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A visit at the farm of Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer

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They say Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer makes South Tyrol’s best Strauben, the traditional local funnel cakes. A visit to her farm in Verdings.

“It takes a lot of work”, Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer says, breathing heavily while unlacing her coarse work boots on a wooden bench in the garden of her farm, called Moar zu Viersch. Even though the morning is sunny, the old farmer’s breath forms little puffs in the air. It doesn’t bother her at all. She is wearing a short-sleeved, chequered blouse and a blue apron with a fine, white pattern. She explains that she almost never feels cold. Not even when getting out to the barn at 4:30 every morning to take care of the cows. That’s where she’s coming from now, before moving over to the henhouse.
“Let me quickly grab some eggs for our Strauben”, she says, disappearing into the coop.

The farmer, who is now ninety years old, was no older than twelve when she had to start helping with the farm work on her parents’ property in Latzfons/Lazfons. During wartime, children didn’t attend school. They had to help with the work to support the entire family. “I came to the Moar zu Viersch farm back in 1958”, Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer tells us when meeting us at the farm’s large entrance door, carrying eggs and milk. That was when she married her husband and moved here, to his family’s farm. Lush, green pastures surround the old building. From here, the view opens up all the way over to the other side of the valley, to the Geisler peaks (Gruppo delle Odle) and the Plose mountain in the distance.
“It takes a lot of work!"
Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer still remembers the years when she had to carry their cows’ milk every day, from the farm all the way down to Klausen/Chiusa in the valley. It was a 45-minute walk (and back again), carrying 30 kilos on her back, to earn a small income for the family. Her husband passed away in 1978; the couple didn’t have children.

“Well, what can you do?” she asks, looking down at the ground, dragging her feet up the stone steps leading to the first floor. This is where, in the wood-panelled Stube—the dining room typical for Alpine farm houses and the only heated room in the entire building other than the kitchen—she receives guests for the traditional Törggelen events in autumn. Together with her niece, Mechthild, she prepares delicious Schlutzkrapfen (spinach-filled ravioli), barley soup, cured meat, potato pancakes with cabbage (known as Kartoffelblattln), and roasted chestnuts for hungry patrons. But what Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer is truly famous for are her funnel cakes, known as Strauben, and sweet pastries, called Krapfen.
She says that she never uses a recipe book in the kitchen. It seems like all the years of cooking traditional South Tyrolean dishes have left her with just the right feel for the texture of the different batters. “We need a little more flour, it shouldn’t be that runny”, she finds, before giving the batter a final stir with a ladle.

The old woman’s hands are full of wrinkles, her knuckles swollen, but her cheeks are full and red, her eyes a stunning shade of blue. Her grey hair is neatly plaited and tucked under a hair net. When asked about her recipe for eternal youth, she grins: “A half-hour nap after lunch to get your thoughts to rest."
Adelheid Kerschbaumer Raifer taught herself how to make Strauben, tweaking and changing the recipe to perfection over decades. For special occasions, when she sometimes has to make more than 100 funnel cakes, she gets help from young farmers’ wives from the village, she says, while removing the next sweet cake from the skillet. After garnishing it with powdered sugar and lingonberry jam, she offers some of the sweet treat for us to try: Fluffy, sweet, but not greasy at all, the cake nicely melts in our mouths. This is what Strauben should taste like.


Text: Lisa Maria Kager
Photos: Michael Pezzei
This story was originally published in COR - The Local Magazine Nr. 1. Editor: Ex Libris, Bolzano
Year of publication: 2018
Recipe
Recipe for 4 Strauben (funnel cake)
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 20 g melted butter
  • Salt and sugar
  • Vanilla sugar
  • 150 ml milk
  • 100 ml beer
  • 200 g flour
  • Approx. ½ l cooking fat for baking
  • Powdered sugar
  • Lingonberry (or cranberry) jam, compote, or apple sauce

Preparazione
Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the egg whites in a bowl until stiff. Use another bowl to beat the yolks, melted butter, a little sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, milk, and beer until fluffy. Add the sieved flour, fold in the beaten egg whites, and stir until smooth. The resulting batter should be fairly thick. Using a cake funnel, let the batter flow into the hot oil in looping shapes. Fry on both sides until golden-brown. Remove from the oil and serve on a plate with powdered sugar and jam, compote, or apple sauce.