Oodles of Noodles
Wendish Heritage Society
1011 County Road 212
Giddings, TX 78942-5940
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
(Closed on Monday)
Noodles are available at the Museum Gift Shop, on the website texaswendish.org (click on “Books” and download the “Gift Order Form” and at area retailers including Reba’s Deli in Giddings and Weikel’s and Lukas bakeries in La Grange.
Proceeds from the noodles benefit the Wendish Heritage Society and support its efforts to preserve the history of the Wendish people. Team Noodle raises about $28,500 annually through its efforts.
by Lorie A. Woodward
In my quest for oodles of noodles, I arrived at the Wendish Heritage Society in Serbin about 9:30 a.m. on a noodle-making Monday in early October. The four women inside had already been at it for several hours. When I knocked on the door of the converted school house, it was obvious they were not expecting me.
Fortunately, I had been in a busy beehive of a kitchen before and had sense enough to stay out of their way, especially when they told me that they were short-handed. Noodle-making on that scale requires focus and well-timed team work.
They tolerated me kindly until we discovered the common ground of shared Lee County roots, which meant people in common—and then the real visiting began. Plus, I’m an enthusiastic noodle fan girl. Something akin to alchemy transforms flour, eggs and a little salt into a culinary masterpiece I expect is served at the big celebrations in Heaven. Frankly, I don’t think the ladies ever had a noodle groupie in their midst. Of course, I’d never had the honor of meeting noodle fluffers before.
The following Wednesday I went back to Serbin even earlier (this time at their invitation) to watch them bag the noodles they’d made on Monday. My take away lesson from my two mornings with the girls? Noodle making is a hands-on labor of love.
The Oodles of Noodles Team
Hattie Schautschick is the 91-year-old ex officio leader of the women I dubbed Team Noodle that regularly includes: her daughter Zelda Richards, Terri Lyons, Carolyn Jurk and Linda Jones. Schautischick began making noodles on behalf of the Wendish Heritage Society in 1992, about a year after she returned to Lee County. She had retired from her career in Houston only to find herself sewing covers for boat seats at the boat factory in Giddings that has since closed.
“A friend of mine signed me up to work at the boat factory,” Schautschick said. “I did for about a year, and then the boss came through and said, ‘There are going to be layoffs.’ I prayed let it be me—and it was.”
According to her daughter, the layoff just put Schautschick right where she needed to be.
“God just wanted you to make noodles, Momma,” Richards said.
And making noodles is what she and the rest do. Three weeks out of every month, the group gathers on Mondays from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to make about 200 lbs. of noodles. It takes 200 lbs. of flour, 63 dozen eggs and plenty of salt for each Monday’s production run.
The flour and salt are hand measured and then weighed. The eggs are cracked by hand, a task that falls to Jurk.
“A friend asked me to fill in for her one morning as the egg cracker—that was five years ago—and I’m still here,” Jurk said, laughing.
Schautschick pours the ingredients, in just the right proportion, into the automated pasta machine, which is the group’s nod to mechanization.
“People don’t make noodles at home much anymore because even with one of those hand-cranked machines it takes almost all day,” Schautschick, who helped her mother make noodles and remembers them drying on her quilt rack, said.
After the noodles have been kneaded in the machine, Schautschick takes a seat and cuts them into the appropriate lengths as they are extruded.
“I used to do other things, but I needed a job where I could sit down some,” she said.
The noodles make a short journey up a conveyor belt, which dumps them onto a drying screen. The clumps of noodles are “fluffed” by hand, so they don’t stick together.
“Make sure everyone understands what a crucial role we noodle fluffers play in this process,” Lyons said with a grin. “Noodle fluffing is an overlooked art that is essential to the quality of the product.”
Laughter erupts, and the story of Texas Country Reporter dubbing Richards and her as “noodle fluffers” is told with more laughter.
“We’re all friends here,” Richards said. “The relationships are as good as the noodles.”
Once filled, the noodle screens are slipped into racks where the noodles will air dry for 48 hours. Then the women meet back at the schoolhouse early on Wednesday morning to bag the noodles in a process that takes another two to three hours. It, too, is done by hand. Each bag is filled, weighed, adjusted, labeled and tied by hand. The bags are stacked in boxes where they will eventually be distributed to retail outlets in the immediate area and sold on texaswendish.org to noodle lovers all over the world.
Demand outstrips supply. Two weekends before my visit, they had cooked 60 lbs. of noodles for the annual Wendish Fest and sold 1,000 lbs. of dried noodles at the festival. (Mark your calendars. The Wendish Fest is held the last Sunday in September on the Wendish Society’s grounds.) The women are gearing up production for the holiday season.
“In 2016, we made 7,000 lbs. of noodles—and we didn’t even have enough left so we could have noodles for ourselves for Christmas,” Schautschick said.
How to Cook Noodles According to the Package
Place ½ bag noodles in 5 cups boiling broth (either chicken or beef) for 10 minutes. Add chopped parsley, if desired.
How to Cook Noodles Like a Schautschick
Bring the broth to a rolling boil, add a stick of butter and then put the noodles in letting them cook for three or four minutes. Cut the burner off, put foil over the pot, put the lid on and forget about them. If you don’t take the lid off, they stay nice. Hattie Schautschick
If you don’t have stock, use base—not bouillon cubes because they don’t dissolve. Just remember to bring the water to a rolling boil, then add the butter, then add the base. Zelda Schautschick Richards
Check out a previous Stirring the Pot with Team Royers.