Are you a creative cook? It should be easy for most of us. We have year-round access to foods from all over the world, in and out of season. We have refrigerators, stoves and a variety of electric appliances. Best of all… we have Pinterest! And if we don’t cook, we can still order pizza, right?
How creative would you be without all those conveniences? Day after day, three meals a day? I’d probably do great for one week and then we’d starve. My creativity is not manifested in the kitchen, so I asked Rachel J. Good, author of best-selling Amish romances, to tell us how her Amish friends do it.
Hi Rachel! What inspired you to write Amish fiction?
I grew up near Lancaster, and later when I worked in the library, we had many Amish patrons. I especially loved the Amish children who came to my storytimes. My best friend gave part of her farmland as a right-of-way to an Amish school, so we enjoy watching the children walking or driving their small pony carts to school. I now have many Amish friends in Lancaster County, who have invited me into their homes and lives. I admire their steadfast belief that God is in control of all circumstances of their lives and their forgiveness of others who wrong them, so I try to incorporate those values into my books along with the love and closeness of Amish families and communities.
It sounds your relationships there are a blessing!
One of the fun things about doing research for Amish novels is visiting my Amish friends in their homes. I admire how hard they work during the day. They get up at daybreak to gather eggs, milk cows, feed chickens and other animals, and then cook breakfasts for their large families. Their houses are always spotless, so they have long lists of chores to accomplish. And during the spring, summer, and fall, they add gardening and canning to their list of chores. Actually, they can all year, because they also can meats.
I’ve sometimes gone along to pick up bulk meats, and young boys pull wagonloads of chicken and beef to the car. (Yes, our Amish friends like us to drive them to get the huge meat orders. There’s not a lot of room in their buggies once all the children have been squeezed in.) When they get home, they have plenty of work to do. If you’ve ever seen an Amish basement or pantry, it’s filled with shelf after shelf of gleaming glass jars in a dazzling array of colors. In addition to chicken and other meats, those jars hold fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce, applesauce, cheese sauce, soup, pickles, jam, chow chow, grape juice, and many other delicious foods.
To can chicken, my Amish friends fill quart jars with raw, boneless chicken thighs. They add a 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper to the jar. They cook the jars in a hot water bath for three hours. If you have a pressure canner, you can cook the chicken for 90 minutes. This chicken is great for quesadillas, casseroles, and soups.
Having canned food on hand helps an Amish wife in many ways. If she needs to serve a quick dinner (lunch to the Englisch, or non-Amish) because friends stop by or she wants a “fast-food” meal after a long day of cleaning and outdoor work, she can send one of the children down the cellar to grab a few jars of ham and bean soup and applesauce. What does applesauce have to do with soup? If you ever dine with the Amish, you will see that they put applesauce on just about everything: pizza, bread, and even in soup. In just a few minutes she has a hot meal ready to serve her friends (adding some crackers and a dessert, of course) or a hearty meal for her whole family.
If her husband’s favorite supper is yummasetti, and she just doesn’t have all the ingredients to prepare it exactly the way the recipe says, she can take some macaroni and add a jar of cooked ground beef and a jar of canned cheese sauce to it and have a quick favorite (close to the real thing) ready when he gets home from work.
*Check out the Yummasetti recipe below!*
Some of the canned foods become part of the Sunday meal the Amish serve after church. Because the Amish meet in homes, each family will host the church service, usually twice a year, depending on the size of the district. Part of the Amish church meal is pickles. Most Amish women will can enough pickles each year to feed their families and to serve when church is at their homes. Pickles are also a staple at most meals.
We often pop things into a microwave, but the Amish don’t have electricity. So how do they can foods, cook such good meals, or heat up leftovers? The more conservative Amish groups use woodstoves; other districts use propane or bottled gas to run appliances. As long as they aren’t hooked up to the grid, these appliances aren’t considered being part of the world. My Amish friends in Lancaster use gas and also run their refrigerators with propane. To warm leftovers, they usually put them in a saucepan or baking dish and heat them on the stove or in the oven covered with foil, so it doesn’t seem much different than our kitchens. But you won’t see any electrical appliances like blenders, mixers, choppers, etc., unless the home uses solar. Our friends have several manual choppers like the one pictured. All of our Amish friends also have grills and enjoy grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, fish, sausages, and other meats outside.
4 lb hamburger
12 oz macaroni
1 ½ qt potatoes
1 pt peas
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
3 c milk
In a skillet, fry the hamburger with the onion. Cook macaroni and potatoes in two separate pots. Drain both. Mix meat, macaroni, and potatoes with peas and put mixture in a large roasting pan. Mix soups with milk and pour over the meat mixture. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Uncover and sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese. Bake until cheese is melted.
Thanks, Rachel! It’s fascinating that even though the Amish are our neighbors, their lives are so different from our own – and in some ways, we are very much alike. I am looking forward to reading your recently released book, The Amish Teacher’s Gift! Can you tell me about it?
The Amish Teacher’s Gift was a joy to write. It’s about an Amish teacher in a special needs school. I had a wonderful time researching Amish methods of teaching their special children and was amazed how up-to-date their techniques were. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because although the Amish only go to eighth grade in school, all the Amish I know are lifelong learners. They came to the library often to get nonfiction books on many different topics.
Widower Josiah Yoder wants to be a good father. But it’s not easy with a deaf young son who doesn’t understand why his mamm isn’t coming home. At a loss, Josiah enrolls Nathan in a special-needs school and is relieved to see his son immediately comforted by his new teacher, a woman whose sweet charm and gentle smile just might be the balm they both need.
With seven siblings to care for, Ada Rupp wasn’t sure she wanted to take on teaching too. But the moment she holds Nathan in her arms, she realizes she’ll do all she can to help this lost little boy. Plus, it gives her a chance to spend more time with Josiah. Falling for a man in mourning may be against the rules, but his quiet strength is the support Ada never knew she needed. Yet with no time to court and a family secret holding her back, how can she allow herself to fall in love?
And available for preorder now:
Kyle Miller never planned on becoming a country doctor. But when he’s offered a medical practice in his sleepy hometown, Kyle knows he must return… and face the painful past he left behind. Except the Amish community isn’t quite ready for Kyle. Especially the pretty midwife who refuses to compromise her traditions with his modern medicine…
The more Leah Stoltzfus works with the handsome Englisch doctor, the more she finds herself caught between the expectations of her family and her own hopes for the future. It will take one surprising revelation and one helpless baby in need of love to show Leah and Kyle that their bond may be greater than their differences… if Leah can find the courage to follow her heart.
About the Love & Promises series:
Following Rumschpringe the Amish face many life decisions–embracing their faith, choosing their careers, entering lifelong relationships. A group of friends shares this heartwarming time as they grow, live, and learn to love.
The Love & Promises titles:
The Amish Teacher’s Gift (April 24, 2018)
The Amish Midwife’s Secret (November 27, 2018)
The Amish Widow’s Rescue (May 26, 2019)
Rachel J. Good:
Rachel J. Good grew up near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the setting for many of her Amish novels. Striving to be as authentic as possible, she spends time with her Amish friends, doing chores on their farm and attending family events.
Rachel loves to travel and visit many different Amish communities. In searching for the best Amish soft pretzels, she’s visited many Amish markets, auctions, and mud sales. Because of her love of Amish food, she tries to include recipes in her books as often as possible. When she’s not traveling, she spends time with family and writing.
In addition to her Amish novels, she’s written more than 40 books, including children’s educational books, adult nonfiction, and fiction for children and teens under several pen names. To find out more about Rachel and her books, you can sign up for her newsletter: http://bit.ly/1qwci4Q
Where to find Rachel online:
Thank you, Rachel J. Good, for sharing those insights into the Amish community!
As a professional quilter, I was tickled to see that Rachel has an Amish Quilts coloring book! How fun! Amish quilts are beautiful. A funny story about that…
At a local quilt guild meeting, nearly 30 years ago, we had a guest speaker who told us about Amish quilts. A newspaper reporter was there, and he wrote up a nice article with quotes from the speaker. A few weeks later, at the Amish market, one of the Amish ladies stopped me. She said, “I have a bone to pick with you!” That naturally surprised me very much, since we had just a pleasant, passing acquaintance, talking mostly about sewing and quilting. I asked her why. “Because you said that we Amish people always make one deliberate mistake in our quilts, because only God is perfect. And that’s not true, because only God is perfect, and we make plenty of mistakes without doing it on purpose!” I didn’t try to explain that I wasn’t the one who had made that statement, but I apologized and said I would set the record straight at our next meeting. She smiled kindly and never mentioned it again. It’s one of my favorite memories of the Amish community we lived near in Missouri. They were such nice ladies.
Do you like reading Amish fiction? What aspects of the Amish community and life do you find most interesting?