The first shipload of Pennsylvania Germans arrived in Pennsylvania in 1683.
They found all that Penn had claimed was true, and in the years to follow, a
steady stream of immigrants poured in from the Palatinate. They cleared the
land and began to till the soil; built big barns and substantial homes.
Among these German-speaking people were Moravians from Bohemia and Moravia; Mennonites from Switzerland and Holland and the Amish, an offshoot of the Mennonites; German Brethren called "Dunkards"; Schwenkfelders from Silesia and French Huguenots from Alsace-Lorraine. They were the Pennsylvania Deutsch but for 200 years they have been called Pennsylvania Dutch.
Many tasty dishes were perfected by the Dutch housewives through a blending of the traditional cooking of their homelands and the particular ingredients available in their new country.
Among them is potpie, which is not a pie but squares of rich noodle dough cooked in broth of chicken or meat with potatoes and onions; and shoo-fly pie which is a crumb pie. Funeral pie is a combination of raisins and lemon. Cabbage is prepared as pepper relish, cole slaw, hot slaw and sauerkraut. Ponnhaws or scrapple, schnitxz and knepp (ham, dried apples and dumplings) vegetables sweet and sour, smoked sausage, dandelion salad, chicken corn soup, red beet eggs, chow chow and pretzels are all typically Pennsylvania Dutch fare.
Certain foods are traditional at various seasons of the year. On Shrove Tuesday raised doughnuts, called fastnachts: are eaten, and Christmas is the season for baking innumerable sandtarts, butter cookies, nut kisses and other fancy cookies. Fifty dozen, at least, for the enjoyment of the family and visitors over the holidays. Chicken corn soup is a great favorite for the annual church picnic or family reunion. Oyster bakes, sauerkraut and pork suppers, ham or turkey suppers with all the fixings are held during the fall and winter months by Fire Companies, Churches and other organizations.
The Pennsylvania Dutch market house presents an ever changing picture of plenty. At many of the stalls, business is conducted by the wives and daughters of the farmers, often in the dress of the "plain people". Produce is scrubbed and arranged to look its best and sprayed constantly. Often an extra handful, in accordance with the Biblical injunction to "Give good measure, packed down and running over" is added.
On the farmers' stands there are fat chickens and ducks garnished with green parsley, fresh eggs, home-baked cakes, pies and cookies, parsnips, turnips, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and other fruits and vegetable. Stands show garden flowers in season. In the Spring there are pussy willows and in the Fall bunches of bittersweet. Stalls specializing in herbs offer mint, dill, sage and watercress. Young plants already started are available to gardeners. Such typically Pennsylvania Dutch foods as red beets, pickled eggs, Lebanon bologna, sauerkraut, cottage cheese, cup cheese, scrapple, "puddin'" and apple butter are displayed in abundance. Housewives offer handmade pot holders, aprons, baby garments, braided rugs and "fancy work" of all kinds. Customers delight in such old-fashioned items as home-made bread, doughnuts, horehound, candy, cinnamon drops, buckwheat flour, honey in the comb, horseradish, dandelion greens and home-cured meats. Potato salad, jellies, baked beans, hominy and other prepared foods appeal to the busy homemakers.
Many of the stallholders, as they carry on trade, exchange news and renew friendships, speak Pennsylvania Dutch, as well as English.
The Barn Raising
In the Pennsylvania Dutch country, especially among the plain people, the misfortune of one is the concern of all. When a farmer's barn has burned, his neighbors and church brethren will help replace it. The big timbers have been cut and made ready by carpenters who will direct the 200 or 300 men in finishing the job. The women prepare enormous quantities of food, sandwiches for the mid-morning "piece" and at noon a chicken dinner, with all the fixin's.
Pies and Pastries
The Pennsylvania Dutch loved their pies and ate them morning, noon and night.
There were pies on the table at every meal. Everyone helped himself and "ate
himself full". The Dutch housewife produced vast numbers of pies, in great
variety. She made them in old-fashioned, deep earthenware pie dishes and baked
them in the big outdoor bake oven. What a mouth-watering assortment she turned
out; never one or two but six or eight at a time. Berries from the garden or
fruit from the orchard became miracles of fragrance and juicy goodness. When
fruit was lacking, she turned a surprising array of other ingredients into unique
and tasty pastries.