22.12.12

Christmas on the Colony

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It is 7am and I am in the kitchen at Waldeck Hutterite Colony. It is Friday and they are making dinner buns. This is their routine. 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of flour become 20 dozen double dinner buns and I want to be a part of the ritual. There is a proofing room but it is hardly needed as the kitchen warms to the perfect temperature while the commercial oven readies.

The children are first to enjoy this treat. The women call the school the instant the buns come out of the oven and the girls run to bring back these soft pillowy delights and we all take a break to enjoy them while they are hot.

Throughout Western Canada the farmscape is dotted with Hutterite Colonies. Most often these are grain farms with livestock, chickens and a garden. A few colonies are also into light manufacturing such as metalworking or cabinet and furniture making.

I am a substitute teacher and regularly visit Waldeck Colony, SK. I have enjoyed learning about their way of life. As I think about Christmas I thought you might be interested to see into their lifestyle how they celebrate the season.

First, I will give you a brief history. Jakob Hutter was the founder of this religion in 1536. They believe in absolute pacifism and practice community of goods. These goals have resulted in hundreds of years of reestablishing in different countries seeking the freedom to practice their beliefs. In the 18th and 19th centuries they settled in North America. Today their population is around 43,000 in Canada.

There is a division of labour that is arbitrary by age. Adulthood is reached at the age of 15. The boys and girls become men and women. The men work in the farming operation Women start working in the kitchen and are finished at age 45. After this they continue to contribute by working in the garden, cleaning in the kitchen and by helping with the many tasks for the communal family.

There are 3 sects within the religion. The Schmiedeleut are settled in Manitoba. Elsewhere in Western Canada we find the Dariusleut and Lehreleut. You can distinguish one from the other by the size of the dots on the women’s scarves called shawls.

I asked the children what they would like others to know about their colony. Here is what they told me. We want people to know how nice it is here. We have a wonderful garden, the crops and fields are very good and we have 3 coulees. Lake Diefenbaker passes through one. We also want people to know we are nice. We want people to know our name. We are Waldeck Colony! We would also like to see some recipes and some pictures in the newspaper.

Hutterites are devoutly Christian and Christmas is celebrated in its true sense. There is no excess of gifts and parties. There are no elaborate Christmas light displays. It is simply a time to celebrate the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ, and life goes on as usual.

At Waldeck Colony, there are three consecutive days of church worship beginning on December 25. The church is a simple building without adornment. The altar is a simple table. There are rows of pews and a few have cushions for the comfort of the elderly.  Each church service is followed by the usual communal meal. After dinner the children return for Sunday school.

Of course I am very interested in the meals so I asked the ladies in the kitchen, what do you serve?

A tradition is to have a dinner of goose. Everyone is served a goose leg with thigh. It is poached in water until tender and served simply with potatoes and vegetables. All vegetables with the exception of garlic and celery are from their garden. The younger women admit they prefer the stuffed chicken dinner to goose. The elders appreciate goose.

Fruitcake is usually made but also may be purchased. Nutmeg (Eggar), carrot and vanilla cookies are favourites.

Roasted chicken with stuffing is another traditional meal during this time of quiet celebration. As we all do, they say they just eat too much food over the Christmas season.

Christmas is also a time for visiting. They might visit family at another colony or receive guests. There is a modest exchange of gifts within the home.

I begged these recipes as the women wondered why I would want recipes that serve 64 people. Initially I agreed and then thought about all the churches and community groups who plan events such as fowl suppers. Large recipes are hard to come by these days. They generously shared these two favourites that caught my eye.

Eggar Cookies  (Nutmeg Cookies)
These cookies are made twice each year. They are always made for Christmas and then once again during the year. I have been warned that if they are not made properly they can be dry. Usually I find European cookies much drier than ours.

10 1/2 lb sugar                                    4.8 kg
5 lb margarine                                    2.25 kg
30 eggs
 5 tsp vanilla                                    25 mL
10 lb raisins                                    4.5 kg
16 lb flour                                    7.25 kg
5 tsp salt                                    25 mL
1/8 lb baking powder                        90 g
1/8 lb cinnamon                        90 g
1/4 lb baking soda                        180 g
1 1/2 tsp allspice                        8 g
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg                        8 g

Simmer raisins in 10 cups (2.4 L) water for 7 minutes. Add 11 cups (2.6 L) cold water and cool well. In a separate bowl cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs and vanilla. Add raisins with liquid. Mix flour with all the dry ingredients and sift 3 times then sift into creamed mixture. Drop onto cookie sheets and bake at 425F (220C).


Orange Cake
This is a cake traditionally also served twice a year. It is enjoyed at Easter and once during the harvest.

16 1/2 lb sugar                          7.5 kg
6 3/4 lb nuts                                    3 kg
10 1/2 lb dates                                    4.7 kg
22 1/2 lb four                                    10 kg
6 lb butter                                    2.7 kg                       
3/4 cup baking soda                        180 mL
3/4 cup baking powder            180 mL
15 lb oranges                                    6.8 kg
3/4 cup vinegar                        200 mL
3/4 cup vanilla                                    200 mL
5 1/4 lb eggs                                    2.4 kg
8 3/4 quarts milk                        8.3 L

Grind oranges with peels and put aside 5 cups (1.2 L) for the icing. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and the rest of the ingredients except dates and flour. Mix the chopped dates with flour and add. Pour into cake pans and bake at 350F (175C). When cooled make a butter icing with the reserved orange added.


9 comments:

  1. Very interesting..I had no idea..Lovely photos too..

    You really learn so much..by delving into someone else's beliefs..

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  2. When I lived in Alberta we met Hutterites through the livestock company I worked for, when I lived in Ontario it was Mennonites. Their lives are so different from our own and yet so intertwined so it was interesting to read more about their lives.

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  3. HOw great to ask children what they would like others to know about them.
    We have the Amish by us with similar societal structures and work ethic. I think it sounds like a great, if hard way to live. Might be great to try it for a while to feel what it's like.

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  4. So yummy!!
    Have a great holiday.... :)

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  5. I love learning about groups like this!! Happy holidays!!

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  6. Thanks for the recipes, and the wonderful photos. I love the rows of bread buns the most!

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  7. This post is fascinating. I had no idea these colonies existed, they really seem to be living a simple and healthy life, focusing on the basics. Sometimes I think I would enjoy this type of simplicity. Lucky you, who got to go there and interview those hard working women and get some recipes. As for the recipes, I love the orange cake, I will have to do some math if I want to make a 6 servings cake though. Wonderful post.

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  8. Silvia, I am also interested in the orange cake. One of these days I will do the math and test a recipe.

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