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 bandContinue reading “Calithumpian bands serenaded newlyweds”

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,Continue reading “Along the garden fence”

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,Continue reading “Wooden Water Pumps”

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 theContinue reading “Thank you and best wishes to Sarah Heffner”

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 toContinue reading “Hearth cooking, then and now”

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.Continue reading “History of the Christmas Putz”

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 for ordering information, starting November 14 through November 29. A bite of history Among theContinue reading “It isn’t Christmas without Christmas Cookies”


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,” PennsylvaniaContinue reading “Sauerkraut”

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 ofContinue reading “The Pennsylvania German Herb Garden: Food and Medicine”

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 stillContinue reading “Potatoes: The Dutchman’s Caviar”

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 landContinue reading “Apples, Apple Butter and Schnitz”

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 SabbathContinue reading “Remembering “Sunday Dinner””

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 forgottenContinue reading “Modern Mending, Frugal Fashion”


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.Continue reading “Thrifty”

“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,” mushContinue reading ““Pennsylvanians call thee 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’sContinue reading “A Bowl of Cherries”

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 freedomContinue reading “Pie for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!”

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.Continue reading “Scrapple: “Flower of Flavors””

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 frostsContinue reading “Spring in the Antes Garden”

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 saveContinue reading “Homemade Soap”

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 seemContinue reading “The Last Jar of Chow-Chow”

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 ratherContinue reading “Hinkel und Oyer (Chicken and Egg)”

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 gardenContinue reading “Gardens and Gardening Among the Pennsylvania Germans (Part 2)”

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 someContinue reading “Gardens and Gardening among the Pennsylvania Germans (Part 1)”

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 whoContinue reading “Everyone’s favorite snack food – pretzels!”