sunday evening tradition to tend to. Tonight is the premiere of the third season of Downton Abbey on PBS. I’ve been watching since the first season, and I can hardly wait to see what Maggie Smith’s character, Violet Crawley (the Dowager Countess of Grantham), will do to clash with Shirley MacLaine’s new character, the American, Martha Levinson, as the mother of Cora (the Countess of Grantham). I also cannot wait to find out what is going to happen to John Bates, the former valet convicted of murder, and his devoted wife, Anna, the head housemaid. Will she be able to save him? And of course, there’s the wedding of Lady Mary Crawley to Matthew Crawley. (I think you’d better watch if you have questions about that.)

TTFN. I’m off to enjoy a cup of tea while devouring Downton Abbey. Now, if I only had a piece of pie…

Yours in pie,

Mindy

Cranberry Pear Pie

from Taste of Home

Pastry for single-crust 9-inch pie

2 T. all-purpose flour

½ c. maple syrup

2 T. butter, melted

5 c. sliced, peeled fresh pears

1 c. fresh or frozen cranberries
 

Topping:

½ c. all-purpose flour

¼ c. packed brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/3 c. cold butter, cubed

½ c. chopped walnuts
 

Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, syrup and butter until smooth. Add pears and cranberries; toss to coat. Spoon into crust.

For topping, combine the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle over filling.

Cover edges of crust loosely with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Remove foil; bake about 45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack.

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