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Readers write: chocolate shoofly pie. March 9, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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5 comments

Silence Dogood here. In our part of scenic PA, shoofly pie is a traditional treat among the Amish, Mennonites, and Pennsylvania Dutch. You can’t go to a farm stand or farmers’ market without encountering slices of these pies for sale. But despite its popularity, I’ve never tried it. That’s because I hate one of its essential ingredients, molasses, and because of its peculiar composition: a crumb-topped cake on a bed of gooey molasses in a pie crust.

Why would anyone put a cake in a pie crust, adding an extra calorie hit for no reason? I pondered this last night after one of the readers of our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, requested a recipe for chocolate shoofly pie. And eventually the answer occurred to me: Putting the cake in a pie crust meant that the gooey molasses layer at the bottom was easily contained, so hungry farmers could carry slices back to the fields and eat them with their hands, rather than needing a plate and fork. And needless to say, every extra calorie was a boon, not a problem, for hardworking farmers.

Though I never have and never will try a slice of shoofly pie (presumably named because the sweet molasses layer attracted flies), God forfend that I, Silence Dogood, should shrink from any culinary challenge. A reader needed a recipe for chocolate shoofly pie; surely my extensive collection of regional cookbooks could supply one. To my dismay, the local cookbooks I turned to first proved disappointing, only featuring recipes for basic shoofly pie. But finally, Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook came to my rescue.

Wanda, whose novels about Amish life are among my favorites, gathered 200 traditional recipes from Amish country for her cookbook, including this one from Linda Esh of Paradise, PA:

           Chocolate Shoofly Pie

1 quart milk or water

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

5 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 (8-inch) unbaked pie shells

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch; cook until thickened. Add butter and vanilla; cool. Divide mixture evenly into unbaked pie shells. Pour topping over filling and bake for 1 hour.

          Topping:

2 cups flour 

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup milk

1 cup hot coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

dash of salt

Combine topping ingredients and beat well.

So, there you have it. Thanks, Linda and Wanda! Let’s hope our reader hits the jackpot with her chocolate shoofly pie. And did you notice that there’s not a trace of molasses? Hallelujah!

        ‘Til next time,

                    Silence

Thanksgiving, PA Dutch style: Dried corn. November 24, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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9 comments

Silence Dogood here. As a native Tennessean, I had never heard of dried corn when our friend Ben and I first came to scenic Pennsylvania. Now, obviously, I’d seen ears of dried field corn, and many a kernel of dried popcorn. But around here, when you talk about dried corn, that’s not what you mean. For the Pennsylvania Dutch (that’s “Dutch” as in “Deitsch,” dialect for “Deutsch,” German, not “Dutch” as in Holland), dried corn is oven-dried sweet corn kernels that are then reconstituted during cooking into a variety of dishes that are considered Thanksgiving staples.

Corn, of course, is one of the “Three Sisters” of Native American cuisine, along with those other Thanksgiving classics, pumpkins and green beans. But by Thanksgiving, fresh corn on the cob would have been a distant memory before the days of worldwide transport that for decades annihilated the concept of seasonal cooking and had us all eating fresh corn, tomatoes and watermelon in January. Mercifully, regional and seasonal cooking is making a comeback. So is drying and canning summer’s bounty to enjoy the rest of the year. And that’s where dried corn comes into its own.

As far as I know, there’s exactly one brand of dried corn available for grocery-store purchase, and that’s John Cope’s. Cope’s—located in Lancaster County, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—has been making and selling dried sweet corn for more than a hundred years. If your grocery doesn’t happen to stock it, you can mail-order it from a number of sources, including Amazon.com, Farm Stand Foods (www.farmstandfoods.com), and Zingerman’s (www.zingermans.com). Our favorite site was Farm Stand Foods, which is apparently the official Cope’s site and also offers paraphernalia for the Cope’s corn fanatic, including Cope’s theme mugs, decorative tins, and tee shirts (“I Brake For Cope’s Corn”), as well as gift baskets, other regional specialty foods, and recipes.

The recipe page was almost mind-boggling. You can find recipes for Corn Souffle, Chicken and Corn Pie, Curried Corn N’ Tomatoes, Lancaster County Corn Pudding, John Cope’s Baked Corn, Baked Corn Supreme, Cornburgers, Corn Fritters, Baked Corn with Oysters, Stewed Corn, Corn Puffs, Corn & Beef Hash, Chicken Corn Soup, Corn Chowder, Ham & Corn Royal, and Creamed Corn. A quick search revealed that many of these recipes used Cope’s canned or frozen corn rather than dried. But one, the recipe for Creamed Corn, which also happens to be the traditional Thanksgiving dish, uses the dried corn. Here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth:

           Creamed Corn

1 7.5-oz package Toasted Dried Sweet Corn

3 1/2 cups milk

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

Combine Toasted Dried Sweet Corn and milk and let soak in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Add sugar, salt, and butter. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (They have a microwave version as well: Mix all the ingredients in a 2-quart casserole, cover with wax paper, and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Stir and let stand for 15 minutes. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, and let stand until the desired consistency is reached.)

If this doesn’t sound particularly fabulous, listen to what the Zingerman’s site (which is quite delightful) has to say about Cope’s dried sweet corn: “Makes the best creamed corn you’ll ever eat. John Cope’s corn couldn’t be more of a culinary secret to everyone outside of Rheems, Pennsylvania, if we’d made a national policy to hide it. Martin Cope made his first batch in 1900, and despite a conspicuous lack of notoreity the company is still doing it now as they were then. They buy corn only during the height of the season, when the sugars are at their highest. Quick to the drier—like olives for oil, one key is to get the corn into production right after picking, before its sugars start turning to starches. The drying caramelizes the natural sugars in the corn, lending a subtle, sweet flavor that’s so pleasing you’ll want to eat it right out of the tin. Anything you make with fresh corn is fair game for Cope’s dried sweet corn.” 

Intrigued? I was, too, especially after reading an article by Diane Stoneback in out local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, that focused on dried corn and had a bunch of recipes for it, including how to make your own from scratch (well, from your own-grown or store-bought fresh ears of sweet corn). Read the whole article, “Roots in the first Thanksgiving,” at www.themorningcall.com, for fascinating insights into the history of creamed dried corn, its occasional moments in the spotlight (think Emeril, Thomas Keller, and the White House), directions on making your own dried corn, and additional recipes.

Diane Stoneback tells those of us who weren’t raised with dried corn how to make it part of the Thanksgiving feast: “Just top a serving of plain mashed potatoes with a spoonful of creamed dried corn and you can skip the butter. Let the corn’s ‘gravy’ mix in with bread stuffing for a special treat.”

The descendants of the original Copes have their own special recipe that they love even more than the famous creamed corn:

           Cope’s Baked Corn Supreme

1 7.5-ounce bag John Cope’s toasted dried sweet corn, ground in a blender or food processor

5 cups cold milk

3 1/2 tbsps. butter

2 tsps. salt

3 tbsps. sugar

4 well-beaten eggs

Mix ingredients thoroughly. Bake in buttered 2-quart casserole for 60 minutes in preheated 375-degree oven. Serves 4 to 6.

A variation on this recipe made it into Gourmet magazine as corn pudding:

      Gourmet Magazine’s Toasted Sweet Corn Pudding

1 7.5-oz. pkg Cope’s toasted dried sweet corn

4 cups whole milk

1 cup well-shaken fresh buttermilk (not powdered)

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 Tbsps. sugar

2 Tbsps. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsps. salt, 1 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in upper third. Butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer to baking dish. Bake until pudding is set, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool 10 minutes before serving. Note: Corn pudding can be made 3 hours ahead. Reheat, covered, in a 300-degree oven.

Corn pudding was one of the best things our friend Ben ever ate as a child. He had it rarely—perhaps on trips to the Shaker Village in Kentucky en route to his grandparents’ house—and it was always made with corn fresh-cut off the cob. But, hmmm. I know there’s a box of Cope’s dried corn in my pantry someplace. Maybe I’ll surprise OFB with a Cope’s corn pudding for Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, if dried corn is a Thanksgiving tradition in your home, and you have a favorite recipe I haven’t listed, please share it with us!

(Ahem. As an editor, it just kills me to list recipes in nonstandardized forms—tbs., tbsp., Tbsps., and etc.—in the same post. I don’t care how it’s listed, as long as all the recipes are listed the same way in the same post. But in this case, drawing from many sources, I simply listed them as they were published in each case rather than “fixing” them for consistency’s sake. But please don’t assume I was simply too clueless to notice! The one change I made was to omit “margarine” where a recipe said “butter or.” Margarine is a tool of the devil. Use butter, please! Not that I feel strongly about this or anything.)

          ‘Til next time,

                     Silence

Too many questions! November 15, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, recipes, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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1 comment so far

Fans of Batman, Val Kilmer, or Jim Carrey may recognize the title of this post from our friend Ben’s favorite Batman movie, “Batman Returns,” which stars Val Kilmer as the best Batman ever versus the double whammy of Two-Face (delightfully played by Tommy Lee Jones, who was clearly enjoying himself) and The Riddler (Carrey). Drew Barrymore is also sensational as one of Two-Face’s molls. “Too many questions!” is a pivotal line spoken by Carrey as his character is transforming from Edward Nygma, nerdy scientist, to The Riddler, evil wannabe world dominator. But I digress.

Getting back to the post itself, we get some very interesting queries here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, and sometimes we’re so intrigued that we’ll devote an entire post to answering one. The latest batch of queries are all easy to answer briefly, however, so those of us who blog here—our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders—decided to split them up and answer them all in one post. And let me just say that, post title aside, there are never too many questions as far as we’re concerned! Of course, coming up with good answers is another matter…

Let’s get started. Call our friend Ben lazy (Silence often does), but I cheerfully volunteered to take on the question “Do orange tabbies always have gold eyes?” That’s because the answer is literally sitting in front of my face. While it’s true that Bo, the orange tom who occasionally deigns to grace our deck with his presence, has gold eyes, our orange Maine coon, Athena, has green eyes. I have also on occasion seen orange cats with spectacular orange eyes. If you’ve ever seen an orange cat with blue eyes, please let us hear from you.

The next question, requesting the recipe for a “non-alcoholic swizzle that the Pilgrims drank,” might have been enough to flummox even a historian of the Pilgrim era. But here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, thanks to Silence’s massive cookbook collection, it was a piece of cake (make that a glass of swizzle). Silence first pulled Early American Beverages down from her groaning cookbook shelves to check it out. Hmmm. Like Europeans at the time, the Colonists weren’t particularly prone to non-alcoholic beverages. There were some very curious drinks consumed in the Colonies, including (but by no means limited to) syllabubs, shrubs, devilled ale, bang, something called Balm of Mankind, instantaneous beer, flummery caudle, cherry bounce, crambambull, elephant’s milk, fish skin coffee, and (Silence’s favorite) Perfect Love. No sign, however, of swizzle.

Fortunately, Silence is nothing if not determined, and she persevered in her search. It didn’t take long for her to find the answer. The Pilgrim’s non-alcoholic swizzle was a beverage made from vinegar and molasses. To make your own to astonish guests this Thanksgiving, mix 3/4 cup molasses and 1/4 cup white vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1 quart water in a glass jar. Shake well, refrigerate overnight, and serve cold. (Note: Left unrefrigerated, this would have doubtless become an alcoholic beverage fast enough!) Let us just note that we ourselves would prefer the dictionary version of “swizzle”: “A tall drink, originating in Barbados, composed of full-flavored West Indian rum, lime juice, crushed ice, and sugar; typically served with a swizzle stick.” But suit yourselves.

The next question on our roster was “What are the odds of finding a black pearl in an oyster?” This doubtless arrived on our virtual doorstep because of our many piratical posts, including our now-infamous “Pirate Week” posts (which see). Though we were in fact posting about The Black Pearl, the ship of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame, Richard Saunders bravely volunteered to head into uncharted waters to try to find an answer to this query.

Richard discovered that black pearls are in fact both rare and cherished, and are second in popularity only to white saltwater pearls. They are produced by the black-lipped pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, which lives in the salt waters off Tahiti and many other Pacific Islands (thus, “Black Tahitian Pearls”). South Sea pearls are actually rarer than black pearls and valued accordingly, but black pearls retain their mystique, rarity, and value nonetheless. 

This may be because of their romantic history. Richard learned that the first person to bring black pearls into vogue in Europe was the Empress Eugenie, second wife of Napoleon. To this day, the greatest collection of black pearls in the world is said to be in the hands of the Duchess of Anhalt Dessau in Germany, who is reputed to own three large caskets of the finest black pearls ever discovered. It took the Anhalt Dessaus a century to amass this treasure. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait a century—or be a duchess—to own black pearls today. And if you’re a black pearl aficionado, you’ll be pleased to learn that harvesting black pearls does not involve killing the oyster that produces them.

To answer the original question, your odds aren’t bad if you head to the oceans around Tahiti and find a black-lipped oyster that has been cultured for pearl production. Otherwise, they’re almost nonexistant.

Let’s move on to today’s final question: Do you have a recipe for Pennsylvania Dutch applesauce? Naturally, we bounced this one to Silence, who was a bit bemused. According to her, applesauce is so easy to make that a conscientious child could do it: You take a mix of flavorful apples, core them, cut them up,  and put them in a heavy pot like a Dutch oven (make sure you’re using one like Silence’s beloved LeCreuset enamelled cast iron rather than plain cast iron, which can impart an iron flavor to your applesauce). Silence likes to leave the peels on for additional flavor, fiber, and (if they’re red) color, but you can peel the apples if you want. Add just enough water, apple cider, apple juice, or cider vinegar to keep the apples from sticking to the pot as they cook down over low heat.

When the apples reach applesauce consistency, they’re done. Taste and add sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup or maple sugar, and/or ground cinnamon to your liking. (Silence likes to leave hers plain if the applesauce turns out sweet and flavorful, but adds sugar and cinnamon if it’s tart or bland.) Silence cans hers in a boiling-water bath, but you can eat yours hot from the pot, perhaps with a little cream, as dessert, or chill it in the fridge and serve cold. You can even freeze it.

As Silence pointed out, nothing could be easier. And, as far as she knew, applesauce is made this way by everybody who makes it. So, she wondered, do the Pennsylvania Dutch have a special secret when it comes to applesauce? She was determined to find out. She turned first to her ultimate authority on all things Pennsylvania Dutch, William Woys Weaver. In his gorgeous book, Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking, he has a recipe for something vaguely applesauce-like that’s definitely a different critter. He calls it Green Apple Pap (Griene Ebbelbrei), and it’s actually a raw puree that’s served as a relish with poultry or as a sauce. Here’s the recipe:

        Green Apple Pap

14 ounces unripe green apples, such as ‘Summer Rambo’, ‘Yellow Transparent’, or ‘Gravenstein’, peeled and cored

2/3 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 cup sugar

grated zest of 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the apples, wine, olive oil, mace, sugar, lime zest, and cayenne in a food processor and puree to a smooth, creamy consistency. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Hmmm. Sounds good, jah?! But, er. Is this what the person who inquired about Penna. Dutch applesauce was looking for? Will Weaver has a good deal to say about apple butter, that luscious concoction made by continuing to cook applesauce down over extremely low heat until it becomes a rich, dark, buttery puree, but nothing about applesauce per se, even in his other book on Penna. Dutch cooking, Sauerkraut Yankees. Silence needed to take her search a bit further.

This might have seemed daunting to a normal person, but Silence was unfazed. From her shelves, she extracted The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook, Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch, The Kutztown Area Historical Society Commemorative Cookbook, Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook, Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets, and The Palm Schwenkfelder Church Cookbook. All righty, then!

Turns out, the Schwenkfelder’s applesauce recipe is no different from Silence’s.There was nary an applesauce recipe in Mennonite Country-Style Recipes, Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch, The Kutztown Historical Society Commemorative Cookbook, or The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook. And in Wanda Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook, there was a recipe, not for applesauce, but for another apple relish. This one, from Sharri Noblett of Port Arthur, Texas, is a bit different from Will Weaver’s, but also looks good, so here it is. Meanwhile, should anyone out in the blogosphere know what makes Pennsylvania Dutch applesauce different from any other applesauce, we would love to hear from you!

       Over-100-Year-Old Apple Relish

16 cups cored and ground apples

8 cups ground onions

2 cups hot red peppers (jalapeno or others)

8 cups vinegar

12 cups sugar

Core and grind apples. Grind onions and peppers. Combine all ingredients and cook in large kettle until mixture thickens. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring constantly. If mixture becomes dry, add a little more vinegar. Skim off foam. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. (Silence assumes you should then process the jars in a boiling water-bath canner for at least 20 minutes.)

That’s it for today. Do you have any burning questions? Feel free to ask us here at Poor Richard’s Almanac! Who knows if we can answer them, but we’ll do our damndest, and it never hurts to ask, right?

Real Amish Recipes May 16, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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7 comments

Silence Dogood here. The best-known “Amish” recipe, for Amish friendship bread, isn’t really Amish at all—at least, as far as I can tell. (See my earlier posts, “Amish friendship ‘bread'” and “Amish friendship bread gone wild,” for more on that.) Certainly, it’s not in any of the Amish cookbooks I own. But that doesn’t mean that the Amish don’t have a rich culinary tradition with lots of specialty recipes. I’m going to give you a few today that I think you’ll want to try.

This part of Pennsylvania is Amish country. The stores in the nearby town of Kutztown all have railings where the Amish can tie their horse-drawn buggies, and our friend Ben and I have often admired a glossy horse, waiting patiently at the rail, while on our way to do our own shopping. Both Amish farmers and their older spiritual cousins, the Mennonites, have stands at the Kutztown Farmers’ Market where our friend Ben and I shop faithfully every Friday or Saturday. (One sells homemade baked goods, pickles, and farm-fresh butter; another cheeses, jellies, home-baked breads, and meats; a third fresh fruits, veggies, cider, and pantry staples; a fourth veggies from their greenhouse and gardens, hanging baskets, veggie transplants, and bedding plants. One elderly couple specializes in root crops, homemade sauerkraut, and cut flowers.)

How did these German and Swiss-German groups, the Amish, Mennonites, Moravians, and others, collectively known as “Pennsylvania Dutch” (for “Deitsch,” or “German,” in their dialect), end up here in Pennsylvania anyway? Well, the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, was keen to welcome these hardworking, responsible, and often-persecuted religious groups, with their reputation for integrity and skill, to his fledgling colony. And in turn, they were delighted to come to the rich Pennsylvania farmland and enjoy religious toleration after decades of persecution. They created a rich culture, both “Plain” (Amish, Mennonites, and other groups who chose to live apart from mainstream society) and “Fancy” (Pennsylvania Germans of other religious persuasions who saw no need to separate themselves from the mainstream). As a result, this area has a colorful cultural legacy, including everything from the famous “hex signs” that still adorn area barns to fabulous quilts to a distinctive regional culinary tradition.

If you’d like to explore Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch foodways for yourself, here are five great books to get you started: William Woys Weaver’s beautifully researched and photographed Pennsylvania Dutch Country Cooking (Abbeville Press, 1993); Wanda E. Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook (Barbour Publishing, 2007); The Beverly Lewis Amish Heritage Cookbook (Bethany House Publishers, 2004); Esther H. Shank’s Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets (Herald Press, 1987), which won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Publishers Marketing Association; and Jeff Dietrich and Lucetta Trexler Muth’s Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch (Albany Township Historical Society, 2006).

Let’s look at some of those recipes! I can’t look at Will Weaver’s book without wanting to share all the recipes—the photographs make everything look fantastic!—but I’m going to choose an unusual and intriguing soup, since soup’s always a good place to start. (Note that this is clearly not an Amish or Mennonite dish, since it contains wine, but it is an old, authentic Pennsylvania Dutch recipe.)

                Green Apple Soup

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup white breadcrumbs

2 cups sliced leek

8 ounces unripe green cooking apples, peeled and cored

3 cups apple wine or a fruity white wine such as a Vidal

3 fresh bay leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped sorrel

1 cup finely chopped lettuce

1 cup finely chopped purslane (leafy part only)

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup heavy cream

minced fresh mint or lemon thyme

Put the oil in a deep saucepan and brown the breadcrumbs in it over medium-high heat. Add the leek and cook 3 minutes or until soft. Puree the apples in a food processor and add them to the crumb and leek mixture. Add the apple wine, 5 cups of water, and the bay leaves. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Then add the sorrel, lettuce, and purslane. Cook no more than 2 or 3 minutes, just enough to heat the herbs. Taste and season with salt, then set the soup aside to cool.

Once the soup has cooled, refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, add the cream and garnish with minced mint or lemon thyme. Or serve with chopped tomatoes, allowing 1/2 cup per serving. (The photograph shows the soup in bowls with chopped red tomatoes and it is gorgeous!—Silence.) Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Note: Where purslane is unavailable, double the amount of sorrel and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice as a substitute.

 

Moving on from soup, here’s a real Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, Pickled Red Beet Eggs. As the authors of Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch explain, “It is said that Pennsylvania soldiers introduced red beet eggs to the world. Mothers sent jars of the ruby colored eggs along with their sons when they left home.” This is their recipe.

                       Pickled Red Beet Eggs

2 cans cooked young red beets with juice

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup vinegar

1 cup cold water

3 small pieces cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

6 hard boiled eggs, shells removed

In a saucepan, gently cook the beets in their juice with the rest of the ingredients—except the eggs—for about 10 to 15 minutes. Let the beets steep in this mixture for several days, refrigerated. Remove the beets and put the liquid in a jar large enough to hold it and the eggs. Add the eggs and refrigerate for at least 2 days. Serve cold. (Hmmm—they don’t say what to do with the beets. Wonder if you could heat and eat them, or slice them onto a salad?—Silence)

 

People (including me and our friend Ben) tend to think of sweet potatoes as a Southern crop, but they’re grown here in PA Dutch country and enjoyed in a wide range of traditional dishes. Here’s a favorite from Esther Shank’s Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets

            Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sift together into a bowl:

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Cut in until crumbly:

1/2 cup shortening

Combine and then stir into mixture:

1 1/4 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes

1/3 cup milk (more or less*)

(*Amount of milk may vary slightly depending on how stiff the sweet potatoes are. Sweet potatoes should be mashed without adding any liquid.) Knead slightly. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness and cut with biscuit cutter. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes. Yield: 18 to 20 large biscuits.

 

Since moving to Pennsylvania, our friend Ben and I have learned to love rhubarb, one of the area’s signature crops. But we became especially enamored of this “spring tonic” plant when we learned that it was introduced to the Colonies by none other than our hero, Ben Franklin, in 1770. (Geez, what didn’t the guy do?!!) We love rhubarb in rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb crisp, as a preserve with strawberries, and in rhubarb upside-down cake. But I’m going to give you a very simple recipe here for classic Rhubarb Applesauce. Back in the day, this would have been a great way to use up those last stored apples while taking advantage of the new rhubarb crop. If you’ve never made applesauce from scratch, you’ll love how easy it is! This recipe is also from Folk Art and Foodways of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

               Rhubarb Applesauce

4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and chopped (Use crisp, tart apples like Granny Smith, not Red or Yellow Delicious.—Silence)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, mix rhubarb, apples, sugar, and 1 cup water. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until rhubarb and apples are broken down and soft. Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla. Serve cold or at room temperature. (Note from Silence: If you’re harvesting your own rhubarb, remember that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Make sure you only use the stalks and compost the leaves.)

 

Ready for dessert? Here’s the regionally famous “Funeral Pie,” a favorite at post-funeral gatherings because it’s quick to make and keeps well. The recipe for this one is from Wanda Brunstetter’s Amish Friends Cookbook, courtesy of Esther Stauffer of Port Trevortown, PA.

              Funeral Pie

1 cup raisins

2 cups hot water

1 1/4 cups sugar

4 tablespoons flour

1 egg, well beaten

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 (8 inch) unbaked pie shell and pastry strips for lattice top

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Wash raisins and soak in hot water for 1 hour or longer. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cook in top of double boiler until thickened. Cool. Pour into pie shell and weave pastry strips over filling to make lattice top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until pastry is nicely browned.

 

Sheesh, there are so many other classic Amish and regional recipes—dumplings, sauerkraut, braised red cabbage, potato filling, chow chow, fried tomatoes with milk gravy, potato corn chowder, roasted squash soup, Dutch cole slaw, red pepper and cucumber salad, creamy dandelion dressing, bread and butter pickles, beet relish, corn pie, shoofly pie, sticky buns, corn fritters, potato bread, fastnachts—the list is endless! I guess I’ll just have to share some more of these regional classics in a future post. Meanwhile, try some of these and let me know what you think of them!

                    ‘Til next time,

                               Silence