It’s hard to point out exactly why, but Amish food strikes a cord in a way that other foods don’t. Maybe it’s the hearty casseroles or the rich desserts, but there’s always one common thread between all of the recipes. There’s a sense of no-nonsense frugality that reminds us of maybe our long-gone grandmothers or relatives. Recipes and techniques from a bygone generation that we thought were lost alongside the recipes of our relatives’ which they never wrote on cards. Here are some of the frugal, unique techniques that the Amish use to continue the heritage of old-school cooking.
Hard Boiled Eggs
Sure, people add a hard-boiled egg into a salad, but the Amish go the extra step by adding these eggs into soups, stews, and pies. Now you may be thinking — eggs in pie and soup? But this addition is a Lancaster cooking trick. Adding hard-boiled eggs to a savory recipe did several things. One, it increases the protein you’d be eating, which was needed if you were doing hard, physically demanding work. You could get a bit of extra nutrition and save whatever meat you had for another meal. Secondly, hard-boiled eggs, when cooked and heated with food, will thicken the sauce and add a bit of richness without having to use precious, more expensive ingredients like butter or cream.
Fresh butter is what everyone thinks is old-fashioned and classic, but the Amish turn to shortening in many of their baking recipes. The reason? Not only is shortening cheap — as many are feeding a family — but it’s unparalleled in texture. The flakiness in Amish pies comes from (most certainly) shortening or a mix of shortening cut with the tiniest bit of butter. While many of our recipes swap out shortening and swap in butter, try the traditional way, and you’ll see that the baked goods taste way richer and fresher for longer.
Once an expensive and coveted spice battled over by European colonizers, cinnamon became a more accessible mainstay but it took some time. It was only after the cinnamon monopoly collapsed in 1883 that the spice became affordable on a global scale. With cinnamon being cheaper, it proliferated throughout recipes, especially Amish breads and desserts. Cinnamon (plus a tiny bit of sugar), became an easy and affordable way to flavor in any season. Using cinnamon reduced the need to add more expensive ingredients like nuts and seasonal fruits or vegetables.
While casseroles aren’t exclusive to the Amish, they have a fair share of recipes in a baking dish. In a region where stretching your ingredients is a culinary must, casseroles are the antidote to not having enough of one thing. It takes small bits of meat, vegetables, dairy products, and carbs, and hides whatever you’re lacking, making the sparing portions feel purposeful.SKM: below-content placeholder