Ample apples produce prieska aplenty

Growing up, I was never really much of a cook. In fact, that still holds true today as my husband prepares more of our meals than I do. But there are times when I just get in the mood to cook or bake or grill, and then there’s no stopping me.

That’s what happened last week.

Fellow Tribune reporter John Huthmacher brought in a huge box of apples that he had collected from a broken tree branch, and he was willing to share them with the newsroom.

I knew looking at the smaller green apples that they would likely be very sour in their raw condition.

My theory was quickly proven when media manager Vince Kuppig took a big bite. His face puckered and he quickly spit his bite into the trash can.

I, however, saw the potential in the sour summer apples and filled a plastic shopping bag with about a dozen of the green orbs.

After consulting with my mom, the best cook I know, I pulled out the Zion Lutheran Church cookbook from Hampton that I received as a gift for my high school graduation.

It’s one of those compilation cookbooks that has tried-and-true recipes from little old ladies and bachelors in the church who provide their best recipes.

This time, I turned to the “Pies and Pastries” category where, on the very first page, I found the recipe I was looking for: apple prieska.

Apple prieska are a German Mennonite recipe that I first became familiar with in high school when my school consolidated with the school in Henderson, a predominantly German Mennonite community.

Every spring the high school band hosts a major concert event. In conjunction with the concert, the band parents host a German smorgasbord where they prepare favorite German foods, including apple prieska, my absolute favorite thing on the menu.

I’d never made them before but I figured that since I had a bag full of free apples, it was worth a try.

That night I washed the apples and started to cut and peel enough for 10 cups. It was a lengthy endeavor as I’m not exactly a pro at knifework. I eventually finished prepping the apples — with a sore back and achy shoulders.

But I forged ahead with the crust, using six cups of flour and just under the required two cups of Crisco into the bowl. Unfortunately, I ran out of Crisco, so I just used a little margarine. It seemed to work.

I rolled out the dough and cut it into squares, which I then filled with the apple and sugar mixture and pinched together into little pockets. Then I placed them in the oven to bake.

I sat and waited in anticipation as that first dozen or so baked and cooled. I had to taste one to make sure it was up to standards before I continued making more of them.

Fortunately, they tasted pretty good, even though I realized they needed to soak in the sugar just a bit longer.

The next day, I brought the sweeter second round of prieska to work where they were quickly eaten by my coworkers.

In the next few days, I took more apples from the box and acquired more flour and Crisco. But this time, I found my apple corer/peeler and cut all the apples in 10 minutes or less, much to the relief of my still aching back.

Then I made two more batches of the sweet desserts; some I baked and some I froze uncooked for later. I’ve eaten some myself, given some to neighbors and passed out a bunch to my family. And there still are more on my counter and in my freezer at home.

So there you have it: three batches of prieska in less than one week’s time. While it was a labor-intensive cooking spree — one that ended with exhaustion and a trip to the chiropractor — I’m still enjoying the fruits of my labor.

And I’m waiting to be stung by the next cooking bug that comes along.

Shay Burk

Veteran Tribune reporter Shay Burk writes whatever is swirling around her mind each week. Read her columns on Tuesdays for her humorous thoughts on everyday life.

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