Hungarian heirloom recipes!
"I wonder if my GGG French grandmother from Alsace was responsible for our wonderful cuisine."
Rose Mary Keller Hughes
Published at DVHH.org 12 Dec 2004 by
Jody McKim Pharr
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.
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
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.
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
Members of the DVHH List
Robert Evensen of Cambridge, MA (originally from
Chicago) posed the following question:
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.
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?
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
Barb question number 2:
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:
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
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:
would like to ask her if she plans to come out with any
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
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
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
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
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.
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