Christmas Treats from HCHM’s Cookbook Collection

Last week, we shared a slide show of Christmas decorations over the years in Harvey County.

This week features another tradition to celebrate the holidays – food.

Several years ago, HCHM published a cookbook. The recipes below come from this book as well as a collection of recipe cards in a private collection.  A Step Back in Thyme” is available at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.

 Hot Wassail & Instant Russian Tea

Cookies & Candy

Mrs. Goertzen’s Fudge



The Kansan Kook Book, n.d.

In the early 1900s, the Evening Kansan Republican collected recipes and printed The Kansan Kook Book.  The recipes below are from volume 4.

Pride of the Kitchen, 1898



Some of the more interesting recipes have been written in the margins and cover of the book.




The Bride’s Cookbook, n.d.



If you try any of these recipes, let us know how they turned out!




Christmas Greetings From Sylvia Muse.

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A number of years ago, the family of Sylvia Muse donated her postcard collection and research material.  Sylvia started her collection one year after she was born when her grandmother, Fianna B. Grabill,  sent her a first  birthday card with “bluebirds embossed on it and was beautiful” was sent to her by her grandmother, Fianna B. Grabill.

Sylvia was born in rural Harvey County, Kansas, to Henry M. & Harriet A. Dibble Grabill on Valentine’s Day in  1911.

Sylvia, age 4, at the family home near Hesston, Ks

Some of Sylvia’s father’s family remained in Pennsylvania creating the perfect opportunity for correspondence.  To keep in contact, cards and letters were mailed back and forth between the family in Pennsylvania and Kansas.  Each card Sylvia received, she  placed in a special box.  As she got older, she would take out the cards and make up stories or her mother would sit with her and tell about her family in Pennsylvania who had sent the card.

In her later years, as she began writing her family history, the cards recieved from far away family provided a touchstone.  She described, “it was like meeting old friends and I thought of all those people who had sent me the cards.”

Christmas Greetings – Sylvia Grabill Dewey Muse

Muse had a large collection of Christmas cards and she noted, “I found that the cards reflect the issue and interest of that particular year.”


Sylvia Grabill Dewy Muse

She drew on the cards she had collected throughout her life to create a program as part of the “I-Witness” program at Larksfield Place, Wichita, Ks.

Sylvia Muse’s Christmas Greetings

The images below are pages from programs she gave in the 1990s based on her collection.  Notebooks with her complete Christmas collection will be available to view at HCHM on Dec. 2 through Dec. 30.

Early 1900s




1929 Card





Cards produced in the 1960s reflected events such as space travel.





In the early 1970s, cards began showing children of different color and nationalities.



In 1977, Hallmark produced what would become their best selling Christmas card.  By 1996, 36 million cards with the three angels had been sold.


Remake of the 3 Angels Card was not as popular, 1993.


1985 The Olympics

2000 A New Millennium







Sylvia died October 27, 2012 at the age of 101.



The Tradition Will Continue! Tastes of Christmas

Walk on Main Street in Newton near the corner of 6th Street and if you are lucky you will get a whiff  of baking peppernuts from Prairie Harvest.   For many families in Harvey County, peppernuts are a traditional Christmas treat that has a long history.

A nut-sized spice cookie the earliest recipes call for black pepper  and ginger with several basic ingredients, honey, eggs and flour.  During the Middle Ages, black pepper was one of the most expensive of the spices, adding to the special nature of foods made with it.  Baking peppernuts became a tradition among Mennonites living in Russia and when they immigrated to Kansas in the 1870s, they brought their recipes with them. Since that time, peppernuts have remained popular and as new, different ingredients were available,  the recipes changed. In her book, Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, Norma Jost Voth concluded:

“The best peppernuts are crisp and very spicy.  Anise is the most popular flavor.  Pepper enhances the other spice flavors.  The plain, traditional peppernut is still very good.  The tradition will continue!”

Today, peppernuts are enjoyed by many families in south central Kansas and several individuals and businesses bake them to sell.


Below are three recipes for peppernuts and one fudge recipe from Arpa Wedel’s Recipe Box. Arpa Wedel (1914-2003) grew up in Marion County and lived and worked as a teacher in Marion and Harvey Counties.  Her recipe box features traditional favorites as well as new dishes to try.

Click on images to enlarge recipe cards.

Citron Peppernuts (or Russian Peppernuts)



Esther’s Peppernuts

Fudge is another Christmas treat.  Below is a recipe that Arpa got from Mrs. D.S. Goertzen.
Mrs. D.S. Goertzen’s Fudge
  • Arpa Wedel’s Recipe Box, Private Collection.
  • Mennonite Weekly Review 8 September 2003, p. 12
  • U.S. Census, 1940.
  • Voth, Norma Jost.  Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia: Vol. 1.  Intercourse, PA:  Good Books, 1994.