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Iowa’s own sourdough lady

By Staff | Mar 16, 2012

Norma Seehusen has been fulfilling the role of homemaker for many years, starting out as a young girl helping with a neighborhood family.


Farm News staff writer

Pocahontas – Norma Seehusen received a sourdough bread starter from her cousin in 1984 and has been baking bread from that starter recipe every five days. A few of her daughters have also been using the starter and over hundreds of loaves of bread have come from that.

“That starter has really been around,” Seehusen said.

A family favorite, she she typically gets six medium-sized loaves out of the recipe and makes a variety of flavors.

Norma Seehusen has been baking sourdough bread every five days or so since she received the starter ingredients in 1984 from her cousin.

Seehusen’s experience of cooking and tending for a large family started when she was a young girl and is something she said she has enjoyed since.

“I worked for a neighbor family with 12 children on the weekend and summers throughout high school,” Seehusen said. “I gained a lot of experience cooking and sewing for them.”

Seehusen said her mother was also an integral part in showing her the way around the kitchen and has fond memories of one special dessert.

“My mom used to bake a devil’s food cake that was always special, and I would help her beat the eggs,” she said.

A long-time family favorite meal, she said, is apple pancakes.

“My apple pancakes have been a favorite among my kids and grandkids,” said Seehusen. “I actually got that recipe from the family I worked for.”

Norma and Dean Seehusen celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in January. They reared five children. Seehusen said she was glad to have gained a lot of the homemaker-type experience while she was young to manage with a large family.

In addition to their five children, the couple has 17 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and one step-grandchild.

A hobby of decorating cakes grew into a small business for Seehusen. Although she usually no longer bakes cakes for anyone other than family, that doesn’t mean she’s hung up her cake-decorating apron. Seehusen has done all of her children’s birthday, graduation and wedding cakes and is now in charge of baking cakes for her grandchildrens’ graduations and weddings.

“I loved the decorating of cakes,” she said. “It was something I wanted to do, got into it and couldn’t get out of it.”

Besides being a busy cook while raising her family and also helping with grandchildren, Seehusen said she used to work right alongside her husband in the field, but decided to stop that when machinery got too big.

“Now I do meals on wheels to the field, am their gopher and do the bookwork,” she said.

As if all of that wouldn’t keep Seehusen plenty busy, while rearing her family, she would sew most of their clothes, with sewing now being more of a favorite pastime rather than a necessity, and she loves to quilt.

Seehusen said she has sewn several quilts and each of her 17 grandchildren received baby quilts and is doing the same same for the great-grandchildren.

She has also sewn graduation quilts and other quilt themes throughout the years.

Painting ceramics is another interest for Seehusen, something she had done for over 40 years . She said she still gets together with friends for a day of painting.

When she is not helping with the farmwork, cooking, or creating, Seehusen volunteers is a member of several community-service organizations.

Although her family is growing larger, the Seehusens still manage to get most everyone together at holidays, which is something, she said, she enjoys and appreciates.

Sourdough starter

2 cups flour

2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 package yeast

Stir ingredients together in a metal bowl with wooden spoon, until it resembles a paste.

Let set covered in a warm place (85 degrees) and stir several times a day.

In two or three days the sourdough will be ready. Store in a refrigerator in a plastic container with a lid.

Sourdough bread from starter

1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar

6 heaping tablespoons of instant potatoes

At night, combine the above ingredients with two cups lukewarm tap water and add 1 1/2 cups of the starter. Let set in covered bowl over night.

Next morning, take out three cups of the overnight mix and put in container to refrigerate.

This will be the starter for the next batch of bread to be baked in five days.

In a separate bowl, mix 2/3 cup oil, 1/2 cup white sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and 3 cups hot tap water, then add to the remaining first mixture. Add flour until you get kneading consistency.

Let rise in covered bowl until double in size.

Place onto floured pastry sheet and cut in half. Each half will make three medium-sized loaves and flavors she makes are usually white, cinnamon and raisin.

The starter may be used every five days.

Apple pancakes

(Family tradition amongst young and adults)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Add milk making a thin mixture. Slice three large apples, thinly and mix in. Fry until golden brown on an oiled griddle.

Ham loaf

3 pounds ham loaf (store bought)

2 cups cracker crumbs

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Mix well. This may be made into ham balls or in a loaf pan.


1 can tomato soup

1/2 cup vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon dry mustard

Mix together and pour over loaf or ham balls.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Chocolate chip cookies

2 1/4 cup unsifted all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter or margarine softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 package vanilla flavored instant pudding

12 ounce package of chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts – optional

Mix flour with soda. Combine butter, sugars, vanilla and pudding and mix in large bowl.

Beat until smooth and creamy.

Beat in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture and stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake on ungreased bakery sheet at 375 degrees for 8- to 10-minutes.

These are a soft, delicious cookie.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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