Runza-making as stress relief

My pre-Christmas to-do list has been jettisoned. All my intentions of super-cleaning have gone down the tube as I deal with my father's mandatory move from assisted living to skilled care. My sister will do the actual dirty work of flying into Lincoln and managing the physical move. I will handle the multiple daily calls to help Dad understand what is happening and why.

Garrison Keillor would prescribe catsup or rhubarb pie at a time like this, but I'm going with runzas. Danger Baby and I are making runzas together so that he can learn. Now that he lives in the Windy City he appreciates this winter food. He will take a batch of frozen runzas to his future in-laws as an offering of traditional comfort food from one family to another.

Runzas are a taste tradition in Lincoln, Nebraska. They have a German ancestry and are called bierocks by Kansans. The first Runza Drive-In was a little shack on the road out to Pioneers Park southwest of Lincoln. It opened in 1949.

Runzas are traditional Cornhusker football food. They are believed to cure winter headcolds and to get students through finals week.

For awhile the Runza location closest to the UNL campus was called “Rock and Roll Runza”. The servers wore rollerskates. That’s probably where Danger Baby ate his first runza.

A runza is a spicy meat filling baked inside a bread dough. Each year I work from two or three recipes to concoct my version. This is my best understanding to date:

In a large, heavy skillet brown 2 lbs. ground beef. As you chop them add in 2/3 head green cabbage, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic chopped fine, 2 stalks celery chopped fine. Add 2 T water. Simmer, stirring often. Drain grease, then add 1 T worchestershire sauce, ½ t oregano, 1 t pepper, and salt to taste. Remove from heat and cool in refrigerator.

Thaw one package (3 loaves) of Bridgford Ready-Dough according to package directions. Let rise according to directions. Punch down. Pinch off balls of dough as big as a large lemon. Roll each ball on a floured board with a floured rolling pin until it is at least 4”x8”. Add ½ cup of filling. Bring the sides of dough together, then the ends, and pinch securely. Place on greased cookie sheet pinched side down. Leave a space between runzas. Let rise again. Freeze at this point, or else bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Makes 18 runzas.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

I don't remember my mom making runzas, but my aunt is a runza-maker. Reading your recipe (which I copied and saved) makes me think that I should ask for her recipe.

My 92-year-old mother-in-law had to be moved from assisted living to a higher level of care not long ago. Her problems are as much mental as physical.

There's so little that one can do to help -- it's both frustrating and sad.


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