United States Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch Cuisine

November 15, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Posted in baking, Food | 1 Comment
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A plate of scrapple

Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine is the typical and traditional fare of the PennsylvaniaDutch, and it has had a considerable influence on the areas in which they originally settled, Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as the neighboring areas  that they have migrated to over time. Though its base strongly reflects their German heritage, it has developed into a distinctly different cuisine over the centuries that they have lived in America; it also manifests their simple, largely agricultural lifestyles, the resources made available to them in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, as well as the various regional and religious backgrounds from which they stem. As they hated to waste anything, Pennsylvania Dutch cooks often made use of food parts otherwise discarded, including pig organs and scraps and watermelon rind. Even today, Amish diets are considerably low in processed foods.

A common aspect of Pennsylvania Dutch meals, especially maintained by Amish families today, is a centuries-old emphasis on the seven sweets and seven sours, stemming from archaic European custom and the belief that everything should be properly balanced. Before the typically large families, and especially in the presence of company, seven various pickled foods, relishes, and spreads were laid out on the table alongside the starchy, hearty, filling dishes as part of the evening meal. These delicacies were enjoyed as accompaniments or by themselves. In the absence of refrigeration, they could be prepared in the summer and preserved in jars through the winter months. Beyond the home, some tourist-oriented restaurants and annual festivals in Pennsylvania Dutch

The Amish eat a hearty breakfast. For the families of Amish farmers, the day starts early, with breakfast served around 6:00 A.M. A typical Amish breakfast might include eggs, cornmeal mush, pancakes, and homemade canned fruit.

Amish schools do not have cafeterias, so all of the students take packed lunches to school. Lunches usually include sandwiches made with bologna or leftover meat from dinner, such as beef roast or meat loaf. Peanut butter and jelly, pizza, or other leftovers may also be eaten. In the winter, homemade soups are taken to school in Thermos bottles, which keep them hot. Sometimes a casserole is taken to school in a wide-mouthed Thermos bottle. Lunches also include fresh fruit and home-baked cookies, cake, or pie for dessert. One popular dessert is an Amish specialty called Whoopie Pie, a cookie sandwich with icing in the middle.

On evenings and weekends, when the whole family is home, the main meal of the day (dinner, or “Middaagesse”) is eaten at midday. On these days, a light supper is eaten in the evening.

At the end of the school year, Amish children have a picnic. Their parents take casseroles, salads, cakes, candies, and puddings to school. Often a tablecloth is thrown over the bottom of a big farm wagon. The food is spread out on top and everyone eats heartily.

Popular Amish snacks include soft pretzels, peanut butter and molasses spread on bread or crackers, and ice cream made from freshly fallen snow.

Instead of going to church, the Amish hold religious services in different people’s homes every Sunday morning. After the service, there is a large Sunday lunch. A typical menu for this meal is homemade bread with butter, jelly or peanut butter; cheese cubes or a type of homemade cottage cheese called schmierkase ; pickles; an apple pie called schnitz pie; and coffee or tea.

The Amish are known for their strong family ties. Large family reunions are important occasions that include a bountiful Amish meal, with everyone bringing something. Like church services, Amish weddings are held at home. After the ceremony, a big festive meal is served on long tables set up all over the first floor of the house.

Special rectangular doughnuts called Fassnacht Kuche are baked on Shrove Tuesday, a day before the beginning of Lent. Mashed potatoes are used in the batter, making the doughnuts moist and tender. They are served with black coffee.


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