“You can’t take baking out of a lady’s life. You can’t take it out of the soul of a woman.” In tribute to her mother, these words were warmly voiced by the daughter of my newest honoree into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court, Mildred (Mrs. Folmer) Weddum.
As I was welcomed into the tidy Weddum home by Mildred and her daughter, LeAnn Hawthorne, I learned the captivating story of this sweet and gentle Danish woman. Mildred’s home was tastefully decorated for the Fall season both inside and outside. I felt wrapped in warmth as I sat at the table in Mildred’s cozy kitchen for our chat.
Mildred Lange Weddum and Folmer Weddum are both of Danish ancestry.
Both of Mildred’s grandparents emigrated from Denmark to the United States. With the next generation of this side of the family, their daughter, Dagmar, then married Peter Lange.
I was curious to know if the family still held a treasury of Dagmar’s original recipes. “Grandma didn’t really have many recipes. It wasn’t until people started asking her for a certain recipe that she began recording them,” stated LeAnn. These recipes were written into the historical Lange Family ledger along with other daily happenings. I felt honored to have seen this well-kept relic, a piece of Mildred’s familial history.
“My mother showed me how to do everything,” Mildred offered when I asked how her baking story began. “There were 11 children in our family of which there were three sets of twins, all born within 27 years.” Mildred was the eighth born as a twin.
Inquiring about Folmer’s Danish heritage, Mildred and LeAnn shared the following history with me. Folmer’s father, Soren, and his two brothers left Veddum, Denmark, on a ship that eventually docked in the port of New York City. Their Danish surname was Andersen, but because there were so many Andersens who had immigrated to the United States, the brothers chose to change their surname to Weddum after the Danish town from which they had emigrated.
The brothers then left New York City in search of a new life with each having gone their own separate ways. Folmer’s father travelled westward and stopped at Elk Horn, IA, because it was a Danish settlement.
Today’s child might find it quite interesting to know that Mildred’s work day did not end when she returned home from school for as soon as she got home, she changed her clothes and went outside to do farm chores. Forking hay from the barn’s hay mow below to where the cattle were housed was one of those responsibilities.
Of interest to this author was the fact that only two school/play dresses were in each girl’s wardrobe along with one dress for Sunday. These dresses were made from clean printed fabric feed sacks. The girls changed their school/play dresses on a Monday and a Thursday of each week. They had one pair of shoes for school and play. A special Sunday pair of shoes eventually became a part of the school/play ensemble in the Fall or when school started. Mildred commented, “We did go barefoot a lot, though.”
Mildred’s day of Lutheran confirmation held multiple memories for her. She also noted, “As soon as I was confirmed at age 14, I had to get out of the house and work. I received 50 cents a week plus room and board.”
All 11 children in her family received an 8th grade education. However, two of her siblings, as well as Mildred studied for and earned their General Education Development (GED) degree later on in life.
Mildred highlighted for me the employment experience she had held at the Jacobsen Bakery in Kimballton. She was 23 years old at the time and noted, “When I got to work, the first thing I had to do was to frost everything that had been baked overnight. I trayed all of this for restaurants. After I made deliveries, I went back to the bakery and wrapped all of the bread.” Idle hands have never been part of my honoree’s life!
According to Mildred, she credits her late husband, Folmer, with baking hands, too, as she quietly stated, “I hate to say this, but I think he could make a better pie crust than me.”
Now, Dear Readers, have you ever heard of a “Grandpa cup?” I hadn’t either, but in the Lange home and then later on in Mildred’s married home, it was a coffee cup that Mildred and her mother had always used to measure dry ingredients.
Daughter LeAnn explained, “I would try to make my Grandma’s recipes, and they wouldn’t turn out.” Since LeAnn used a standardized one-cup measure, she was puzzled by this and took it upon herself to measure the exact amount of flour the family heirloom “Grandpa cup” truly held. “Actually, it held 1-1/4 cups,” laughed LeAnn. Just that difference in one ingredient made a huge impact on the overall outcome of her grandma’s Danish cookies.
How many of you, Dear Readers, have the well-loved Elk Horn Lutheran Church cookbook? More-than-likely, it is a favorite in your cookbook assortment. Mildred can be thanked for having assisted in the collection of that renowned Danish recipe treasury. I was not made aware of the exact number of printings the cookbook has undergone, but the still-popular recipe collection was initially published decades ago when the Kimballton telephone prefix was “SP3” and not “773” as it has now been for many years. With volumes of Danish recipes from cover to cover, Mildred’s original faithful copy no longer has the recognizable blue cover and is held together with a rubber band. I took great pleasure in perusing through the pages and noted copious little recordings written by each recipe made.
“Danish filled cookies and rolled oatmeal cookies are my favorite items to bake,” stated a smiling Mildred. “I don’t spare on my butter either.”
Baking Christmas Danish Pebernodder, also known as German Pfeffernuse or Pepper Nuts is an annual affair in the Weddum household. Even grandson, Christopher made them quite often through his childhood. “We always use the Brer Rabbit molasses (green label) to give the recipe the flavor our family likes,” according to Mildred and LeAnn.
This lovely baker so graciously offered to me one of her well-loved buttery Glazed Shortbread Cookies with raspberry filling. They were displayed in a recognizable green Depression Glass cookie jar which sat on her kitchen counter. With one bite, these delightful cookies proved to me that, yes, my newest honoree into Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court exhibits her Danish heritage admirably! The cookie absolutely melted in my mouth! Mildred credits Julie Hansen as having initially shared the recipe with her. With a precious baker’s glow about her face, she said, “They are wonderful and so easy to make.”
Reciting the recipe from memory, she so generously agreed to share the recipe with us, Dear Readers.
But there is one procedure Mildred uses that her grandchildren think is indeed the successful key to their grandma’s baking method. They have seen her do this time after time with excellent results. What is Mildred’s secret? “I make sure after I make the indentation in the cookie, I always lick my finger so that the cookie dough doesn’t stick to it,” she sweetly said.
It is indeed my pleasure to honor Mildred Weddum with a “Crown of Golden stars” in Miss NiNi’s Royal Baking Court.
Glazed Danish Shortbread Cookies with Raspberry Filling
1 c. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 to 1-1/2 t. almond extract
About 6 t. seedless raspberry jam for filling
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. butter, softened
Hot water or hot milk
METHOD: For cookies, mix together all ingredients except raspberry jam. Form into walnut size balls. Make a small finger-size indentation into center of cookie and fill each with ¼ t. seedless raspberry jam. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on cooling rack.
For glaze: In a bowl, mix together powdered sugar and butter. Slowly add hot liquid a teaspoonful at a time until mixture has a very thin consistency. Pour over cookies. Makes about 24 cookies.