A typical Reading area farm field.     Amish couple salt and pepper shakers      A can of Dutch Birch Beer.         Reading Beer       Reading's famous pretzel
The Berks County "look."      Amish Salt and Pepper Shakers. Reading's Birch Beer. Reading's Real Beer. and of course the pretzel
     (Notice there's a model of Reading's famous Pagoda at the bottom of the beer sign and if you look at the upper right corner of the pretzel, you will notice that there's a cork and the pretzel is actually a ceramic flask used to discretely carry your fancy Dutch schnapps.)  The following descriptions of Pennsylvania Dutch or German food and recipes are taken from my fictional novels about the fancy Dutch (and the Amish too).  These are very real recipes, and fun to read and cook.  Pennsylvania Dutch food and Pennsylvania Dutch recipes in their own words, Pennsylvania German words and expressions.  Elderberry wine, Pot Pudding and Rivel Soup, Snitz und Knepp, Stuffed Pig Stomach, Sauerbraten made with deer meat, potato dumplings, dried corn, hot dandelion salad, with Jerusalem artichokes and souse for appetizers, and with apple dumplings and cherry pie for dessert, Boova schenkel and schnecken --- come on in and get to know vott gute is!!

Elderberry Wine (this conversation occurs soon after the woman Peach has been told her husband is very ill)

   "Rosa found that her mother had gone outside to the platform built around the old metal handpump next to the back porch.  Since Arsenic’s illness was diagnosed, Peach had started making a batch of elderberry wine in jugs that were left in the sun on the platform.  Elderberries were once called "the commoner’s medicine chest.”  Every part of the plant has been used at one time or another as a folk remedy.  Skin infections, inflammation, cold and flu, respiratory distress, urinary infections, even cancer, had all been treated with parts of the elderberry plant.
    Peach picked the ripe elderberries from bushes that grew in a little marshy area in the middle of the pasture down the hill from the springhouse, the pasture with the broken gate.  All stems and seeds were removed since they could be toxic.  She did this by squeezing the juice through a piece of cheesecloth.  Then, she simmered it for 15 minutes and allowed it to cool before pouring it into gallon jugs.  Sugar was added, and a piece of cheesecloth was tied over the mouth of the each jug.  The mesh of the cheesecloth kept insects out of the fermenting sweet juice but allowed it to overflow as the fermentation produced bubbling inside the jug.  Peach was adding additional sugar to each jar.  The liquid inside was bluish and foamy."  (from The Other Side of the Middle, 2005, p.)

Pot Pudding and Rivel Soup, Pennsylvania German recipes (made while hogs are being butchered on the farm)

   "From the other cauldron, the tenderloins, kidneys, spleens, hearts, and livers, as much as remained after all the “tasting” by Fat and the kids, were taken to the kitchen where Peach supervised the preparation of a luscious meat pudding called pot pudding.  The name derived from the fact that it was baked in great earthenware pots or crocks.
    Peach saw to it that Rosa ran the boiled morsels through a little grinder in the kitchen and cooked the resulting puree in some of the meat broth from the butcher shed caldron carried to the kitchen along with the meats.  This meat ooze was thickened with flour and seasoned with Peach’s own special spices, which she seemed to remember perfectly although she was no longer able to do the work herself.
    Ruby took charge of baking the meat puree in the earthenware pots in the oven of the kitchen stove.  The most delicious part of this pot pudding was the crust that formed on top of each crock.  If the crock was placed back in the oven after the removal of a crust, another would form.  Needless to say, the pudding was frequently rebaked.
    At the end of the day, twenty people gathered in the kitchen.  Peach’s daughters had prepared a big batch of rivel soup to go with the pot pudding.  Rivel soup was made with chicken broth and crumbled dough.  The dough is made a little dry and crumbly and rubbed or riveled between the palms so that the “rivels” fall into the hot chicken broth.  Peach got the girls to add a little fresh corn as well."  The Other Side of the Middle, 2005

Snitz und Knepp: (this was a conversation between Peach and her son Randy when he asked for the Pennsylvania Dutch recipe for Snitz und Knepp)
    "...Randy asked again how to cook snitz und knepp.
    “O.K.,” Peach said, "I boil da ham a couple ahvahs.  Vhile dat's cookin, I soak da schnitz, ya know, da dried apples, in vater.  Den, after soakin, in goes some brawn shugah, raisins, und onions, an den dat goes in vith da ham an foah anutah ahvah all dat gets cooked tagetah.  Dat makes sree ahvahs so far, right?  Vell, durin da last ahvah, I mix up dumplin batah and schpoon small glops in vith da ham, apples, an bross, an at da end dere I keep cookin foah anutah fifteen minutes vhile da dumplins rise and soak up da chuices.  Seven sveets and seven sours on the table should be ven ya serve it up.  Chow chow goes goot foah example, und so weiter." The Other Side of the Middle, 2005

Stuffed Pig Stomach:  (this this Pennsylvania Dutch was started while the Schlank family awaited a visit from their youngest son, Randy and his son)
    The “girls,” Peach, Ruby, and Rosa, worked on a big evening meal to celebrate the arrival of the “baby of the family,” and his “baby” too.  They were preparing stuffed pig stomach.
    Ruby was working on the stomach itself.  It had been washed, packaged and frozen during one of the Schlank’s butchering sessions and saved especially for such an occasion.  Before stuffing, it was the size and shape of a deflated football, primarily muscle, with thin layers of meat in a few areas.  The stomach had two openings, a small one from above and a large one toward the bottom.  Ruby was sewing the small one shut with twine so that the stuffing could be pushed into the large hole before it too was sewn shut.
    Rosa and Peach were preparing the stuffing, a combination of fresh link sausage and smoked linked sausage cut into many thin slices, eight peeled potatoes cut into little cubes, chopped onions, fresh chopped parsley, salt, and pepper.  This was all mixed together by hand.  When all was ready, Rosa stuffed the mixture into the large open end of the stomach, pressing it over and over so as to maximize the amount that could be inserted, adding a half to its original size.  Then, Ruby sewed shut the remaining hole with twine.
    The stuffed stomach was placed in a roasting pan and baked for two hours.  When cooked with the stuffing inside, it was very chewy, and according to the Pennsylvania Dutch, it was “vonderful good.”
    Peach liked to baste the concoction regularly during baking, using the juices that leaked from the stomach.  Also, just before serving it, she would drain a large amount of the fatty broth and browned bits and pieces from the bottom of the roasting pan into a big frying pan, adding flour and water until she had created a delicious gravy.  The stomach was then sliced and passed around with the gravy in a separate bowl, spooned on top of the serving to satisfy individual tastes.  There was a separate bowl with the semi-clear broth itself, in case anyone preferred that to the gravy.
    The meal was ready and waiting in the warmer on top of the big iron cook stove when the “boys” returned from the airport at five o’clock.           The Other Side of the Middle, 2005

Sauerbraten made with deer meat, potato dumplings, dried corn, hot dandelion salad, with Jerusalem artichokes and souse for appetizers, and with apple dumplings and cherry pie for dessert (all wunderful gute Pennsylvania Dutch food, Pennsylvania Dutch recipes, and German cultural influence)

    Ruby had asked James and Rosa over to dinner to get an opportunity to tell her sister and brother-in-law about her pregnancy.  She prepared sauerbraten made with deer meat.  To round out the meal, she had potato dumplings, dried corn, hot dandelion salad, with Jerusalem artichokes and souse for appetizers, and with apple dumplings and cherry pie for dessert.
    Red wine, vinegar, onions, salt, pepper, cloves, and bay leaves formed the base for the meat marinade, bathing the venison in the refrigerator for three days.  Regan must have asked her at least three times, “What’s in that container in the refrigerator?  Oh yeah, that’s right!”
    Today, she had removed the meat and cooked and browned it for an hour and a half, and made a wonderful gravy with the strained marinade and flour combined with fresh onions, carrots, and celery.
    Early this morning, she had been out in the front yard cutting new springtime sprouts of dandelion for the salad.  Only the youngest, newest sprouts were selected, and this was the best time to pick it.  You needed to get it before any flowers appeared.  Regan had wandered sleepily out on the front porch carrying a cup of coffee and mumbling, “It’s a little early to be working on the yard, don’t you think?”
    She would prepare a hot sweet and sour white sauce loaded with pieces of bacon to pour over the chilled dandelion leaves just before serving them as a salad.
    Ruby’s potato dumplings were dough pouches a little like Polish pierogis, filled with mashed potatoes, boiled, and then fried.  Similar filled dough pouches were featured in the Boova schenkel Maggie’d fixed for Fat and and his helpers when they butchered her cow, but boova schenkel used Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling whereas Ruby was using plain mashed potatoes.
    Ruby started soaking the dried corn the night before the dinner.  She would simmer it with milk, butter, and salt.  The appetizers of souse and Jerusalem artichokes were purchased at the Reading Farmers’ Market, along with apple dumplings.  The souse and artichokes were slightly sour.  A touch of sweetness was supplied by serving them on a tray with little sweet pickles.  The souse had been prepared with pig’s feet, pork hocks, and pork tongue, well-seasoned and embedded in a gelatinous block.  The Jerusalem artichokes, actually the root or tuber of a type of sunflower, were cut up and pickled.  These were popular in the Reading area but relatively unknown in other parts of the country.
    The grand finale was to be a choice between apple dumplings and cherry pie, both baked and served hot with vanilla ice cream.  Ruby liked to buy her apple dumplings from the farmer’s market stand of the Amish family named Schmeiser.  Amy Schmeiser had been Amy Dietrich until recently when she married Jake Schmeiser.
    At one time, Jake had been “shunned” by his Amish congregation under the “Doctrine of Meidung.”  He was put “under the ban” when he violated the “Ordnung” by becoming an alcoholic, thereby breaking the rule "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee," Lev. 10:9.  No one was allowed to eat or talk with him.
    Jake had dappled in drink when he was a young adult, during a time of “rumschpringe” or “running around,” when young adults are allowed to experiment in English society before they decide whether they want to remain Amish.  Jake had returned to the order and been baptized but then backslid at a future time.  This was unacceptable to the order since changing your mind after taking the vow was like abandoning your spouse after taking the marriage vows.  They would turn their backs toward him whenever he appeared.  Rather than leave the area, Jacob had lingered on in the fringes of the society.
    And then a fall from a farm wagon paralyzed Jacob from the waist down, and he quit drinking and was eventually taken back into the congregation when he repented.  No one thought he would ever marry, but Amy fell in love with him.
    The couple needed to sell baked goods and hand made clothing, since Jake couldn’t work in the fields.  Amy’s baked goods were elegant.  She would pack her cored apples with cinnamon candies, brown sugar and nutmeg before wrapping them in pie dough.  Ruby claimed they were better than any she could ever make herself.  Besides, the Schmeisers needed the money.
    The cherry pie Ruby made herself using cherries she’d picked and pitted and frozen the previous summer, picked from a tree right behind their house.  She’d used an antique cherry pitter or stoner that her grandmother had given her.  It was made of cast-iron and had a patent date of 1917 stamped into it.  As Regan cranked it and she inserted fruit, the pits fell out one opening and the slightly scrunched cherries fell out another opening.  Now the frozen, pitted cherries were being put to use.
    Ruby’d just placed the desserts in the oven and started getting dressed for their company.  James and Rosa Christiansen were due within the hour.
    Ruby’s sister and Arsenic’s former hospice worker were married only a few months earlier.  Rosa was still working at the factory that made breaker points for auto ignition systems, but she’d been accepted at Penn State University to work on a Bachelor’s Degree.  She  always was a reader and practiced yoga and acting and felt out of place in the factory.  She’d served notice that she was quitting so she and James could move to State College in the Fall.
    James was going to become a clinical psychologist.  He’d just been accepted into the Psychology Department’s Graduate Program at Penn State.  In a way, his interest in psychology started while he was still an infant.  His father was killed during the Korean War.  He called his childhood “confusing” and developed the life-long interest in psychology.  He worked in a factory up to the age of thirty-one, but then quit and went to college.  James was a reserved person and very determined.  Some would have called him stubborn, but if so, then it was the devoted stubbornness of a reserved person.
    When he and Rosa married a few months ago, James was thiry-five years old, and Rosa was forty-five.  Arsenic said, “Bettah late den nevah!”
    Ruby offered the invitation to dinner to celebrate the career moves of the couple, but she also wanted to make her own announcement.
    Regan surprised the couple when he opened the front door before they had a chance to  knock.  His greeting was excessively animated and immediately followed by the announcement that he had quit smoking, hadn’t had a cigarette in a week.
    “Cold turkey!”  He said, his voice unnecessarily loud.
    Very rapidly, he added, “It’s easy!  I’m already over the worst of it!  Just takes will power, you know!  Have to hang in there!  I got it all figured out!”
    This was a bit disconcerting, as Regan was normally steady and calm."  (The Other Side of the Middle, 2005

Boova schenkel and schnecken  (over at Maggies farm while neighbors help her butcher one of her cows accidently hit by a truck, great Pennsylvania German food)

    "Maggie went in the house to cook a meal for the workers who were donating their time.  She started cooking boova schenkel, with schnecken for dessert.  The boova schenkel had to cook for two hours.  Butchering the cow would require the remainder of the afternoon.
    Since Rosa was attending classes all afternoon, and Ruby was cutting hair, neither of them would be available to help with the cooking or butchering, but they might be able to come for nachtessen, the evening meal.
    Maggie was using her summer kitchen, a shed attached to the house, equipped with a counter and small wood cook stove.  Maggie called the shed her “cookery.”  The weather had started to warm and Maggie was more warm-blooded, or “varmblütig,” than Arsenic and hated the extra heat from the cookstove in the kitchen.  She used the summer kitchen in all but the coldest months.  Arsenic did all his cooking in the kitchen.  Maggie was making sizable portions of everything, for Fat Schmidt was known for the size of his appetite as well as  his body.
    Boova schenkel probably has its roots in the pierogi, a pouch of pie dough filled with potatoes or cheese and boiled.  Pierogies were Polish in origin.  Pennsylvania Dutch culture  started out German and this included the Germanic trait of absorbing into itself useful features found in other cultures.  Berks County was truly a melting pot, and so was its food.  In similar fashion, the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, or Deitsch, borrowed freely from other languages.  It’s a spoken dialect, and the rules tend to vary a bit from family to family and neighborhood to neighborhood.  Whatever works for communication tends to be fair.  Just like the Dutch food, if it eats good, eat it.
      Maggie had rolled out eight-inch circles of pie dough and spooned a portion of Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling in the center of each.  The dough circles were then folded in half and sealed by pressing a fork repeatedly along the open edge.  The potato filling is a Dutch staple made with mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, parsley, onions, and butter.  Often it’s baked by itself, but true to its name, it can be used to “fill” other things like the dough pouches for boova schenkel.  These pouches are basically dropped into a previously-prepared beef stew and cooked there for thirty minutes.  The fat off the top of the stew is made into a milk-based gravy and spooned on top of individual servings.  Boova schenkel means “boys legs” in Dutch, and the pouches of dough Maggie was fixing did look a lot like the pudgy little legs of a plump little Dutch boy.
    Maggie’s dessert, the schnecken, was a sort of sweet milky bread dough spread with butter, sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and almonds then rolled up like a jelly roll and  baked and sliced to show the swirly pattern of the filling.  Schnecken means “snails,” and each spiraling slice of the pastry does resemble a snail.
    Maggie put the finished meal in a warmer on top of her wood stove and headed out to see when the crew would be ready to eat.  She yelled, “Put some elbow grease inta it.  Dinnah’s rhetty!”  She had called Ruby and Rosa and they were on their way."  The Other Side of the Middle, 2005
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