Monday, March 18, 2013

Dietert Cookies

A long-time family friend loaned me stack of "Frontier Times" magazines, and I was like a kid in a candy store, spending many happy hours going through each issue.
Schnecken, as pictured in
Wikipedia here.
The magazines were published by J. Marvin Hunter, in Bandera, and are dedicated to Texas history, particularly the early settlement of our state. The motto of the magazine was "Devoted to frontier history, border tragedy, pioneer achievement."
Some Kerrville folks might remember his son, J. Marvin Hunter, Jr., who served on the Kerrville City Council in the 1960s. He was a printer here, and the man from whom my parents bought our printing company.
Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing things I learned from the magazines in this space. Some of the stories provide new (or at least new to me) information about our area; some are humorous; and some are, well, strange.
Let's start with the new information about our area:
I have cited the March, 1941 issue of the "Frontier Times" before, but it's now apparent the source I used abbreviated and condensed the story written by T. U. Taylor, leaving several important things out in so doing.
The story tells a lot about the earliest settlers of Kerrville and focuses on the women in those families. The title of the story was "Heroines of the Hills," and I learned, for the first time, Taylor used this title as the title of a series of articles; the March 1941 issue focused on Kerrville.
In the Kerrville story, brief sketches are offered on the following: Elaine Enderle Schreiner; Rosalie Hess Dietert; Emilie Schreiner Real; Henrietta Lowrance Rees; Harriet Gill Scott; Mary Tatum Burney; and the Tivy sisters, though their first names are not listed.
Of these, the most detailed sketch is of Rosalie Hess Dietert, a German immigrant to Texas who married a fellow immigrant, Christian Dietert, who was a millwright.
The Dietert name should be familiar to modern ears: the Dietert Center was created by one of Christian and Rosalie's descendents, Harry Dietert. Dietert Chapel, which is on the campus of Schreiner University, was a gift of Harry and Alma Dietert to the school.
I've reported here before the first Christmas tree in Kerrville was in the home of Rosalie and Christian Dietert. Their home, I believe, was in the area around One Schreiner Center, in the 800 block of Water Street, which also served as an early Kerrville post office. Though women did not receive appointments in those days, and though Christian Dietert was the appointed postmaster, most of the duties and work of the post office fell to Mrs. Dietert, a job she performed for nearly 15 years.
One thing about the family I have not reported, though, was another first (or near-first) they brought to our community: a stove.
Cooking in those days was much more difficult than now. Rosalie Dietert started housekeeping with a skillet and a small dutch oven, "which was a small round iron pot with three legs and a dented-in lid to hold live coals."  She also had a brass kettle holding about one gallon, for cooking utensils.
"Meat there was always plenty, venison, wild turkey, fish, occasionally bear, and later beef. In the beginning there were practically no vegetables. They made a salad of wild parsley and tea from a variety of the small prairie sage, and greens from the 'lamb's quarters' or 'land squatters.'"
However, "in about 1870 some cook stoves were brought west as far as San Antonio, one of which [Rosalie Dietert] became the proud possessor. No more out-door cooking in all sorts of weather -- a stove and a real oven to bake bread and cakes!  Her recipes were gotten out, and all sorts of good things were made for holidays and birthdays. The favorites were stollen (loaf cake), pfeffer-nusse (spice cookies), and schnecken (a sweet dough rolled out flat and covered with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins, currants and pecan meats. This was all rolled up, cut into slices, and baked.)"
The recipe became very popular in early Kerrville, and many early local families enjoyed making schnecken, though, among many early families it went by a different name: "Dietert Cookies."
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who wouldn't mind a plate of schnecken, or "Dietert" cookies about now. This column appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times Mar 16, 2013.


  1. Joe,

    Is schnecken available in modern Kerrville?

    Just wondering?

  2. This was very informative and I enjoyed it very much.

    Thank you for sharing this information with us.

    I hope there is more that you can post, in the future.

    I love these stories.


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