By Ann Cipperly
Frances Haupt Blackburn grew up in a small German community called Elberta, located near Foley in Baldwin County, that was settled by German immigrants in 1904. Now that she and her husband Art have grown children and are retired, Frances is reviving and preserving the recipes and cuisine of her heritage.
“My Haupt grandparents were from Tattlingen, German, and immigrated to America in 1905,” says Frances. “My father, John Haupt, was born in New Jersey and was a baby when the family moved to Alabama.”
German was spoken in their home. Until the mid-1970s, the church Frances and her family attended had two services, one in English and another in German.
Frances’ parents met while they were students at Auburn University, which was API at the time. Her mother was from Ashland, and she learned to cook German dishes to please Frances’ father.
“When I was growing up. my mother was trying to fit into the German community,” says Frances. “It was common in the grocery store to hear people conversing in German. As a child, I took it for granted, as it was just the way it was.”
During the summer months, Frances would help her mother, who was a former home economics teacher, freeze and can vegetables.
“She was an excellent baker and cook,” says Frances. “I spent lots of time in the kitchen with her baking, cooking and preserving foods.” Since seafood was plentiful, her mother served a seafood dish at least once a week.
Her mother made bread once a week until she was almost 80 years of age. Frances’ German grandmother was also an excellent cook.
Frances and Art met in high school and attended Auburn University. “I grew up with these German foods and married a southern boy,” says Frances. “Art is from Wadley, Ga. He wanted me to learn to cook like his grandmother. He was not interested in eating the German foods at that time. My mother learned to be a great German cook and left behind her southern cooking with cornbread and peas. The southern cooking would have suited Art just fine.”
Frances and Art married after graduation from Auburn and moved to Albany, Ga., where he worked for Firestone, and she taught home economics. In 1982, Art accepted a position with Ampex, and they moved to Opelika. Art became plant manager at Ampex.
Frances worked for East Alabama Mental Health for a number of years until she received her master’s in school counseling. She then worked in Phenix City and Lee County schools as a counselor for eight years.
In 2003, the Blackburns quit their jobs and moved to Ecuador where Art was the administrator of a mission hospital. Frances had many challenges cooking in a different culture, as the ingredients were different.
They returned to Opelika in 2008. Frances became a counselor at Horseshoe Bend School, while Art worked with Management Recruiters, Inc. Since they retired, the Blackburns spend time between living at Lake Martin and Wolf Bay at Orange Beach, but they consider Opelika home.
The Blackburns have three children. Daughter Jessica and her husband, Seth Ruff, who both grew up in Opelika, have a 16 month old son, Tucker. They moved to Panama City last year.
Frances and Art’s oldest son, Ben, is an officer at the Opelika Police Department, and his wife, Amy, teaches at Southview. They have two sons, Paxton, 11, and Barrett, 9, who attend Opelika City Schools. Son John and his wife, Sarah-Anne, live in Auburn.
Frances has been teaching Jessica to prepare the German recipes. She is teaching Jessica to make Springerle cookies that have been made by Frances’ family for hundreds of years.
The traditional German cookie traces back over 700 years. Frances has baked a couple of batches every Christmas since her and Art married 45 years ago. She uses specialty carved rolling pins or blocks embossed with decorative designs. They can also be turned into works of art with food paints.
Frances is enjoying making her family’s recipes and trying to modernize them. She is experimenting cooking some of the recipes in a crock-pot or instant pot rather than simmering on the stove top for half a day.
Frances’ mother baked homemade bread, and Frances remembers that the house would smell wonderful. Frances changed using bacon fat to olive oil in the recipe. She makes a version of the bread and kneads it with her Kitchen Aid mixer.
Her mother’s recipe for Ring-A-Lings can be made the night before, stored covered in the refrigerator and baked the next morning for breakfast. Frances researched this recipe and discovered it won the 7th Pillsbury Bakeoff in 1955, and the recipe was printed on the back of Pillsbury flour.
The Cinnamon Stars cookie, a light macaroon type confection, is a family favorite. When Frances was 12 to 14 years old, she entered the cookies in the Baldwin County Fair several times and won blue ribbons each time.
Her Grandma’s Butter S’s cookies are rich, buttery shortbread type cookies. This popular cookie recipe was also passed down in the family.
“Many German foods combine sweet and sour flavors like Red Cabbage Rotkhohl, potato salad and sauerbraten,” says Frances. “Sauerkraut Dinner is a typical German dish featuring smoked sausages.”
The Jager Schnitzel can be prepared with or without the gravy and is served with egg noodles. When Art and France visited Israel last year, they enjoyed dining on chicken schnitzel several times.
Frances is planning on putting together a family cookbook with the German recipes to preserve for future generations. Getting the recipes together has brought back wonderful memories of her childhood and the women in her family who were great cooks.
The Blackburns enjoy going back to Elberta when the town celebrates its German heritage with a sausage festival the last weekend in October and last weekend in March. “It attracts thousands of people,” says Frances. “They offer delicious German baked goods and filled cabbage, as well as other entrees.”
Look over Frances’ recipes and add a touch of German heritage to your menus this coming week.
Cipperly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 egg whites
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 lbs. shredded pecans or almonds
Beat egg whites until frothy with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and beat until it will stand in soft peaks. Fold in pecans and cinnamon. Chill 1 hour or more.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until firm.
Allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
Store in air-tight container.
4-6 pork or chicken cutlets, tenderized
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. milk
Salt to taste
1 sleeve Ritz cracker crumbs
3 plus Tbsp. oil
Sprinkle both sides of cutlets with salt.
Whisk egg and milk together.
Mix flour and paprika in a shallow pie plate.
Set up an assembly line with flour mixture, egg mixture and Ritz crumbs.
Coat each cutlet with flour, dip into egg mixture and roll in crumbs pressing them on.
Working in small batches, fry each side 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and serve hot over noodles with gravy.
2 pkgs. dry mushroom gravy mix
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
Prepare gravy mix according to package directions. Stir in mushrooms and cook with gravy.
Serve pork over noodles and smother with gravy. Serves 4-6.
German Potato Salad
2 lbs. red, new or fingerling potatoes
6 strips bacon
¼ cup minced onion
2-3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
3-4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Boil potatoes until tender, Drain, cool and cut into ¼ inch slices.
Fry bacon and remove from skillet to drain. Crumble into small pieces. Remove all but 3 Tbsp. bacon drippings. Add onions to skillet and sauté.
Stir in sugar, flour, vinegar and make pale brown roux.
Add water, if necessary, to make sauce. Add potatoes and chopped up bacon to skillet and stir gently to coat well. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and heat throughout.
Garnish with green onions or crumbled bacon.
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. anise seeds, crushed
4 plus cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder or ½ tsp. ammonium bicarbonate
Place eggs in bowl of a stand mixer and beat until frothy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until it is pale lemon colored – 10 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients slowly and when dough becomes thick, mix with wooden spoon. Add flour until you have dough which is stiff enough to roll.
Place 1/3 of dough on floured surface and roll until it is 3/8 inch thick. Roll again with springerle rolling pin. Cut and place on parchment paper covered baking sheet. Continue working in small batches until all the dough is used.
Cover baking sheets with towel and let rest for 12-18 hours.
Preheat oven to 325-350 degrees. Bake cookies 10-12 minutes or until firm. Cool on wire rack and store in air-tight container.
(These keep well. My mother baked them right after Thanksgiving for the Christmas season.) Makes 4-5 dozen.
Grandma’s Butter S’s
2 sticks real butter
1 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white, whipped until frothy
Sprinkles, if desired
Sift the flour and baking powder and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar with a heavy-duty mixer. Add yolks one at a time and mix well. Add the flour mixture ½ cup at a time until all is added. Stir in the vanilla.
Cover bowl and chill at least 1 hour.
Roll between 2 sheets of waxed paper to a thickness of ¼ of an inch. Cut in desired shape. (My grandmother cut the dough into 2 inch strips by ½ inch wide and curved each into an S shape.) Place carefully on lightly greased baking sheet. Brush with whipped egg white and add sprinkles, if desired.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Cool on wire rack. Store cookies in an airtight container.
2 pkgs. dry yeast
¼ cup water
1/3 cup butter
¾ cup scalded milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated orange peel
4 to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Mix the following 3 ingredients:
1/3 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground nuts
¼ cup orange juice
3 Tbsp. sugar
Soften yeast in warm water for 5 minutes.
Combine butter, and milk in large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. Add sugar, salt, grated orange rind, eggs and yeast mixture. Gradually add flour until it is a stiff dough. Cover and let stand in a warm place until it doubles in bulk – about 30 minutes.
Roll out on flowered board to about 22 inch x 12 inch rectangle. Spread filling along half of the long side.- approximately 22 inch x 6 inch. Fold over the other half.
Cut into 1 inch by 6 inch strips. Twist each 4 or 5 times. Turn into folded buns and place 2 inches apart on parchment covered baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Brush with orange juice and sugar glaze while warm. Makes 18-24 rolls
8 slices top round beef, about 4 inch x 6 inch and ¼ inch thick
1/3 cup spicy mustard
8 dill pickles, sliced lengthwise, optional
1 medium yellow onion
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
Prepare the roulade by spreading each beef slice with mustard and sprinkle a little salt and pepper overall. Place the pickles and chopped onions on each beef slice. Toll up the beef slices, tucking in the sides and securing the rolls with toothpicks or cooking twine.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy Dutch oven or pot, Brown the roulade on each side and then set them aside on a plate.
Add the remaining onions to the pan and add more oil, if necessary. Stir and add garlic and cook a minute longer.
Add the remaining vegetables and cook another 5 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a rapid boil for 1 minute, reduce heat to medium and continue simmering 3 minutes. Add the beef broth, tomato paste, bay leaf and salt and pepper, as desired.
Nestle the beef roulade in the pot.
Oven or stovetop: Cook covered until fork tender, about 90 minutes.
Crock pot: Cook on low 4-6 hours.
Serve with noodles or mashed potatoes.
1/2 lb. bacon
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 qt. tomato juice
1 large can sauerkraut
¼ cup brown sugar
1-2 lbs. smoked sausage
Cook bacon and drain, Cut into one inch pieces. Brown onions in bacon drippings.
Cut sausage into serving pieces.
Place all ingredients into slow cooker and cook for 6- 8 hours on low. Serves 12.
German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)
2 Tbsp. butter
5 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup sliced green apples
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. water
¼ cup white sugar
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. ground cloves
Place all ingredients into slow cooker on low until cabbage is tender.
May also cook using an Instant Pot. Serves 12.
German Cucumber Salad
2 English or 8 medium cucumbers
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. dill
½ tsp. salt
Black pepper, to taste
Thinly slice cucumbers and place in large salad bowl lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit 30 minutes.
In medium bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients.
Squeeze the cucumbers in the paper towels and return to bowl. Pour dressing over salad and chill several hours before serving. Serves 8.
Easy Homemade Bread
Makes 2 loaves.
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup warm water
Combine these 3 ingredients and let yeast proof for 10 minutes.
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups water
6 cups bread flour (Gold Medal)
Mix well by hand or with stand mixer using dough hook. Scrape the sides of the bowl. It’s better to add flour one cup at a time. Knead 5-6 minutes then cover bowl and let sit in a warm area about an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Punch down dough and separate into 2 loaves. Place in greased pans and cover again. Let rise until doubled again, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake loaves 20 minutes or until desired brownness is reached.
Turn out onto cooling rack. Tap bottom of loaf and if you hear a hollow sound, it’s perfect!