A Tex-Czech Icon, the Kolache Enters Cincinnati Market – Sort of!

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This morning as I stopped at UDF for my coffee, my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets when I saw a Tex-Czech food icon, the kolache.   I glanced over at the counter warming shelf, that holds breakfast sandwiches.  Staring back at me on one of the wrapped sandwiches was “Cheddar Sausage Kolache: Hardwood Smoked Cheddar Sausage wrapped in a Sweet Dough.”     I had just written about the Tex-Czech foodways and the kolache.

UDF has really amped it up with their fresh deli offerings in the last several months.   In fact, they are trend-forward with the same thing happening across all American convenience stores, and doing a great job at it.   Gone are the days of hot dog rollers and warmed up taquitos as the only convenience store offerings.

Thankfully, UDF marketeers decided to describe what a kolache is on the package, as most  Cincinnati natives would not know a kolache from a venecek (another Czech pastry).     And, surely the Germanic demographic of Cincinnati fits with the demographic of the kolache.   But the UDF marketeers got it a bit wrong.     A  kolache is definitely a sweet yeast dough pastry.   But it’s a sweet filled pastry too– with some sort of fruit marmalade, a sweet creamy cheese, or poppy seed paste.   When you add a savory sausage in the pastry, it’s then called a klobasnek.   Both the kolache and its sibling come from the Texas Hill country around San Antonio and Austin, where Germanic and Czech immigrants settled just before the time of the Civil War.   Bakeries and meat lockers in that area sell these adapted foods of these groups including sausages and the kolaches.

UDF’s ‘sausage kolache’ comes two in a package.     They have the right sweet dough, but look more like what we would call pigs-in-a-blanket.       The difference is that pigs-in-a-blanket are usually Vienna sausages or cut hot dog bits wrapped in crescent roll dough.     What American kid didn’t grow up eating pigs-in-a-blanket?     But it’s interesting to see the fusion of Tex-Czech into Cincy-German foodways.   And who knows, maybe we’ll see a Cincy Bratwurst Klobasnek filled with Dusseldorf mustard or sauerkraut in our future.

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The traditional American pig-in-a-blanket.

 

What’s interesting about the whole pastry wrapped sausage is that they all seem to go back to a Germanic origin.     Germany has a version they call Wurstchen im Schlafrock – literally ‘ little sausages in a bathrobe’.   Cute.   This dish was around long before the first American pigs-in-a-blanket reference shows up  in the 1957 Betty Crocker “Cookbook for Kids.”     Irma Rombauer had a recipe for “Link Sausages in Pastry” in her 1931 Joy of Cooking.   And, by the 1970s, pigs-in-a-blanket had baked its way into American cocktail party culture.

 

There’s also a version in Germany that’s called the geflugel sausage roll that’s more square than the Wurstchen in Schlafrock, but both are found in many train stations and street vendor carts all over Germany.   Sometimes the Wurstchen im Schlafrock has German mustard or curry ketchup, pickles, cheese or even bacon inside.

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The German Wurstchen im Schlafrock (left) and geflugel sausage roll (right).

The corndog also has German roots in Texas, like the kolache and klobasnek.   The story is that the same German and Czech-Bohemian immigrants who came to Texas got lukewarm reception from the Americans on their sausages.   So they wrapped them in readily available cornmeal batter and deep fried them to make them more palatable.     The stick in the corndog came later, but the sausage-in-a-pastry concept is the same.     So corndog, sausage kolache, klobasnek, and pigs-in-a-blanket are cousins, all with a very Germanic origin.

Saveur Magazine’s recent September edition included an article on elevating the American pig-in-a-blanket.   They tried making with several different doughs – brioche (based off the French saussicon brioche), puff pastry, and croissant – but settled on the Southern buttermilk biscuit dough, with their house made sausages.

Look for more Tex-Czech fusian foods at your neighboring United Dairy Farmers market soon.

 

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