Thursday, August 26, 2010

What We Eat. How We Eat. Who We Are.

An anniversary special 25 years of exploring the food culture of South Dakota.

WHAT SUBSET OF HOMO Sapiens is most apt to mix rhubarb with raspberries, gather in Delmont for pickle parties, discern the difference between chislic and kabobs, know the history of the pastie sandwich and collect recipes galore for bison, salmon, walleye, beef and pork?
Who knows where to find a morel mushroom and how to cook it? Who knows the best lutefisk and mountain oyster jokes?
     Of course that would be a South Dakotan. Though South Dakota lies quite literally in the center of a fast-food nation, we’ve set ourselves apart from the other 49 states by our food culture. We have our own rituals, unusual restaurants and long-held culinary traditions. We also are rich with foods grown here, some wild and others quite cultivated. Our bounty ranges from mushrooms and chokecherries to wildlife, fish and farm-raised commodities.
     Much of our South Dakota identity comes from our music, books, politics, sports, architecture and religion. But an equal part can be traced to the foods we produce, how we eat them and whom we eat with. South Dakota Magazine’s writers have felt it their duty to explore how we differ from other states, so it has been our solemn obligation to pursue these foods over the last 25 years. We’ve suffered through bullhead feeds, lutefisk dinners, buffalo barbecues, pie baking contests and chili cook-offs. We’ve toured cheese factories and ethnic bakeries, and sampled dishes at famous and little-known restaurants in every corner of the state.
     We’re smarter than when we started all this 25 years ago, and a few pounds heavier. But it has been worth it. Here’s some of what we’ve learned.

Loaun Werner Vaad of rural Chamberlain published a cute recipe collection called The Best Little Cookbook in the West. Her selections are not the typical casserole and dessert recipes found in most cookbooks. Here are the instructions for Bull Rider’s Bean Bread:
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup water
1 cup oil
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 pound can pork and beans
3 cups flour
11/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Place raisins in water and bring to a boil. Remove and let set to absorb water. Beat pork and beans until not chunky. Beat oil and sugar; then beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. Add pork and beans. Add dry ingredients, then stir in vanilla, raisins and nuts. Bake in two loaf pans at 350 degrees for one hour.

Sylvia Rosenbaum was in her 70s and still hunting deer in the woods near her Jefferson home when we met her in 1996. She knew how to hunt and how to cook. “Eat what you hunt” was her code.
     The Rosenbaum family enjoyed the wild taste of venison, but Sylvia also knew that guests sometimes found it gamey so she developed tricks and recipes to make it palatable for all.
     She told our writer, Jennifer Thom, that running deer steaks through a mechanical tenderizer, then coating them with a mixture of flour, salt and pepper helped remove the wild taste. She also learned that frying the steaks in margarine or melted beef tallow kept them from drying out.
     Removing the bones from the meat also seemed to reduce the game taste, as did soaking venison in a mixture of water, vinegar, salt and pepper.
     Her meatloaf recipe was a favorite with friends and family.

Sylvia’s Venison Meatloaf
2 to 21/2 pounds ground venison
1/2 cup coarse cracker crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon
1 can onion soup

Combine all ingredients except soup. Shape into a loaf and place in loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Drain off grease. Cover with soup and bake 30 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes for easy slicing.

Leola touts itself as the Rhubarb Capital of the World. Rhubarb royalty are crowned, and the citizens also host a parade, a rhubarb goodies contest, turtle races, bed races, a street fair, and possibly a presentation by the author of the best-selling book The Joy of Rhubarb. Awards are also bestowed for biggest leaf, biggest stalk and tallest rhubarb structure. Call (605) 439–3109 or 439–3454 for particulars.

Chokecherry has been a prairie food source for centuries. Native Americans dried and crushed the berries, then mixed them with dried meat to form patties called pemmican. They also enjoyed fresh fruit in winter by soaking the dried berries in water.
     Settlers learned to use chokecherries as a substitute for the fruits of their homelands. Fortunately, the bitter taste discourages people from eating them raw because the pits and leaves contain cyanogenetic glycoside, a substance that produces hydrocyanic acid (cyanide) in the body. Livestock have died from consuming large quantities of the leaves. The toxic compound neutralizes during cooking or drying.
    Chokecherries can be harvested in late July through early fall and frozen for jams, jellies, syrups and candies.

Roslyn became the Vinegar Capital of the World when Lawrence Diggs relocated there from California in 1989. Wanting to make his own balsamic vinegar, Diggs was surprised at the lack of information available, so he devoted his life to becoming the world’s vinegar expert.
     Diggs traveled the world to research and teach the history and uses of vinegar and also authored a book. He is certain that vinegar makes biscuits, cakes, pies and cookies lighter, and adds tang to soups and sauces. In addition to his research, he converted Roslyn’s old brick town hall into the International Vinegar Museum, and started an annual festival where visitors can sample vinegars from around the world.
     How do you taste vinegar? Suck it off a sugar cube. You get the flavor without shutting down your taste buds. Everyone in Roslyn knows that.

Homemade fudge is a Christmas tradition for 3,000 prisoners in Sioux Falls, Yankton and Springfield. Just after the holiday meal, each inmate receives a sack containing Christmas cards, hard candy, peanuts and two squares of specially prepared fudge. The gift is highly anticipated. An inmate once ended a hunger strike when the fudge arrived. “To some in the free world maybe it’s not much,” says Leonard Blue Thunder, incarcerated since 1989. “But for me and my friends it’s a very big treat that we wait for the whole year.”
     Call the Rev. Gary Ternes at (605) 367-5113 if you want to make fudge for the inmates this year.

Supporters called it a sweet victory in the spring of 2000 when the state legislature passed a bill designating kuchen as South Dakota’s official dessert. Many scoffed at the effort (it failed during the 1999 legislative session) but citizens of Eureka took it seriously. Jeff and Carol Spitzer, longtime owners of the Eureka Bakery, and other local bakers hauled hundreds of their sweet treats to Pierre while lobbying lawmakers in favor of the measure. Some legislators left the session that spring 10 pounds heavier.
     Kuchen (pronounced ku-kin) has always been a favorite in McPherson County. Germans brought the recipe for the pie-sized pastry when they settled the area in the 1880s. But the bill’s success was a further boon to the county’s kuchen industry. Residents started festivals and businesses to keep up with demand. Today two Eureka shops make over 20 varieties and ship them around the country.
Roughly translated, kuchen means “cake.” It’s made with sweet dough and a filling of custard, fruit or nuts. South Dakota boasts plenty of delicious ethnic desserts, but we encourage you to try kuchen. After all, it’s the law.

Aunt Edna’s Kuchen
(makes eight kuchen)

The Crust
1 package dry yeast
1/8 cup warm water
2 beaten eggs
11/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 cups flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, sugar, salt, eggs and vegetable oil. Mix in flour and make into dough. Let rise about one hour. Knead down and let rise again for another hour. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces. Roll each to about 1/4 inch thick and place in a greased pie pan so that the dough covers the bottom and comes about halfway up the side. Let dough rise in the pan for 15 minutes. Add a layer of thin-sliced apples, strawberries or other fruit, if desired.

The Filling
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups cream
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour

On the stove, heat the milk and cream together. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour and eggs together. Add the milk and cream mixture to the sugar, flour and eggs and return it to the stove and cook until it thickens. Pour about 3/4 of a cup of the filling mixture into each crust.

The Topping
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup butter

Mix sugar, flour and butter until it is between smooth and lumpy. Pour the topping on and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After the kuchen comes out, let it set for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let it cool.

Corn South Dakotans are the best at eating roasted corn, and we have proof. Grant County farmer Edward Kottwitz became the World Corn Eating Champion in 1933 when he chewed through 37 ears, one for every year of his life.
     Kottwitz beat 10 other finalists at a sweet corn festival held just across the South Dakota border in Ortonville, Minn. “I probably could have eaten more if I’d had to,” he said. “You see, I had, only a short time before, eaten 10 ears at the free corn dinner and it took the edge off my appetite.”
He won the contest in one hour and 45 minutes, and then refused to even unbutton his vest. His closest competitor ate 32 ears and became violently ill on the way to the hospital.
     In 2008 the South Dakota Magazine staff experimented with roasting techniques and settled on these guidelines:

Peel back the outer layer of the husk, but leave it attached at the base of the ear
Remove the silk and the inner layers of husk
Rinse the ear of corn well in cold water
Fold the remaining husks back over the corn
Soak the ears in cold water for 30 minutes
Spread plain or seasoned butter over the corn kernels, under the husk. Optional. (We didn’t try this step because our editor likes his corn plain, no salt, no pepper.)
Grill over medium low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally.
Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove husks. Enjoy!

Veteran South Dakota campers Floyd and Monica Demaray shared some outdoor cooking tips with writer Jennifer Thom in 1997. Floyd, now retired from a career with S.D. Game, Fish and Parks, said they don’t go outdoors to rough it, but “to smooth it.”
     “We want to enjoy it and make it easy,” said Monica. Their favorite meal is Black Hills trout. If the fish won’t bite, they still eat hearty. “Preparation is the key,” she added. “Do as many things as possible at home.”
     Plastic bags can be a camper’s best friend. Use them to store mixes, dry goods, and spices. Before a camping trip, measure a recipe’s dry ingredients and store in a plastic bag. Place all the plastic bags for one meal inside a larger plastic bag or container.
     Dried, canned and instant foods make a cook’s job easy. Dried food is lightweight and keeps well without refrigeration. Add dried fruits and vegetables to packaged rice, potato dishes or prepared pudding.
     To prepare dried vegetables, Monica spreads out a bag of frozen vegetables in her food dryer. To rehydrate, barely cover the veggies with water. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Return to heat and cook until barely fork tender.
     And most importantly, here is Floyd’s advice on cooking trout at the campfire:

Catch the trout. Gut and gill. Place on foil. Put butter and lemon pepper on inside of trout. Wrap in foil. Place on glowing coals. Cook 5-7 minutes, depending on size of fish, or until done.

Dr. Seuss has Whoville, Casey has Mudville and Peever has Pieville, where it has become a habit for people from miles around to meet at Char’s CafE for lunch and homemade pie.
     The cafe is open daily and Char Jarman always features pie for dessert, but she bakes 16 or more on Wednesdays to meet the demand.
     Peever is 50 miles north of Watertown, near Interstate 29.

Autumn’s first frost kills tomato plants in full bloom, leaving most gardens littered with green tomatoes. Sympathizing with our fellow South Dakotans’ distaste for waste, South Dakota Magazine’s Ruth Steil experimented with a solution. Her tomato hors d’oeurves were a big hit in the office. If green tomatoes taste so good, wouldn’t Fried Red Tomatoes be even better?

Velda Schroeder was a National Beef Cook-off finalist in 1976, and just four years later her daughter, Karla, won a ticket to the nation’s premier cooking contest with a recipe for barbecued beef rolls. Karla has been a promoter of South Dakota beef ever since, when she’s not busy on the family farm south of Pukwana. “I love the feeling of chopping and peeling and handling food,” she told us in 2005. “It’s a love relationship with the food.”

When I was a girl in 4-H, I chose a recipe for Rhubarb Pineapple Pie to make for a fruit pie contest at the county level in Redfield. I must have made the pie two dozen times. At the competition I prepared a pie while being quizzed by the judges. I did well with the questions but my crust was slightly underdone. I earned a purple ribbon but not the coveted spot to go onto the State Fair.
     As an adult, I became a registered dietician and felt validated to learn that rhubarb, if eaten raw, is a great source of fiber and contains appreciable amounts of vitamin C, calcium and folate.
     Our dad still gardens the same plot of land with the same rhubarb plants we grew up with. They are at least 46 years old. My mom still cooks and cans the stalky fruit and brings us jam and occasionally even some raw stalks for me to munch.
— Anna M. Page

Rhubarb Cake
1/2 cup shortening
11/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sour milk (add 1 teaspoon vinegar
to 1 cup milk to sour it)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 cups rhubarb cut up

Cream the shortening and 1 cup brown sugar. Add egg and mix well. Add milk, soda and flour, mix. Blend in rhubarb. Top with 1/2 cup brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees in a 9 x 13 greased cake pan for 30 minutes.

We’re surprised that no one objected, but as of now Marilyn Moeller remains the winner of the 1988 state rhubarb pie contest even though she admits she baked a Rhuberry Pie. Her pie was 6 parts rhubarb to 1 part raspberry, plus a bit of cranraspberry sauce. Obviously the judge wasn’t a purist.

Is it a fruit or a vegetable? A judge in New York settled that argument once and for all in 1947 when he ruled that rhubarb, though part of the buckwheat family, should be considered a fruit.

Mixing South Dakota beef with peanut butter and jelly seems like a waste of good meat, but Kathi Anderson’s recipe won a ticket to the 2003 National Beef Cook-off in San Antonio. She concocted unusual dishes while growing up on a family farm near Zell.
     Reliance cattlewoman Pat Blum encouraged Anderson to enter the contest. Blum was having her hair done at a Chamberlain salon when Anderson showed up with samples of her Beefy PB&J Wrap. After a tasting session between snips, everyone in the salon gave their approval and Anderson sent off the winning entry.
     She was an unlikely state champ. “Until I entered the contest, I only had one measuring cup and no measuring spoons. This,” she says, bringing two fingers close together, “is a teaspoon, and this” (while widening the fingers) “is a tablespoon.”
     She says her recipes don’t always turn out so well. “When it doesn’t, you put cheese on the top and it will be fine.”

Ruth Overby is one of South Dakota’s most celebrated pie-makers. She won first at Crisco’s American Pie Celebration at the State Fair in 1991 with her Apple Pie in a Bag.
     On another occasion, Ruth entered Huron’s Pie in the Park contest. She entered two pies, a rhubarb with blueberries and an apple. There were many entries, so the crowd waited a long time for the judges’ decision between the top two pies. Finally, officials announced that Ruth Overby was the second place winner. And then they announced that the first place prize “goes to … Ruth Overby.”
     Ruth and her husband, Glenn, have lived on the family farm near Mellette throughout 62 years of marriage. They have some lucky neighbors because Ruth occasionally asks them over to test a pie. She once held an all-day open house to sample and name a new pie she was developing for the State Fair.   “Whenever one of them would stop by, Glenn would come in and have a piece of pie with them,” she says. She finally limited her hubby to coffee and conversation. “I don’t want a fat husband,” she said.
Here are some Overby apple pie tips. “A good pie is not a soggy crust — it’s a flaky crust, a good filling and an attractive appearance,” she says.
     All of the crust ingredients should be cold, so she stores shortening and flour in the refrigerator. Furthermore, she says a good pie can’t be hurried. “You have to rest the dough before rolling because that makes the gluten work.”
     She also swears by a rolling pin sock and a pastry cloth. And just before popping the pie in the oven, Ruth cuts apples or hearts from the left-over dough to decorate the top of the crust. It’s her signature.

Sharing food with community is a Benedictine tradition, so it was only a matter of time before the Catholic sisters of Sacred Heart Monastery in Yankton published a cookbook.
     Many of the dishes had fun names, like Purgatorial Pleasure Meatballs and Prayer Bars. Mother Jerome Schmidt was known for her business acumen and peanut butter cookies. The recipe for the simpler of the two is in the book, along with her instructions for amber nut brittle.
     Priests aren’t necessarily known for cooking. The late Father Link, who served in Yankton for more than 50 years, once bought eight quarts of vanilla. Lacking any idea what to use it for, he decided to give it to the monastery. “Father, just how much vanilla do you think it takes to make a cake?” asked Mother Jerome.
     “I don’t know,” he replied. “A cup or so.”
     Recipes were not solicited from priests. But there was no need. The nuns filled more than 300 pages and the cookbook sold out in no time. Here is one of the favorites:

Purgatorial Pleasure Meatballs

10 ounces hot chili sauce
10 ounces grape jelly
1 pound ground beef
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat chili sauce and jelly until well blended. Form tiny meatballs from seasoned beef. Place in sauce and simmer until cooked. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

South Dakotans rarely encounter royalty, but in 1997 we met Levo Larson, South Dakota’s self-proclaimed Watermelon King. Larson has raised melons near Forestburg, the Watermelon Capital, for over 45 years with his son Skip.
     The James River and Highway 34 combine to make Forestburg’s melon growers successful. The fertile river valley provides perfect growing conditions for the 2,000-plus acres between Forestburg and Woonsocket that are devoted to melons every summer. “You can get out of this area and raise big watermelons, but they don’t have the sweetness or flavor,” Skip says. “It’s something about the sandy soil.”
     And the highway brings plenty of traffic. Family trips to the state fair in Huron and the Corn Palace Festival in Mitchell aren’t complete without stopping at a Forestburg melon stand.
     Customers are welcome to thump the melons, but it’s hardly necessary. “It hurts our pride to pick a green watermelon,” says Levo. “We guarantee ours to be ripe and we guarantee them to have Vitamin P if you eat enough.”
     However, if you are judging ripeness at the grocery store, Skip says to look for a little curl beside the stem. If the curl is dry the melon is ripe. Levo says ripe melons also have a chalky look. A melon with a shine needs more time on the vine.

Flying Tomato Farm is a one-acre, one-woman operation near Vermillion. The woman is Rebecca Terk, a Vermonter who came to town in 1993 to study at the University of South Dakota. She left, and then came back to teach at USD and raise tomatoes.
     “I just thought South Dakota would be a great adventure, and it has been,” she told us in 2008. “It is so full of possibility and opportunity, and it doesn’t feel all bought up and taken like much of the East Coast.”
     Rebecca also publishes a gardening culture blog,

Delmont has held a Pickle Packin’ Party every July since 1994. It began when Terry and Sam Grosz attended a relative’s pickle party in California. They came home with a secret recipe, and a Delmont tradition was born.
    Invitations are mailed to people who have attended in the past, but anyone is welcome. Just let the Groszes know how many quarts you want in advance. On the day of the party, bring your own jars and lids, and a potluck dish for the noon lunch. The cost is $2 a jar, a paltry price for great pickles.
The townspeople buy cucumbers from a local Hutterite colony. They wash them in a washing machine, with towels positioned on the tub’s sides to prevent bruising. Volunteers then gather in the town’s community center on a summer Saturday to pack the jars with cucumbers, dill, hot peppers, garlic and brine.
     The result is a crisp, savory pickle. The Groszes won’t share the recipe, but everyone’s invited to join the July party.

Dimock Dairy’s headquarters is a clean little white building on the east edge of town. At 5 a.m. daily, nine workers arrive to make cheese as it was done when local dairy farmers started the plant in 1931.
Somehow the little cooperative has escaped corporate agriculture’s takeovers and mega-mergers that have swallowed or closed almost every other small cheese plant. Dimock’s cheese is delivered to grocery stores, sold in school vending machines and shipped to loyal customers across the nation.
     Local farmers still own the plant. The entire town is the dairy’s marketing team: Everyone boasts of the cheese, spreading the word far and wide.
     Call (605) 928–3833 to order by phone, or stop by the factory for the squeak of fresh cheese curds. There’s no extra charge.

Eric Tycz is the proprietor, chef, and chief magician at the Sportsmen’s Rendezvous in downtown Tyndall. He’s apt to make objects stick to the ceiling, disappear or show up behind your ear. And when it comes to cards, you’ll swear he has X-ray vision.
     Tycz has been cooking up tricks since age 8, when he got a magic set for Christmas. He had the knack, so he kept reading and learning. “I used the tricks to meet chicks in college [at the University of South Dakota],” he admits. But now he has an even higher calling. “A lot of people say they don’t believe in magic,” says Tycz. “I tell them that what I do with cards or coins is really just an illusion, but when I get you to laugh, now that’s magic.”
     Customers grin from ear to ear as Tycz turns quarters to dimes, empties a glass of water into his dry palm, and makes dollar bills stick to the 20-foot ceiling in his restaurant, which was built as an ornate stone bank.
     Tycz and his fun-loving staff are very serious about their menu. They serve noon and evening meals — including steak, chicken, and shrimp dinners and an occasional Czech meal befitting the town’s heritage. Tycz makes sure he has enough help on Friday and Saturday nights to allow him time to entertain.


Watch for parked trucks, they say, and you’ll find the best food. The same might be said of East River water. There must be something special about a spot along Highway 28, just northwest of Astoria in Deuel County, where truckers and other travelers have been parking by the side of the road.
     The tracks lead to Jorstad Spring, where travelers stop to fill bottles and jars with some of the freshest, cleanest water to be found in the world. Local people don’t go there because they have the same good water in their kitchen taps, but out-of-towners love the place.
     A hydro-geologist credits the water’s purity to the glacier that slid through the area 12,000 years ago, depositing so many rocks that it has been impossible to farm this hilly corner of Deuel County. Since the land remains covered in native grass, few pesticides, insecticides, and fertilizers are applied. Also, the groundwater is young, geologically speaking, so it hasn’t soaked up many underground minerals.

Unless you were lucky enough to have an adventurous uncle who made frequent fishing trips to Alaska, your first experience with salmon probably involved a can opener.
     Remember those patties your mother made from canned salmon? The salmon in those cans lived most of their lives in the ocean, where they have been known to grow to over 100 pounds. They are part of a species called anadromous, which means they return to freshwater streams to spawn. In fact, salmon will travel 1,000 miles to return to the streambed where they hatched.
     Deep, cold, salmon-friendly waters were created when the Missouri River reservoir system was constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1982, the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks introduced Lake Michigan Chinook salmon to Lake Oahe. “This is really unique,” said fisheries biologist Bob Hanten. “It’s a mini Great Lakes scenario because of the cold water habitat available throughout the year.” The lower third of Oahe can be up to 190 feet deep with water temperatures from 52 to 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit even in a July heat wave. Salmon can be found anywhere in the reservoir when the overall lake temperature cools.
     Hanten said South Dakota salmon has a flavor similar to Alaskan salmon, “but it doesn’t have as much fat and oils in the tissue. Ocean-feeding causes Alaskan salmon to have an orange look, while South Dakota salmon has more of a pink or red color.” Lake Oahe is one of only a few North American lakes where Chinook salmon thrive. The state record Chinook salmon was caught in 2003 and weighed 23 pounds, 14 ounces. A thousand salmon were caught just off the face of Oahe Dam last July. Over 17,000 were harvested annually from 1993 to 1997 in the entire reservoir.
     Here’s a recipe for those patties your mother used to make:

Mom’s Salmon Patties
1 14.75 ounce can salmon
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Approximately 1/2 – 3/4 package of saltine crackers, crushed

Empty can of salmon along with juice into a large mixing bowl (remove bones). Add 2 eggs and lemon juice. Stir well. Mix in onion, pepper and crushed crackers. Form into patties three-fourths to 1 inch thick (makes 4-6). Set aside for 5 minutes to meld the ingredients. Heat cooking oil to medium high temperature. When oil is hot, place patties in pan and cook 4-5 minutes per side.

Mention Lakota foods and most people think of fry breads and Indian tacos. Actually, those emerged when the federal government flooded the reservations with white flour and lard. Native American tribes are trying to regain their culinary heritage and, not surprisingly, fry bread is not at the top of their menu.
     On the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Oglala Sioux are proud of a new company, Native American Natural Foods LLC, that produces and markets nutritional snacks based on pre-reservation traditions. The most popular offering is the Tanka Bar, a 70-calorie energy bar comprised of dried buffalo meat, dried cranberries and grains. Elders of the tribe call it wasna.

A food critic visited the 12-stool Hamburger Inn on East Tenth Street in Sioux Falls a few years ago and said he loved it because “all the grease drained away by a George Foreman Grill is left on the burgers.” It’s hard to argue with success: Hamburger Inn is the city’s oldest eatery, dating to the 1930s.
     Oh, it is changing a little. Longtime proprietor Nels Nelson was known for tiny burgers on tiny buns, and regular customers ordered sacks full. These days the burgers are larger, but they are still hand-formed, fresh and juicy.
     Chocolate malts, french fries, onion rings and burgers make up the core of the menu — but an old tradition continues. The Eggburger, a staple since Nelson first slapped a fried egg on a burger in the 1970s, is as popular as ever. Tell the cook to hold the burger, and you’ll have a vegetarian option.

Immigrants came from around the world to work in the Black Hills gold mines, and they brought a diversity of customs and cuisines — including the Cornish pastie, a meat-and-potato filling wrapped in a crust.
     Pasties were ideal for hungry hard rock miners who didn’t see the light of day until their shift was over. The pie-like sandwich easily fit in their oblong metal lunch buckets, and provided a complete meal of meat, potatoes and bread. Some say the thick-crimped crust was more handle than food.  Cyanide, arsenic and other toxins were used to extract gold so the miners knew their hands could be contaminated. To be safe, they held the pastie by its crimped edge. After eating the rest of the pastie, superstition compelled some to leave “the handle” for ghosts they believed were in the mines.
     Although Homestake closed in 2002, the pastie tradition is continued by Christ Episcopal Church members in Lead, who make them for local groups. Bonnie King learned pastie-making from a miner’s wife, and sold them in her family’s grocery store for years. Though the store is now closed, she still wholesales them to stores in Hermosa, Central City and Spearfish.

Joan Williams and her family live on a Brookings County farm near the little town of Sinai, but her reputation for bread-making and other foods has spread far and wide. She became acquainted with baked goods in France, and decided in 1996 that South Dakotans should be able to enjoy the same cuisine.
     Breads have been Cider Hill Bakery’s staple food, but she also makes cheeses from the family’s own goats, and she recently started making wood-fired pizzas. She’ll even bring the oven to your local reunion or event.
     Cider Hill products are found at farmers markets in Sioux Falls and Madison, and at local food outlets in Sioux Falls such as the Cleaver’s or the Natural Foods Co-op. Look online at
     Ernest Hemingway called France “a moveable feast,” meaning visitors could take its culture with them. Cider Hill proves his point.

South Dakota farmers raised 173 million bushels of wheat in 2008. Did you know that an average wheat harvest would produce enough to feed our entire state for 75 years?
     And we’d be eating well. South Dakota lies at the southern edge of the hard spring wheat country, and the northern edge of the best hard winter wheat. Both types feature high protein content, so flour mills and consumers like what we grow.

If we had to review Rick’s Cafe in 20 words or less, it would read like this: Outside is painted lavender. Inside, the politics are prairie progressive. The burgers, chili, and Indian tacos are incomparable. The owner . . .
     Well, maybe we should start with the owner of the Mobridge eatery. Rick Christman is a former South Dakota Chili Cook-off Champ, but he’s never coy about his best recipes. In fact, he once printed them on the backs of his business cards. He developed his own seasoning salts, but he sells the “secret seasonings” by the bottle to anyone who asks.
     Rick is famous for his politics. He’s not that far right or left, but customers who offend his sensibilities have been asked to leave — some for the night, some for two weeks, and others for life. He believes he’s become more tolerant in recent years, but if you’re really hungry, it might be best to talk about the weather, or fishing, or chili.

The brown-jacketed deliveryman brought a package to the door of South Dakota Magazine and said, “I think it’s lutefisk. Do you want me to set it outside?” That’s when we knew we were in for an adventure.
     Although our staff enjoys exploring the culinary culture of South Dakota, we recently realized that many of us at South Dakota Magazine had never tried our state’s infamous holiday dish. That’s especially surprising because our most senior staffer, Alma Korslund, is an experienced lutefisk chef.
Lutefisk is air-dried codfish that has been rehydrated by a soaking in lye and water, hence the name, lute (lye), fisk (fish), or “lyefish.” Whether lutefisk originated in Norway or Sweden is apparently a fishbone of contention. With all the bad press, it’s a mystery why either country wants to claim it.  According to an old Norwegian-American saying, “Half the Norwegians who immigrated to America came in order to escape the hated lutefisk, and the other half came to spread the gospel of lutefisk’s wonderfulness.”
     Alma grew up in a Danish household (the Hansens) in the Irene/Viborg area. Her grandparents were Danish immigrants. “We’re Danes, not Norwegians, but we like lutefisk,” she says,
     “I guess we made it for the Norwegian in-laws.”
     Lutefisk is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, green beans or creamed peas, lefse and butter — lots of butter. Swedish meatballs were often added to the menu for the faint of stomach.
Although lutefisk can be made in the microwave or oven, Alma still cooks it on the stove, just the way her mother taught her.
     The fork test is important. “When it slides right off the fork, it has to come out of the water and to the table,” insists Alma. Overcooking lutefisk produces a quivering gelatinous mass, something akin to fish Jell-O.
     Alma concedes that lutefisk may be a dying tradition. “My children can do without it, but they will try it,” she says. “My grandchildren don’t like it at all.” So she often prepares it just for her husband, Dale, and herself — their own little Danish feast.

Hansen’s Lutefisk
1. Cut large lutefisk filets into portion-sized pieces.
2. Soak in salt water for a few hours before cooking.
3. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, then drop fish pieces into boiling water.
4. Wait for water to come back to a boil; poke with fork, fish will slide off easily when ready.

If lutefisk isn’t available in your home or office, here are some public dinners:

Brookings — Swiftel Center, mid-October (695-6737).
Centerville — Old Street Café (563-3600).
Clark — St. Paul Lutheran Church, late October. (532-3784).
Volga — Lake Campbell Lutheran Church, December. (693-4328).
Lake Preston — Lutheran Church, February. (847-4587).
Renner — Renner Lutheran Church, October. (338-7120).

Here’s a scoop. Roman Emperor Nero was among the first to enjoy ice cream. His slaves mixed nectar with mountain snow. Marco Polo brought the treat to Europe; it came to America with the revolution of 1776.
     South Dakota also made ice-cream history. Edgar Schmeidt added a marble-topped soda fountain to his Centerville drugstore in 1906. When his granddaughter Barb Wurtz and her husband, Kevin, added ice cream to their Elk Point pharmacy and gift shop, they restored Grandpa Schmeidt’s parlor and called it Edgar’s.
     Grandpa Schmeidt came by to see his old soda fountain and gave a “thumbs up” to the Elk Point soda jerks. “Damn good malt!” he said. His biased critique spread by word of mouth, and soon Edgar’s was a hit.
     Some customers favor Edgar’s Rocket, a vertical banana split. Really hungry diners do the Dirty Shoe, a brownie with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, hot caramel, marshmallows, Oreos, coconut, and cashews. Edgar’s Favorite Malt is served in a glass, and you get the overflow in the mixing tin.

You can order a decent steak in North Dakota or Nebraska, and Iowa’s pork chops are tasty. But chislic is unique to southeast South Dakota.
     Chislic is bite-size chunks of lamb on a stick, seasoned and deep-fat fried or grilled. The delicacy’s arrival in America has been traced to John Hoellwarth, who arrived in Hutchinson County in the 1870s from Crimea in southern Russia, where shashlyk (skewered meat cubes grilled on a fire) was popular.
     The town of Freeman is considered the chislic capital. Travel more than 30 or 40 miles away from there, and people can hardly pronounce it, let alone cook it.
     Not even the Russians of Crimea could take chislic more seriously than Papa’s Restaurant in Freeman (1121 South Highway 81), where they sell up to 3,000 sticks a week; it’s a standing lunch special. “Three sticks or six?” asks the waitress. Papa’s serves five varieties: original, barbecue, lemon pepper, garlic, and a house specialty that’s marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce. Call Papa’s beforehand to make sure they haven’t sold out (605–925–4496).

Betty Vail Norlin and her husband, Steve, had a nifty business plan in the early 1990s. In the summer months they welcomed bed and breakfast guests to their home, an old stone house they called Idlewild on the South Dakota side of Big Stone Lake in Grant County. When the lake was frozen they supplemented their income with sales of delicious Norwegian shortbread cookies. We begged for the recipe for our readers, but Betty would only tell us that the ingredients were flour, butter, sugar and salt. Betty did eventually share her Mom’s Cinnamon Roll recipe:

Mix 1 cup warm water with 2 tablespoons yeast and 1/2 cup
sugar. Let stand until yeast is
dissolved. Mix this with:
1 cup sugar
2 cups lukewarm milk
1 tablespoon salt
7/8 cup melted butter
4 eggs
Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead. Rise to double. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Spread with soft butter, sprinkle with sugar (about 11/2 cups) and cinnamon. Roll up tightly and cut in pieces about 11/4 inch long. Dip each piece in melted butter and put in pan. Let rise. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Frost lukewarm rolls with powdered sugar frosting. Makes about 40 to 45 rolls.

Many descendants of Scandinavian heritage cannot celebrate the holiday season without krumkake (krum ka ka), or crooked cake. Ardys Olson of Gayville showed our food writer Ruth Steil how to make the delicate cookie. Just before Christmas, Ardys’ mother baked krumkake using a decorative two-sided iron, which she heated on top of a cook stove fired by cobs and wood. The krumkake were such a treat that she had to hide them until Christmas day.
     Today, Ardys still uses her mother’s 80-year-old iron baker, heating it on an old gas stove. Grates on newer ranges won’t heat the iron properly. After mixing the batter, she pours a scant teaspoon on the preheated iron. The cookie is done on the first side in about 10 seconds. She turns the iron over to complete the baking on the other side. After another 10 seconds, she flips the cookie off with a knife onto a flat tray. Her husband Swede quickly rolls the cookie around a wooden peg while it is still hot and flexible.
     Here is the family krumkake recipe. Without the special iron, your cookies may not taste like the Olsons’. But your family will love them just the same.

1 beaten egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cream
11/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat iron until drops of water dance on the surface. Put 1 scant teaspoon of batter in middle of iron. Close the lid, press down tightly and bake for 10 seconds. Turn iron to other side and bake 10 seconds. Open lid. Flip cookie off with a knife to a flat pan. Quickly roll on wooden peg. Let set until next cookie is ready to come off iron. Optional — dust with powdered sugar or fill cones with whipped cream or other filling.

Black walnuts ripen from August to September. You can pluck the nuts off the trees or wait for a strong wind to shake them to the ground.
     But you’ve got to beat the squirrels. They are tenacious harvesters. Once you’ve collected the nuts, hull them while wearing plastic gloves, because juice from the hull surrounding the shell will stain. Native Americans and pioneers used it to make dye.
     Wait two weeks or more to commence cracking. That allows the flavor to develop. Wild walnuts are worth all the effort. Their rich flavor adds great taste to baked goods.
     A heavy-duty nutcracker is required equipment. Use a hammer and you’ll soon have bruised fingers and renewed respect for squirrels. Those furry-tailed creatures make the laborious task of shelling nuts look simple.
     Since humans lack their sharp incisors, using an industrial-strength nutcracker is a good solution. The best ones look like a pop can crusher, with a long handle for leverage.
     We collected a pail of nuts and brought them to the office a few years ago for cracking. Every squirrel in the neighborhood gathered outside, chirping and scolding us for a share of the bounty. Apparently they can smell a nut from blocks away.
     They didn’t leave until our food writer Ruth Steil borrowed this cookie recipe from Brookings historian Grace Linn. The cookies disappeared in a hurry, and so did the squirrels.

Black Walnut Raisin Cookies
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon vanilla / black walnut flavoring
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup black walnuts
Mix and cook the raisins and water for a few minutes. Drain and reserve 1/4 cup liquid. Return liquid to raisins and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Set aside to cool. Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs and flavoring then beat thoroughly. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Mix flour mixture with sugar and shortening. Fold in raisin mixture and black walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until done.

Homecoming at the University of South Dakota always features a big parade, parties, a football game and — on Saturday night (Oct. 2 this year), an eclectic evening of hot chili-style foods, cool jazz and rock music and cold brew — all served in the Washington Street Art Center, which was once the town’s Catholic church. Beneath gothic stained glass windows, a battery of chefs season and stir their steaming kettles of chili. Guitarists and other musicians play anything but the hymns of old, and the Vermillion community unwinds, win or lose, from the busiest weekend of the year. The big wood church doors open at 5:30 p.m., and you don’t have to be a Coyote fan to enter. Here’s a recipe from a past Chili Blues:

Randy Gingiss’ Vegetarian Chili
Begin by combining in a large roaster:
3 bags of soy burger crumbles
1 15 ounce can of Bush Chili Mix
1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes

Add the following, to taste:
Liquid Cajun sauce
A little bit of Chinese char su sauce
Chinese chili garlic puree

This recipe makes enough for a small crowd, but can be scaled back for smaller batches.

Freeman feeds thousands of people at the community’s annual spring Schmeckfest, where Mennonite mainstays like nudel suppe, danpffeisch (stewed beef), gebratene kartofflen (fried potatoes), sauerkraut, bratwurst and schwarzbrotchen (whole wheat buns) are served family style. The festival’s very name makes us hungry. Schmeckers is German for food tasters. Freeman is 30 miles north of Yankton on Highway 81.

Guinness doesn’t track bullhead lore, but regular customers of Club Eden in Eden are confident that a record was set there years ago by a nameless patron who sat down and ate 17. Obviously the hungry stranger had a strong stomach, but some credit must go to the Eden chefs, who know how to prepare the much-maligned fish. Many anglers scorn bullheads because they are dark and whiskery, with sharp spines. Still, in the Glacial Lakes country of northeast South Dakota, the “bottom feeder” is so popular that Club Eden has a bullhead fish fry on Friday nights. It’s “all you can eat,” but nobody has come close to the record in years.

South Dakotans are generous. We’ll give you a ride, change your tire, loan you money, and even reveal favorite fishing holes. But we don’t tell our own children about good mushroom hunting grounds.
People who won’t cross the street to get a loaf of bread will eagerly trounce through brambles, weeds, and mucky creeks. They’ll crawl on rotted leaves and climb barbed wire, all the while risking poison ivy, ticks, and mosquitoes. And for what? For the morel mushroom, which in reality is nothing but an unsophisticated fungus. Scientists say the morel is still evolving from its birth during the last ice age about 100,000 years ago.
     Morels grow wild in all regions of South Dakota, including the mountains and prairies. They thrive in wet, sandy soil, so the riverbanks and tributaries of the Missouri are prime hunting grounds. No one has figured out how to grow the morel in a captive greenhouse or garden; they only flourish in the wild. Consequently, morels bring $100 a pound in some specialty stores.
Morels appear in mid to late April, depending on the weather.

Kevin Weiland was 16 when he first saw the consequences of an unhealthy diet. He was helping his father with the family-run ambulance service in Madison when they were called to a nearby farm. In his book, The Dakota Diet: Health Secrets of the Great Plains, he recalls finding the farmer, “sitting in an enclosed combine with his fist clenched tightly to his chest as he struggled to breathe. His skin was pale and clammy, and his eyes had a blank stare of death. He was in his mid-fifties and extremely overweight and it took several of us to get him on a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance.” An autopsy showed he had died of a heart attack and suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
Weiland became an internal medicine physician. A large part of his practice centers on preventative medicine. He developed the Dakota Diet to encourage exercise, healthy eating and disease prevention. What makes his diet unique are the food choices produced on the Dakota plains — including grass-fed buffalo.
     “Buffalo is the salmon of the prairie,” Weiland says. “It has fewer calories than grain-fed meat, and contains more Omega-3 fatty acids (good fat), vitamin E and other nutrients. A buffalo steak may have 100 fewer calories than a steak from a grain-fed steer. You could lose up to 10 pounds a year just by switching your main source of meat to grass-fed buffalo.”
     A number of South Dakota ranchers are now raising grass-fed bison, including Sioux Falls radio talk show host Rick Knobe, who believes the long-term benefits of grass feeding could change the livestock industry. “If you take a slice of buffalo meat and compare the grain-fed to the grass-fed,” Knobe says, “grass-fed is clearly leaner.” Because the grass-fed lacks marbling, it cooks rapidly, so he tells customers, “Just remember, cook it low (as in temperature) and slow.”

Bison Kebabs
1 pound sirloin
2 medium zucchini or yellow squash
1 large red bell pepper
1 large onion, quartered
8 mushrooms
8 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced

The sirloin should be cut into 11/2 -inch cubes and marinated in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Cut the squash and bell pepper into 1/2-inch pieces. Skewer the meat and vegetables as desired and grill over medium-hot coals for 8 to 10 minutes, brushing with marinade occasionally. Yield: 4 servings.
— from Dr. Weiland’s “Dakota Diet”

A brown cardboard box is nearly the same color as a fine pumpkin pie, but it doesn’t taste the same. So it is with meat and poultry, according to Tom Neuberger, creator of the Goosemobile. He believes a bird that roams free, dirt-scratching and insect-pecking on the open range, will taste better than one raised in a 12-inch-square wire pen with antibiotics, hormones and other chemicals.
     That theory got a severe test in 1984 when Tom and his wife, Ruth, fattened 3,500 geese the natural way and found themselves without a market. They processed the geese and hit the road in a refrigerated bus. The Goosemobile was such a success that they’ve been traveling South Dakota ever since. Now they offer the Christmas goose along with natural organic beef, pork, goat, ostrich, goose eggs, down comforters, and feather pillows.
     If Goosemobile meats didn’t taste better than store-bought, the Neubergers would be home by the fireplace on December nights. Instead, they’re crisscrossing South Dakota (they visited 185 communities one year), greeting customers by their first names and proving that there is more than one way to survive on a farm.
     For a Goosemobile schedule or to shop at their farm by Canistota (southwest of Sioux Falls), call the Neubergers at (605) 296–3314.

Anglers love the MoRest Motel in Mobridge, probably because the ’50s-like roadside motel has been owned and operated for decades by people who love the outdoors as much as anyone.
     Fishing guide Denny Palmer and his wife, Glenda, ran the motel for 25 years. Now guests are welcomed by their daughter, Kelly, and her husband, Brent Kemnitz. “We know most of the people who stay at the motel,” says Kelly. Her husband and her dad are often on the river, helping guests find fishing spots.
     Some evenings, the Kemnitzes and their visitors gather to cook the walleye they caught. Here’s one way they fry South Dakota’s favorite catch:
     You’ll need walleye filets, flour, eggs beaten, boxed potato buds, seasoned salt and vegetable oil. Rinse the filets in water. Dip into flour first, then eggs, then potato buds. Fry in oil until golden brown. Sprinkle generously with seasoned salt. Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce or both.

Travelers of South Dakota know that our small towns often have outstanding eateries. When New Hampshire historian Dayton Duncan ate at the D&E Cafe in the 1980s in downtown Pierre, he wondered how the owner could feed customers at such low prices.
     “There has to be a catch I’m thinking as I order the small T-bone. It must be a no-frills meal,” he wrote. “What’s the catch, I wonder when the waitress brings me a small bowl of chicken soup. I ask myself the same question when she places a tossed salad in front of me. Must be a skimpy entrée. Then she takes away my finished soup and salad and brings over a plate with a steak nearly hanging over the edges, hash browns, two pieces of toast and a small side dish of green peas.”
Duncan eyed the crowded diner and discovered he was the only customer searching for a hidden Candid Camera.
     “Are you ready for our ice cream?” the waitress asks. “It comes with the supper.”
     Turns out that there was a small catch. The longtime proprietor never bothered to file sales taxes, so the state’s revenue agents eventually closed the place.

Czech immigrants brought these traditional wedding treats when they arrived in Tabor, Dakota Territory, in 1869 and the only change is that they are no longer reserved for nuptials. The round, bun-size rolls are filled in the center with whatever is in the fridge — apricot, peach, cherry, prune and even cream cheese or cottage cheese. Kolaches are sold by the dozens at Tabor’s annual Czech Days festival in mid-June, or you can order online from Pietz’s Kuchen Kitchen in nearby Scotland.

Salem farmer Jeff Tuschen perfected the art of barbecue by volunteering at the South Dakota State Pork Producer’s state fair booth in Huron. Then neighbors and friends asked him to prepare food for them. Eventually he was so busy that he said, “we thought we better get licensed.”
     Today, Jeff and his wife, Kris, serve several events in an average week. They call their business Backyard Catering. He is still a full-time farmer, but Jeff likes the change of pace. “When you get off the tractor and start the grill it’s totally different.”
     Starting with high quality South Dakota meats is part of their success. But the Tuschens say the sauce they’ve developed is also important. They considered marketing it locally, but they found that a bottle and label would cost more than the sauce, and that didn’t seem fair to customers. So here’s how it works around Salem. Neighbors bring their own bottle to be filled. If Jeff and Kris are in the field or on a catering expedition, you go to their refrigerator and fill your bottle from their latest batch. Then you leave a couple of dollars on the table. It’s a new twist on BYOB.

A large mulberry tree grew at the back of our farm, between a rusted horse drawn plow and a pile of lumber. It was a place only curious children and chickens explored. When the summer heat grew high, we hop-scotched barefoot through purple splotches of fallen fruit, then reached high in the tree to grab the juicy berries.
     I hadn’t thought about mulberries for a long time, but this year I embarked on a jam-making adventure. On a sunny, cool morning, my husband and I met a friend and his dog at their farm to pick mulberries.
     I’d read that picking mulberries is easy if you shake them into an old sheet or tarp. We shook the branches over an inexpensive plastic paint tarp from the hardware store. In under half an hour, we had a large bowl full of mulberries. Since we shook the berries from the trees, we also collected ticks, ladybugs, spiders, some twigs and a caterpillar. I suspect removing all these adds enough time to the sorting process to make hand-picking almost as efficient. But I also tried to carefully return as many of the little creatures as I could to the outdoors — except for the ticks.
     Kay Young, author of Wild Seasons: Gathering and Cooking Wild Plants of the Great Plains, recommends soaking mulberries for three minutes in salt water — 1/4 cup salt to a gallon of water — draining the salt water, then gently rinsing. I removed the stems on the berries with a newly-purchased cuticle scissors, but Stevens writes that she’s never seen a need to remove the stems and has never had any complaints. — By Ruth Steil

Sweet-Hot Mulberry Jam
3 cups mulberries
2 cups water
1 package powdered fruit pectin
1 tablespoon red chili powder
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)

Crush the berries thoroughly in a bowl and then transfer to a saucepan. Add the water and fruit pectin. Stir until the pectin is dissolved. Add the chili powder and stir. Heat to boiling. Boil 5 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Boil 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently or until thick. Allow to cool, place in sterile jars and refrigerate.
Yield: About 11/2 cups

German chancellor Otto von Bismarck is the smart aleck who first said, “Laws are like sausage. It’s better not to see them made.” But he never saw sausage made in South Dakota’s small-town meat lockers, where butchers make brats, wieners and bologna with recipes brought here generations ago by German immigrants.
     Fair or not, a butcher is often judged locally by his beef jerky. Sure, it’s nice for a cow town to have the top basketball team or the best fishing — but bragging rights for jerky are sacrosanct. Beef to South Dakotans is like lobster in Maine or potatoes in Idaho. The state’s hometown butchers take pride in avoiding the very thing Bismarck abhorred — the mysterious mixing of water, scraps, chemicals and other additives with the meat.
     The best meat markets are often found in very little towns. Some little-known but popular examples include Blue Bird Locker’s beef and pork jerky in Delmont, Jack Link’s jerky in Alpena, Sturgis Beef Jerky in Sturgis and Steiner Locker’s beef jerky in downtown Yankton.
And here’s more good news: we are training another generation of jerky-makers. Students at South Dakota State University in Brookings practice the art, and sell their product in the Animal Science Complex.
     Every jerky-maker has his own style: Some make it hot, while others never touch a spice bottle. Moist or dry? Thin or thick? A lobster is a lobster and a potato is a potato, but every town’s jerky is a new culinary experience.

The furthest thing you’ll ever find from a chain restaurant is Cook’s Inn, a pleasant respite on Ethan’s main street. Ethan (population 310) doesn’t have a grocery store, so proprietor Marilyn Thill stocks a corner of the cafe with necessities for the elderly who can’t drive to Mitchell or Parkston. When she’s not busy in the kitchen, she makes Mouse Dolls out of fabric and pop bottles. Her front counter has bowls of complimentary peanuts, cookies and candies — just help yourself.
     Hanging on the back wall is farmwife Helen Garvis’s spoon collection. Mrs. Garvis collected about 100 spoons from all over the world. There’s a lobster spoon, an Elvis guitar spoon, a Bethlehem spoon, and, of course, a Corn Palace spoon. After she died at age 94 in 2006, her household items were auctioned. Marilyn thought it would be a shame to see the collection split up by antiques dealers, so she bought them all.
     When the late farmwife’s friends and relatives stop at Cook’s Inn for a burger, they see the collection and say excitedly, “Well, you’ve got Helen’s spoons!”
     “Yes, I do,” Marilyn proudly replies.

Marge Kleinjan of Arlington has been a one-woman promoter of South Dakota oats. She started Dakota Grains in 1992, and for many years she created products and cookbooks, and attended fairs and festivals to demonstrate how to cook with oats.
     Farmers in the state planted as many as 4 million acres of oats in the 1950s, but soybeans have replaced it as a favorite cash crop. Today only a few hundred thousand acres are usually grown in South Dakota, but the small grain remains an important part of the American diet.
     “Oats are a gourmet-type food,” Kleinjan told us. “It’s not your run-of-the-mill instant type food.” She promoted oats for cookies, salads, casseroles, pizza and this popular soup recipe that she still makes for her family.

2/3 cup oat and wild rice blend
11/3 cup water
1/2 pound bacon
1 onion, chopped
4 cups half & half (or milk)
2 cans cream of potato soup
12 ounces American Cheese, shredded

In one quart pan, combine oat and wild rice blend with water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 40 to 45 minutes. Fry bacon and onion. Drain. In larger pan, combine oat/rice blend, bacon and onion, half & half, potato soup and cheese. Heat until cheese melts. Do not boil. Variation: add 1/4 cup sautéed mushrooms and 2 tablespoons sliced green onions.


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