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Time-tested recipes win over Kansans statewide

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News
Abner Schmucker lifts hot trays of freshly baked peppernuts out of the ovens to cool on racks Tuesday morning at his family-owned business, Helmuth Bakery. Abner and his wife, Angela, have owned the business for eight years.

Simple ingredients, mixed with love and a sprinkling of tradition, help a Hutchinson couple sell their product throughout Kansas.

Sixty years ago, Eli and Katie Helmuth used old family recipes, lots of hard work and much ingenuity to begin their small factory — Helmuth Country Bakery — off a dirt road in Hutchinson. Eight years ago, Angela and Abner Schmucker walked down that old dirt country road, bought the small business and continue to offer made-from-scratch products to loyal customers.

“We’d been looking for a business that our family could work on together,” Angela said. “We’d been praying about it.”

The couple, who have eight children, wanted a business that was established but had the ability to grow.

“We were surprised to find it down the road from where I grew up,” Angela said. “I never thought we would own it one day.”

Helmuth is known for its noodles, which use flour from Hudson Cream Flour just 30 miles down the road in Stafford. The noodles have simple ingredients — flour, eggs and water. Each batch is carefully mixed, cooked and then dried overnight.

The small factory mixes the batter for old-world favorites — peppernut cookies one day and snickerdoodle cookies the next. On other days the business throws in a batch of brownies or peanut brittle. The noodles involve a two-day process. After each rotation, they must clean each piece of machinery and make it ready for the next recipe.

On the days they cook noodles, they make up 60 batches, or 1,800 pounds. After air-drying the pasta, they run it through a packaging machine, funneling the thin and wide bands into 12-ounce bags.

Helmuth products can be found in many small grocery stores and shops statewide as well as at Dillons and White’s Foodliner. In Hutchinson, this includes Glenn’s Bulk Food Shoppe, Jackson Meat, Smith’s Market and Yoder Meats. Different locations sell different products, but almost all sell the company trademark — Helmuth Homemade Egg Noodles.

“Our cotton candy is our second largest seller,” Abner said. “My favorite is the blue raspberry.”

The tricolor package switches by season. Winter includes cherry, blue raspberry and banana. The summer package contains green apple, purple grape and orange. Sometimes the season’s flavors change.

Abner oversees every aspect of the business. He is careful not to bring on too many new products, opting for slow, steady expansion. Two years ago, he introduced Clark’s Salsa, which is produced in Kansas City.

Along with family, Abner is busy with his cattle and sits on the board of his township. But the business keeps him busy.

“We make whatever is in demand,” Abner said. “It depends on what is needed.”

Meredith Schmucker, 5, holds up some of the products at her family's business, Helmuth Bakery. The bakery sells egg noodles, cotton candy, Daddy Jack's salsa, peppernuts, snickerdoodle, brownies, spice packets, beef jerky and peanut brittle.