Dried Fruit Strudel For Company

This was collected while the informant was in the hospital, recovering from surgery.  She wanted the interviewer to prepare the strudel for visitors, so that she could be a good hostess.

Informant: I wish you would try this, but you probably can’t do it. But I’d love to taste it again and have it for when they visit me. It’s something that Eastern European Jewish people would make for company. Dried fruit is expensive, but it keeps well, and then if you can make the dough right, well, they know you’ve got it.

Interviewer: It?

Informant: You know, that you’re good at figuring things out, patient, a good homemaker and what have you.  My mother couldn’t always do it just so, and she did it a lot, but when she did it right, oh, it was like candy. It was chewy like candy. It’s not a recipe, she just knew how to do it sometimes. She just learned and she did it.

Look, so I don’t remember everything but I know the dough had oil and salt and water in it but no egg. And she kneaded it and kneaded it and kneaded it. She had very strong arms and hands.

So then I don’t remember too well. But I think she let it rise? With a cloth on it. For as long as it would take to make the filling.

For the filling I know she said you had to boil it to make it chewy. This is the first part you probably won’t be able to, to—you know, because you can’t get the thing. The grinder. For the fruit. But I think she used cherries and prunes and grapes. All dried, you know. And she boiled them with orange peels which she would save and dry out and grind up into a very fine powder. You probably don’t have time.

But she boiled it all and she said boiling it was important. And she put down maybe some nuts or some toasted stale bread or something, I don’t know.

And she’d put that aside to cool after she ground everything up.

Interviewer: Did she put the bread in the filling? Like crumbs?

Informant: No, on the dough.  Walnuts.  Sometimes walnuts instead of bread, if we had.  And the dough she would roll out at first and then when she felt it was the right time, felt the dough, she would just pick it up on her fingertips and she would stretch it until you could read a newspaper through it. I tried.  I never had the patience for it. On a piece of clean linen, she would roll it out. I don’t think you can get plain clean linen like that now. And then she’d put the fruit on it and the nuts or crumbs or what have you, and she’d pick up the end of the cloth and it would just roll itself up. And then so you bake it and it’s done.

Interviewer: Did she put oil on the dough? Or sugar?

Informant: She wouldn’t have used any sugar. Oil or margarine. And then more maybe on the outside. And then just enough sugar to make it sparkle a little bit but not so much you could see it from across the room.

Interviewer: Well, I’ll try.

Informant: She would cut it crosswise before she put it in the oven. Not all the way through.