Schlitz Kechla, Corn Tortillas, and Replacing Store-Bought with Homemade
Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 3
Week 3: January 14, 2023
What do a Germans-from-Russia fried bread and Mexican staple food have in common? Schlitz Kechla and corn tortillas are both homemade ethnic foods. In our quest to replace store-bought with homemade, these two foods have their place in my kitchen and in our meals.
We are all aware of rising grocery prices and that is often the reason given for getting back to homemade. It’s a good reason, but not the only. In addition to saving money, what are some other reasons you might choose to make something rather than buy it?
A few reasons that stand out are:
- to carry on a family tradition
- creative enjoyment
- superior flavor and quality
What store-bought foods can you replace with homemade?
Start with one. Make it several times with the healthiest ingredients you can afford. Whether it’s dinner rolls, chicken broth, tortillas, pie, pizza, or stir fry, devote some time to mastering the recipe so that you can comfortably produce that food without too much fuss. Repetition breeds comfort. If it’s a keeper, consider investing in tools to make it simpler, such as a heavy duty mixer, tortilla press, better pie pan, wok, etc. Once that food is firmly in your repertoire, move on to another.
I’d love to hear what recipe or dish you plan to master – please let me know in the comments!
Let’s start with Schlitz Kechla, which can be spelled in various ways: Schlitz këchla, Schlitz Keuchla, or këchla. It is also known as roll kuchen, greble, or grebble. There are probably more names floating around out there.
Pillowy, golden-brown kechla are a doughnut-like treat from my childhood. My maternal grandparents were first generation Americans more comfortable speaking German than English. I did not think this was unusual; didn’t everyone’s grandparents speak German? My mom did not teach my sister and I to speak German. In the old days, immigrants thought it so important to assimilate that they set aside their language, in public at least, and taught their children to love and appreciate the new homeland.
Food, however was another matter! Traditional cooking of German food continued and these Schlitz Kechla are an example of German-from-Russia thrift and ingenuity. Not having doughnut cutters, the dough was rolled in an oval and cut in sections, then slits were added for even frying. No scraps and no waste!
My sister and I loved kechla, as we shortened the name to, with jam and jelly. The soft bread were torn in fingers and dipped in strawberry jam, grape jelly, or orange marmalade. During my mom’s childhood it was chokecherry jelly.
Homemade corn tortillas
HOMEMADE CORN TORTILLAS are easier than you might think.
Just 3 ingredients: masa harina, salt, and water. I chose Bob’s Red Mill organic masa harina or “golden corn flour” because the flavor is as sunny as the color; so rich and delicious! Directions for making tortillas are right on the bag.
I learned to make tortillas from my daughter’s friend, Martha, when the girls were in high school. Martha lived right around the corner from us. She would occasionally lug a big bag of Maseca over and make tortillas in my kitchen to go with shredded beef or pulled pork and the most amazing salsa.
I’m not saying I won’t ever buy tortillas again – there is something to be said for convenience – but I wanted to, if not master them, at least be comfortable making them.
- Let the dough rest 1 hour, covered with a damp towel, before pressing
- Get a tortilla press – or place the dough in a cut-open Ziploc bag and press with a glass pie pan
- Remove hot tortillas to a towel and cover to keep them soft and pliable
One pastured chicken
The McMaemic Farm recently delivered our order of pastured, organic chickens for the freezer. Let me tell you, you have never seen such plump birds at the store!
Think a high quality pastured chicken is out of your budget? It might not be!
Let’s say the chicken costs $25 and weighs 5 pounds. $5 a pound sounds expensive, doesn’t it?
When we had 5 kids at home, they could and did devour an entire roast chicken in one meal. I saved the bones and skin to make broth. I was very frugal and cooked the bones 4 times, yielding nearly 4 gallons of chicken broth to freeze for soups. That added up to 5 meals, or $5 per meal. Often we couldn’t afford an organic chicken and I bought whatever we could afford, without giving myself grief over it.
These days with just Sam and me a chicken can be stewarded to last for seven meals, counting soup made from broth. That’s only $3.57 per meal!
If it’s true that the sauce makes the dish, then homemade mayo is the crown among condiments. You can make a meal of mayo and odds and ends from the fridge. Dress it up, call it aioli, and you can make a literal feast.
Three veggies, a protein (tuna or hard-cooked eggs are easy), a green, a fruit, and a fermented vegetable make a feast fit for a king and for you!
Driving to church on Sundays we cross a bridge and admire a waterfall.
Magic with whey
My friend Whitney Hunter is one of the most creative people I know and she hates waste, which led to the creation of these and many other sparkly whey sodas made from whey leftover from cheesemaking. I had the fun of tasting her elderberry-grape and Meyer lemon sodas this week – wow!
There is nothing as cozy as wood heat. A thrifted Turkish tea kettle presides, returning a bit of humidity to the air; while Italian DeSilva pots hover in readiness for cooking on the wood stove.
We brought in our own firewood and stored it in our “new” woodshed made entirely from repurposed materials last spring and summer in preparation for winter. Bookshelf
We are liking Sam’s new wheelbarrow from Lowe’s!
The austere beauty of a winter garden.
For you houseplant lovers!
The Unexpected Houseplant, 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home by Tovah Martin is a fun book!
Check your local library, you may be able to borrow it, or use my link for a used copy https://www.thriftbooks.com/share/…
The Unexpected Houseplant will have you looking around your house, garage, yard, shed, and garden for unusual vessels to serve as pots for all kinds of indoor plants.
A very practical book with generous photographs!
Have a good week, dear reader!
Michele and Samuel
Note: This post contains links to products and vendors I use and appreciate for their quality and usefulness. Some are affiliate, some are not. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases when you use the links I provide; this does not change your price. Thank you!
The technique of using a pie dish to flatten tortillas was so amazing! I used to make corn tortillas with a rolling pin and always made a small prayer for them to puff up and turn out soft.
This time I combined techniques on how I make my dough and used the pie dish to flatten them out. Pressing with the pie dish guaranteed an even thickness. Every single tortilla puffed up, and they were super soft and pliable! My kids could make tortillas if they desired to, now, as the pie dish idea is a game changer!!
I am so excited because I can make beautiful tortillas with various flours with this no-fail method!
I’m so glad, Bhanu! Thank you for letting me know it worked for you. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I saw it on a video somewhere and it really works. And thank you for teaching me all those years ago to make chapattis. XOXOX Michele
I’m trying to master homemade sourdough bread with freshly ground flour.