Every year at New Year’s we make our traditional Neu Jahr Kuchen, or German Doughnuts. They are amazingly delicious. My Grandma Elsa made them, my Mother made them, and now I make them. My brother in California has learned to make them and my brother here joins us with his family every year as we continue this family tradition.
If I were dying, I would want die with Neu Jahr Kuchen in me–I’d leave this earth happy. Flavored with lemon rind, mace and currents, and rolled in sugar, these doughnuts are just about as good as food gets. But it’s not just the flavor of them that I love–it’s the memories that come with the smells and the flavors. It’s a family time, with everyone gathered around the frying pan (the only time I use it all year). I remember eating these with my grandparents and in my growing up family, and now with my own children and nieces and nephews.
New Year’s Eve this year was a little bit quiet. All the kids went to parties with their friends, until the wee hours of the morning. John and I were home alone, just the two of us. In the last moments of 2012, we came together to watch the ball at Times Square drop, we had our first kiss of 2013, then we took the 3 large authentic Swiss cow bells down from the bookshelf and went out into the street, ringing them with gusto, to welcome the new year with our neighbors and friends. The cul de sac and street were silent. No one was out there. Not a single soul. It was freezing cold and snow sparkled in the streetlight as it was blown down from the boughs of the pine tree. We rang with all our might, hoping to rouse someone from the still houses around us. No one came. After several moments of cold and loudness, we turned, walked back up the sidewalk, and into our quiet, empty home. Happy New Year.
Times are changing. We aren’t as young as we used to be. Our neighborhood children are marrying and moving away, leaving parents behind, to carry on the traditions, often alone. I’m grateful to have my kids nearby, at least for another year. Making Neu Jahr Kuchen on New Year’s Day reminds me of the traditions that hold our families together. For now I will enjoy the deliciousness of it all and enjoy every single moment and every single bite.
Here is the recipe:
Neu Jahr Kuchen
Mix 2 cups heated milk with 1 1/2 T active dry yeast or SAF yeast
Add when foamy: 2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup sugar
When cooled a bit, add: 5 large beaten eggs, 4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
Mix in on box of currants (2 cups), the zest from 2 lemons and 1 tsp mace
Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Do not punch down or knead
Heat oil to 375 degrees
Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil, cook until golden brown
Roll in sugar and serve
I always double the recipe so there are enough to share with neighbors and friends. It also helps to zest the lemons before you begin, so you are ready to add the zest to the mixture as you are making it.