Blog

Calithumpian bands serenaded newlyweds

By Bob Wood. In the old days, a young couple was hardly thought to be properly married unless they were serenaded on their wedding night or soon thereafter by a Dutch Band. Also called bull bands or “calithumpian” bands, these racket makers were usually men and boys from the neighborhood. The “instruments” of the band…

Along the garden fence

By Bob Wood. Today’s topic is the garden fence and the narrow garden beds that lay close along the fences of the early kitchen gardens. The “PA Dutch” dialect was wholly unwritten, and what bits of information we have such as day books and journal accounts were written in German by men; while the garden,…

Wooden Water Pumps

By Scott Houting. Title image: Water pump at Peter Wentz Farmstead, Worcester, PA. Visitors to the Peter Wentz Farmstead will occasionally ask the simple question, “How did the families living in the house get their water for everyday chores and drinking?” The simple answer is, of course, from a well dug outside the house. However,…

Thank you and best wishes to Sarah Heffner

By Candace Perry. We are sad to report that today marks Sarah Heffner’s last day with the Mennonite Heritage Center. After 19 years at the Center, she is moving to a position with Living Hope Farm, Harleysville. Sarah will be greatly missed in our little Pennsylvania German museum community here in Montgomery County—she was the…

Fastnachts

By Sarah Heffner. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent – the season of sacrifice and reflection that culminates with Easter Sunday. Shrove Tuesday, or “fat Tuesday”, has its roots in ancient European Christian history and is a day when cooks use up their cooking fat and rich foods before…

Hearth cooking, then and now

By Bob Wood. For 200 years following settlement, food production was the basic industry of the Goschenhoppen Region. Feeding first their family and hired help, self-sustaining farmers produced enough surplus food to provide for the cities and towns of Southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond. Until about the era of the Civil War (1861-1865) it’s safe to…

History of the Christmas Putz

By Candace Perry. Here at the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center we casually talk about the Christmas putz, mentioning it to visitors (“The putz is on the first floor”) and perhaps oblivious to whether they know what it is. It’s a term we take for granted here, but it definitely requires explanation to many outsiders.…

It isn’t Christmas without Christmas Cookies

By Sue Davis. This year the very popular Christmas Market Bake Sale held by the Goschenhoppen Historians at Red Men’s Hall, Green Lane, PA is by pre-order. The drive thru pick-up will be on December 5 only. Please see goschenhoppen.org for ordering information, starting November 14 through November 29. A bite of history Among the…

Sauerkraut

By Alan Keyser. Sauerkraut was one of the basic fermented foods prepared from a preserved vegetable. James Mease found, “In Pennsylvania it is a very fashionable dish among the Germans, and when prepared with neatness, is highly palatable, especially when eaten with salt pork.” (Don Yoder, “The Domestic Encyclopaedia of James Mease, M.D. 1804,” Pennsylvania…

The Pennsylvania German Herb Garden: Food and Medicine

By Diane Hollister. Title image: Drying lavender from the author’s garden. It’s early Autumn, and it’s time to collect and store the goodies from our garden. I’ve picked my lavender and hung it to dry. I’ve brought in basil, oregano, and other herbs to dry and store as well. I’m craving one more batch of…

Potatoes: The Dutchman’s Caviar

By Bob Wood. Title photo: Long rows of potatoes on the Wallace Moyer farm, Blooming Glen, Bucks County, 1931. Mennonite Heritage Center Collection. It seems that in the old days the Dutchmen lived on pork, cornmeal, and potatoes, with sometimes all three in the same recipe. In the folk-culture, the omnipresent potato was, and still…

Apples, Apple Butter and Schnitz

By Sarah Heffner. Title image: Cooking apple butter, circa 1905. Photo by H. Winslow Fegley; Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center Collection. Living off the land Apples were one of the earliest horticultural crops grown in Pennsylvania by European settlers. An orchard of one to six acres was planted on each homestead as soon as land…

Remembering “Sunday Dinner”

By John Ruth. Title image: Dinner at the home of Marcus & Helen Clemens, circa 1952. Courtesy of John Ruth. The tradition of Sunday dinner with guests, thriving in our Mennonite (and larger) community as late as the early 1970’s, was an expression of a communal spirit. It was an equally culinary and sacramental Sabbath…

Modern Mending, Frugal Fashion

By Elizabeth Norris. Mending. A chore practically none of us do, or want to do, anymore. The thought of mending a piece of clothing conjures images of “little old ladies” sitting for hours, fixing holes in socks, worn knees and seats of pants. Maybe they’re sitting by firelight, kerosene lamp, or even candlelight, humming forgotten…

Thrifty

By Candace Perry. When you consider the Pennsylvania Dutch as a people, some qualities readily come to mind: industriousness, practicality, and self-sufficiency. The one trait, however, that most often is attributed to them is thriftiness. From architecture to furnishings, to clothing, and of course, food, the Pennsylvania Dutch found frugal solutions to their daily challenges.…

“Pennsylvanians call thee mush”

By Bob Wood. These words of the title appear in New Englander Joel Barlow’s 1793 satiric poem “The Hasty Pudding.” Corn meal mush was called “hasty pudding” in New England, “suppawn” in New York, and was a most common dish in all thirteen original colonies and later into the western frontier. Throughout Pennsylvania “Dutchdom,” mush…

A Bowl of Cherries

By Diane Hollister. Photos from Goschenhoppen Historians Pennsylvania Dutch Foodways Project, 2008 (unless otherwise noted). I don’t know about you, but in the middle of cold weather, I’m often thinking of warm summer days, my flowerbeds, my gardens, and being outdoors. I drool over garden catalogs and treasure my canned and frozen goodies. But there’s…

Pie for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

By Diane Hollister. Photos from Goschenhoppen Historians Pennsylvania Dutch Foodways Project, 2008. I’m married to Pie Boy. He loves his pie. He jokes that he’d eat it breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And that’s just what many of our Pennsylvania German ancestors did. In 1683, German immigrants began to arrive in the Penn’s colony seeking freedom…

Scrapple: “Flower of Flavors”

By Bob Wood. Title image: This butchering day in Milford Township, Bucks County looks cold, wet, muddy and miserable. Mennonite Heritage Center Collection. In the old Pennsylvania Dutch days, cold winter weather was the time for butchering. At the end of butchering day or sometimes the next day, the pork leavings were processed into scrapple.…

Homemade Ice Cream

Introduction by Candace Perry. Title image: 18th-century ice cream demonstration at the Goschenhoppen Folk Festival. The story of ice cream has been told and retold countless times, and is one of a storied lineage of exotic locales and crowned heads of Europe and our own Founding Fathers. Not long after its arrival on American shores,…

Spring in the Antes Garden

By Bill Daley. Title image: The Kitchen Garden at the Goschenhoppen Historians’ Antes House, Perkiomenville, PA These observations are from 2016:Once again this year has exhibited some strange weather. Generally speaking this past winter was a mild one but after a very early start Spring took a U-turn and produced a number of killing frosts…

Pie, Glorious Pie

By Alice Wolfgang. Pie was, and still is, an important part of PA Dutch life and there is much to say about pies. Today we’ll take a look at some of the vast variety of pies, some familiar and some more unusual, that were developed in this region. Pies originated in Europe and the English…

Homemade Soap

Introduction by Sarah Heffner. Pennsylvania Germans made no frills “homemade soap” from old fat, water and lye. In the 1960s, my mother, Laura Wolfgang, would make batches of homemade soap for home use and for relief packages for Mennonite Central Committee. (Commercially produced soap is now added to relief aid.) Ladies at church would save…

Heirloom Vegetables

By Joanne Ranck-Dirks. Title photo: Deer Tongue Lettuce at Landis Valley. All photos courtesy of Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster, PA. How is your garden planning coming along this spring? Did you remember to plant Grandma Hershey’s Sugar Peas and is there space for Deacon Dan Beets? Is this the year to plant Fisher Beans or…

The Last Jar of Chow-Chow

By Diane Hollister. Remember the shelves of jars going down into your grandma’s basement? The old glass jars with zinc lids that were filled with fruits and vegetables and maybe even some canned meats? The ones that sometimes eluded you and turned up in dusty musty corners years later, forgotten? Those jars may not seem…

Hinkel und Oyer (Chicken and Egg)

By Bob Wood. Title image: Boys with prize rooster. Mennonite Heritage Center Collection. In the old days the morning light of farms, villages, and towns was filled with the sound of roosters crowing, for almost every place had some chickens. Chickens of yesteryear were perhaps not the calm fat hens of today, but tended rather…

Gardens and Gardening Among the Pennsylvania Germans (Part 2)

By Alan G. Keyser. Title image: Fragrant blumme, an heirloom shrub rose. Photo by Sarah Heffner. The Province of the Housewife The care of the garden and all decisions concerning it belonged to the woman of the house. The men did very little work in the garden. On some farms the men dug the garden…

Gardens and Gardening among the Pennsylvania Germans (Part 1)

By Alan G. Keyser. Title image: The Pennsylvania German garden at the Goschenhoppen Historians’ 1736 Henry Antes House, Perkiomenville, PA. A Pennsylvania German garden is not the elaborate pleasure garden so often described in the histories of gardening, but a farm kitchen garden containing vegetables, culinary herbs, flowers, and medicinal plants. It was in some…

Everyone’s favorite snack food – pretzels!

By Candace Perry. In 1951, the National Pretzel Bakers’ Institute presented the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, Lancaster County with a plaque honoring it as “the first pretzel bakery in the New World.” That’s quite a strong statement. There’s a story here, and it might be one of survival and longevity rather than who…

Spring Tonic

By Sarah Heffner. Dandelion greens are a traditional fresh “spring tonic” that were welcome after a winter diet of root vegetables from the cold cellar and canned goods from the shelves in the basement. The greens are high in nutrients, even more than kale and broccoli. They are somewhat of an acquired taste but many…

Potato Filling

By Sarah Heffner. Potatoes have been a staple in Pa Dutch cooking since the early 19th century. Potatoes originated in Peru, went to Europe via Spanish conquistadors, and were slowly adopted by Europeans. Potatoes then traveled to America with Irish immigrants and gradually made their way into Pennsylvania agriculture in the late 18th century. An…

Happy Almost Easter!

By Diane Hollister. So, like many of us, you are trapped in your house. You might find yourself not only a bit stir crazy but also missing some ingredients when you plan things. The other day, I was thinking about that. Our ancestors did without things…for example, you can find cake recipes that don’t use…


Follow

Get new content delivered to your inbox.