If you love authentic home cooked meals, come sample the hearty cuisine of Pennsylvania’s Americana Region, home of Pennsylvania Dutch food. Did you know the PA Dutch, and the Creoles of Louisiana are the only two cultures developed in the US; the result of other cultures blending together to form new dialects, foodways, folkart, music, and beliefs. Before going any further, you must know that the Pennsylvania Dutch are really not Dutch at all, and certainly not from The Netherlands. They’re German, descendants of the hardy Amish and Mennonites who came from southwest Germany, and Switzerland, to escape religious persecution and a government that did not recognize them. Back in Europe, Germany was known as Deutschland , and as one writer said, Pennsylvania Deutsch, sloppily pronounced, became Pennsylvania Dutch.
In earlier times, Thanksgiving dinner in a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch household would have been all about the harvest. Late in November, sometime after first frost, the vegetables would have been gathered to be canned, the wheat threshed, and the fruit picked. Thanksgiving was a time to celebrate all that had been given to sustain the family through the long winter, and since everything was freshly harvested, the food would have been at its prime.
The traditional Thanksgiving turkey may not have been a turkey at all. It may have been a fat goose, roasted to perfection. All sorts of vegetables would have been cooked into a hearty soup, known as Suppe, which Pennsylvania Dutch cooks elevated to a high art. Side dishes included creamed dried corn, and sweet, and sour dishes, like sauerkraut, pickled beets, and apple butter. Their meals always included some kind of starch, most often potatoes, or noodles made from freshly ground wheat.
Following dinner, you could always count on dessert; tables piled high with sweets, traditionally baked to perfection by cooks who measured the temperature of their oven by sticking their arm in it. Favorite sweets included raisin pie, mince meat pies, and apple brown dowdy, a traditional recipe, similar to a cobbler, where the apples and the topping are cooked to a rich tasty brown. Shoo fly pie, not pie at all, but more like a coffee cake originated later, when eggless baking became popular. As for whoopee pies, they only arrived in the area, from Massachusetts in 1928.
Today, Thanksgiving dinner in homes across the PA’s Americana Region reflect our PA Dutch culinary roots. Creamed dried corn, sweet and sour dishes, potato rolls, and potato filling – mashed potatoes, blended with sautéed bread, onions, celery, and parsley, then baked, and delicious desserts still grace our holiday tables.
About the Lebanon bologna, it is a sweeter, more tender, version of salami. Church spread, sometimes referred to as peanut butter schmear, is a combination of molasses, marshmallow cream and peanut butter! And leaving the best for last, schnitz un knepp are ham and apple dumplings. Eat yourself full in PA’s Americana region. Yum!