“Employees of the Schust Co. yesterday participated in an enjoyable Christmas party, an annual
affair in the organization, about 350 of them attending a luncheon in honor of the occasion.
It was given in part of the company’s new building where the employes [sic.] gathered for a short program of a sort appropriate to the season. Rev. Fr. McLaughlin gave a Christmas talk and Edward Schust of the company presented service pins to its employes [sic.] who have been with it five, ten, fifteen and twenty years.
There were gifts for those present and Christmas songs and other community selections were sung.”
--The Saginaw Sunday News, December 23, 1928.
At the Schust Company’s factory located on North Michigan Avenue at Congress, the Holiday season was a time of brisk business, baking, employee appreciation and celebration.
In the pictures that accompany this post, the photographs of Schust Company employees dining, capture a 1920s Christmas party like the one the one described above. At the 1925 party, the factory’s packing room featured a Christmas tree under which were placed the employee’s gifts. After dinner in the cafeteria, the Saginaw News Courier reported: “The singing of Christmas carols and a talk by Rev. Charles Davis featured the program after which was a timely visit from Santa Claus who distributed the many gifts.”
That employee comfort and happiness was not simply a holiday afterthought for the Schust Company is suggested by a 1930 article in a trade publication:
“Splendid working conditions prevail. Fine daylight, white walls and ceilings, (sprayed by their own force on a two year schedule) good ventilation – no uncomfortable temperatures, well furnished rest rooms, and a lunch room where hot coffee is dispensed free, the girls bringing their own lunch. A good first aid room is an essential part of the equipment.”
During the holiday season, the Schust Company baked a variety of Christmas Cookies. In 1927, Kretschmer’s, located at 122 S. Jefferson Avenue, advertised “Schust Christmas Cookies assorted flavors” at 29 cents per pound. While this week’s recipe is not actually a recipe from Schust Bakery, pfeffernusse are certainly the type of cookie sold by the company. The Schust family had immigrated from Switzerland and it is not hard to imagine that pfeffernusse were familiar to the Schust family – even outside their bakery.
The Recipe: Pfeffernusse Cookies
1/4 cup (70g) dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1/4 cup (70g) honey
6 tablespoons (75g) white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons whole milk, cold from the refrigerator
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, cold from the refrigerator
2 1/2 cups (350g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (115g) powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Warm the molasses, honey, and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, white pepper, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Let cool until just warm to the touch. Stir in the milk, baking soda, and egg. Add the flour and stir until most of the flour is absorbed. Using your hands, knead the dough until the remaining flour is incorporated.
Pinch off about a teaspoon of dough and roll a 1-inch ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls of dough 1 inch apart from each other.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are just starting to brown.
Make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water to make the glaze.
Once the cookies are done, pull the pan out of the oven and brush the hot cookies with the glaze, making sure to cover as much of the tops and sides as possible. Don't worry if some of the glaze drips onto the baking sheet.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet until the glaze is dry to the touch. Then, move them to a rack to cool completely.
Note: The cookies improve after a day or two in a sealed airtight container.
If after baking pfeffernusse, you are still looking for another project, may we suggest making a Schust Graham Roll. However, after you complete your seasonal baking, unlike the employees at Schust, Santa will not be delivering employee gifts.
This link will take you to a post we did last year featuring a recipe for a Schust Graham Roll
Just in case you wondered, Kretschmer’s carried Graham crackers and in 1927 they were 18 cents for a one-pound package.