Remembering Our
Danube Swabian Ancestors

Donauschwaben Villages

"Helping Hands"

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead


June Wischler-Meyer
Illinois, USA

Hungarian heirloom recipes!



"I wonder if my GGG French grandmother from Alsace was responsible for our wonderful cuisine."

Mover & Shaker
Interview by Rose Mary Keller Hughes
Published at 12 Dec 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr

It seems appropriate that our Christmas interview be with a cookbook author; so many of us think of the foods served by our Donauschwaben mothers and grandmothers (and even fathers and grandfathers) during this wonderful holiday season.  As most of you are aware, June Meyer has a wonderful site on the Internet and has created a cookbook that a good number of us have in our German-Hungarian foods library.

June Wischler-Meyer is a retired public school Art teacher who taught at Wilmot Elementary School for 24 years. She is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. B.A.E. 1958.

She was born in Chicago in 1934. Her Mother, Theresa Rose Seine, her Father, Frank John Wischler and her Grandmother, Elizabeth Rose Heinz , cooked Hungarian and Transylvanian dishes. The recipes she has posted as "Authentic Heirloom Hungarian Recipes" are just that. The recipes are descended from a long line of her ancestors, passed down from one generation to the next. They were never written down; she learned to make them by example.

June was asked about her interest in cooking and she replied, “When I married, I continued to cook the cuisine I knew and loved. I love to cook, and I enjoy cooking and eating many different ethnic foods. But there is something spiritual and comforting about cooking and baking foods that your ancestors loved and thrived on. Most of these recipes have their origin in Austria-Hungary. They are peasant dishes that took advantage of the bounty of the land, requiring slow cooking while the farmers worked in the fields. These are stick-to-the-ribs, clog-your-arteries food. But they are exceptionally flavorful and unforgettable.”

When questioned about her Banat roots, June said, “My father was born in Glogovatz, Transylvania. He used to tell me when I was little that his ancestors were glassmakers from the Black Forest in Germany. I found out through research that in the early 1700s many Germans from the Black Forest region immigrated to Transylvania, the Banat region, now part of Romania. They took advantage of a large giveaway of tracts of farmland. No taxes for three years, materials to build houses and farm buildings, some animal and beasts of burden, made these land giveaways popular. These people were Catholics. They traveled to Ulm, Germany and then to Hungary via the Danube River on flat-bottom barges. Today these settlers are known as Donauschwabens. I had never heard of Donauschwabens or knew that we were children of Donauschwabens until I had started working on my cookbook. My parents never used the term; my father said he was a Banater.

“My Mother was born in Altkeer, Austria-Hungary, Batschka region. She always spoke of a maternal ancestor who was French and came from Alsace-Lorraine. I learned that Lutherans from Alsace-Lorraine were also offered land in Hungary, now Yugoslavia, around the mid 1700s. This information solved the puzzle of my German and French ancestry and Hungarian heritage.”

June was questioned about her research sources and she told me, “I have gained most of my knowledge about the Donauschwabens from the FEEFHS website and The History of German Settlement in Southern Hungary by Susan Clarkson, also the online Banat-L genealogy group.”

Questions from Members of the DVHH List

Robert Evensen of Cambridge, MA (originally from Chicago) posed the following question:
I own June’s cookbook and have enjoyed recreating my mother and grandmother's recipes, so I was excited to find June's recipe for "Authentic Hungarian Kalachki."  I have many cookbooks including Hungarian and German ones, but have never found a recipe even remotely close to my mother's recipe. In particular the way that the dough is folded from a 3 inch square. My grandmother came from Großkomlosh, Banat, Romania. Does June have any idea where this variation on the Kalachki (we spelled it Kolochki) came from? My mother's favorite fillings were poppy seed, apricot or almond paste. I note that almond paste and poppy seed were not mentioned in her recipe.

June says that the recipe was a borrowed one. Where did it come from? Wherever its origins, it brings back so many memories and I love it at Christmas. I thank June so much for making this possible.

June's Response:
The recipe is from my sister's mother in law who was born in Arad in 1905, in the Banat, now Romania. The recipe was originally made with lard. The recipe is very old. It is almost impossible to know the origin or route of a recipe. The Serbians, Polish, Galicians, Austrians, Yugoslavians, etc made these pastries. We always made our own LEKVAR (cookie jam filling) from dried apricot and prunes. We never made almond paste, and the poppy seed filling was usually made for our rolled strudels.

Barb posed a number of questions:
I would like to know if June has ever made strudel with a squash filling, and, if so, what is the best kind of squash to use?

June's Response:
My mother and grandmother often used finely shredded PUMPKIN with cinnamon and sugar seasoning, or COOKED CABBAGE with salt and pepper, for the LEAF OR PHILO dough strudel.

Barb question number 2:
Does she know of a traditional soup made on Good Friday?

My mother was Lutheran and we did not observe Catholic traditions. My father was Catholic and he did not go to church so we did not have meatless Fridays.

The third question from Barb:
Has she had potato candy?

I have heard of it, but do not have a recipe. I know it is made with mashed potato, confectionery sugar and flavoring.

Barb keeps asking good questions:
Could she also explain the similarities between some of the Banat cooking and classic French country cooking, e.g. the liberal use of sauces?

When I first bought a French cookbook, I was astonished to realize that a lot of our Hungarian cooking was French, or that a lot of French cooking was really Old Hungarian cooking. We always started our sauces with a "Roux" but never heard it called that. We called it "Ein gebrendt". It was used in much of our family cuisine. I wonder if my GGG French grandmother from Alsace was responsible for our wonderful cuisine. She was well known in her Batschka village, ALTKEER, now in Yugoslavia, and would be hired by the local rich people to cook and bake for their weddings and funerals. We ate a lot of wonderful Sauerkraut dishes, which today’s Alsace is known for.

Now some questions from Jody:
I would like to ask her if she plans to come out with any future books?

June replies:
You must remember that my current book is an intimate family collection of pre World War One recipes from the Batschka and Banat regions of old Austria-Hungary. These are the recipes that we lived on day to day. I may compile a book, of old Hungarian recipes that people have kindly and proudly sent to me.

Another question from Jody:
I would also like to know in reference to the recipe (Lesco) page 115 of her book, if she ever heard of putting frankfurters in it and served over mashed potatoes?  Because that is how my Banater Grandmother served it and I wanted to know if that was something handed down or she created it one day. I wish I had asked her while she was living.

The recipe for LESCO contains all the remains of the garden plot at the end of summer—tomato, onion, peppers and paprika.  It is a condiment, an appetizer and a main meal.  You can add sausage to it, you can eat it over scrambled eggs, and you can eat it over dumplings, rice or mashed potatoes. It is supposed to be made with those wonderful long and hot Hungarian peppers. When I make it, I tone down the heat. It is also healthy for you with all the paprika, and it is not really fattening.

Beth Tolfree ends our Q&A session with two of her own:
Does June think there is a difference in results with very old recipes using today's ingredients? For example, a difference in the way flour is milled affecting baked goods.  (That is a question both my mother and aunt used to raise when they were making some of their mother's recipes.)  [The Interviewer also heard her mother and aunts say the same thing.  They said there were too many chemicals in the flour.]

There is a difference in the type of flour and the way it is milled.  Hungary had the best flour before the great wars. The dumplings had a bite "al dente". Today's flours tend to make mushy dumplings. My egg noodles are not the same as my grandma made 60 years ago. The Banat was not called "The bread basket of Europe" for nothing.

Beth’s other question:
Has she considered a sequel to her cookbook with contributions from various people and/or variations on some of the recipes? It might be interesting to have variations/contributions with a brief history for each.

As I responded earlier, I do have a lot of recipes that were sent to me.  But self-publishing a cookbook is a lot of work. You have to first cook or bake every recipe to be sure it is correct and good. I knew how my recipes were supposed to taste, but if I have no idea how someone else's recipe tastes, it is difficult to judge.

My current book took me a few years to write, and I gained many pounds. The book is now in its third printing, and I am proud to say that over 800,000 hits on my web site have been accumulated in seven years, from all over the world. Hungarian home cooking is alive and well.

My book, June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes, is now available. It contains all the recipes in my home page on the Internet, plus additional ones. It is so much more than just a wonderful cookbook. The book is in a most usable form. It is nicely organized with one recipe per page. It has an Ingredients page, an Alphabetical Recipe Index, "A History of German Settlement in Southern Hungary" and a "History of The Danube Swabians in the Twentieth Century" by Sue Clarkson. It also contains an account of life in Altkeer, Batschka region, Hungary around the turn of the century. The book is spiral bound so it will lay flat while cooking, and has stain resistant covers. It is written in English and includes Hungarian names for dishes.

I know you will be pleased.

The book is available; you can send me a check or money order in US funds.  If you are in the U.S.A., the book is $20 INCLUDING shipping and handling.  If you are in Illinois, the cost is $21.75, which includes Illinois state sales tax and shipping costs.  If you are in Canada, the cost is $25 in US dollars, including shipping and handling.  Please e-mail for rates elsewhere in the world.  Make the check out to June Meyer and enclose your mailing address.

To order the book and see Hungarian heirloom recipes!

Go to June's Recipe Index Page

Thank you June for your contributions to the DS community and the DVHH Project!

[Published at 30 Sep 2020 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Last updated: 31 Oct 2020