Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Autumn, In the land of the Amish (pt. 1)

A granny square quilt hanging made by a local Mennonite woman.
We bought this at a quilt shop in Bird-In-Hand, PA.

I'm embarrassed to admit that my only familiarity with the Amish before last weekend was from watching the movie “Witness” with Harrison Ford. I remember watching the movie as a child and being in awe of the Amish people and the way they lived.

I have always loved reading historical fiction and non-fiction books about living in the early 18th century. I’ve always loved museums, living-history villages, and old houses. If it weren’t for modern bathrooms, medicine, and the internet, sometimes I’ve wondered if living as the Amish do, would be a lifestyle that I would enjoy. I truly respect and honor the way the Amish and Mennonite people live, raise their children, and contribute to their community.

Our 3rd Anniversary!

Over the weekend, Michael and I traveled to a little town called Quarryville, PA. In the midst of celebrating our 3rd anniversary, we were acquainted with the Mennonite and Amish community. Our hosts at the Stony Hill Barn B&B, were Dan and Sara Stoltzfus, a young Mennonite couple with 4 beautiful children. The Stoltzfus’ own 9 aces of land in Lancaster Co, in a rural area, surrounded by Amish farms and rolling hills.

The Stoltzfus’ invited us to attend their church service on Sunday morning. We gladly accepted their invitation and experienced a worship service at Life Fellowship Church. It was a joy to spend time with the Mennonite congregation. These people are a warm, welcoming, and beautiful people. They are a people who firmly believe in modesty, nonresistance, and have a strong commitment to their community. You can find more information on the Mennonite church here.

An old barn on the back roads of Lancaster County

This welcoming congregation could also sing. Not just sing… but beautifully worship God with their voices. It was incredible. While I knew the words to many of the songs, I just wanted to close my eyes and listen to the astonishing harmonies in the center of that room. Many of these men and women grew up singing and learning harmonies, so that when they sang on that Sunday morning it was completely natural, humble, and beautiful. They were unpretentious and sang straight from their hearts. It was some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard.

After the worship service on most Sundays, the congregation shares a meal with one another. Dan and Sara invited us to join them for lunch. I was slightly hesitant since I wasn’t sure what offerings might be gluten-free, but I wanted to experience real, local, Mennonite cooking! I’m so glad we accepted their invitation! It was a treat to eat with them! Simple, but incredibly delicious foods were offered. We ate baked potatoes with homemade chili and cheese. Fresh salad. Locally grown tomatoes. Blocks of cheese. Freshly julienned carrots with homemade dip. Deviled eggs. A homemade beet salad... just to name a few. It was an amazing meal! I could eat everything (accept for some of the yummy looking desserts…but Michael could tell you all about them! He had several brownies, which he enjoyed tremendously!!) They even had homemade coffee ice-cream which was delicious! I ate well.

An Amish Farm

While we were eating we met and talked with many members of the congregation. The women were friendly and beautiful (without makeup – I felt so at home!), wearing simple, lovely skirts, and a head-covering or prayer veiling. I was honored to meet these women and learn more about them. The men were jovial, smiling, and obviously happy to be sharing in this meal with their friends!

In respect of Amish and Old Order Mennonite beliefs, I restrained from taking pictures of the people we met, or the food they made for us. This was hard for me because they were such lovely people and they prepared beautiful foods! As I age, I can only hope to look as young and vibrant as these women (of all ages) did!

I loved seeing the silos next to the barns in Lancaster!
We don't have silos in Eastern NC.

In the upcoming week, I will make several of the dishes we enjoyed while visiting Lancaster, so you can see and try these dishes for yourself! Many of the meals we ate, were wonderfully, naturally, gluten-free! Some things to look forward too are: Pickled beets with eggs (YES, eggs!), a church supper ham loaf, creamed new peas and potatoes, Amish pot roast, country potato soup, Sara’s baked oatmeal, and of course, a shoofly pie!

Just to give you a quick taste of Amish cooking, I made a German Apple Pancake for breakfast this morning. I converted the flours and added xanthan gum. The original recipe comes from “Cooking from Quilt Country,” (pg. 12) which contains recipes from Amish and Mennonite kitchens, not only in the Pennsylvania Dutch area, but also from Indiana and Ohio communities. I’m not sure which Amish or Mennonite origin this dish came from, but I saw it served in several restaurants during our travels. It is delicious served with powdered sugar and pure maple syrup. Make sure to follow directions carefully, or the pancake will not “puff” as it’s intended too.


  • 2 large cooking apples (I used Honeycrisp, freshly picked from PA!)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
  • Maple Syrup (optional)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Peel, core, and very thinly slice the apples; you should have approximately 1 ½ cups. Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a small frying pan, and sauté the apples until they are just tender, about 3 minutes. (Don’t forget about them and burn them like I did this morning!) Keep warm while preparing the batter.

Place a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet in the oven to heat for at least 5 minutes – the pan has to be VERY hot for this recipe to really work properly. When it is well heated, add the remaining 2 tbsp. butter to melt and put skillet back in oven; the butter should be very hot, but not brown when you add the apples and the batter.

While the skillet is heating, place the flours, milk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, xanthan gum, and baking powder in a blender and whiz until smooth. Remove skillet from the oven, quickly arrange the warm sautéed apple slices over the melted butter and pour the batter evenly over all. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375 degrees, and bake 10 minutes longer. The pancake will puff and climb up the sides of the pan. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar, then cut in wedges and serve with maple syrup and crisp bacon.

Please check back the rest of this week and this weekend for an apple and quince pie, a warm Tuscan salad, and next weeks menu!

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