Just how Pa. Dutch are you?

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION - Richard L.T. Orth A Look Back In His­tory

This folk prac­tice still cre­ates a yearn­ing, es­pe­cially among our older folk peo­ple and those still ap­pre­cia­tive of our heritage and a good, hot Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch meal. Many Dutch fam­i­lies over the gen­er­a­tions and years never for­get this dish on New Year’s Day and ea­gerly par­take in the con­sump­tion of pork and sauer­kraut. In Berks and Le­high coun­ties, na­tives raised and ate a huge quan­tity of pota­toes and cab­bage that was also a com­mon and cheap dish ea­gerly eaten by the farm­ing class of peo­ple. But any­one na­tive to this cul­ture also en­joys eat­ing pick­led cab­bage and coleslaw, be­sides our na­tional folk dish of pork and sauer­kraut. As with all eth­nic food dishes, the dif­fer­ence though be­tween a good pork and sauer­kraut vs. medi­ocre types, is if the dish was pre­pared by a PA Dutch house­wife who fol­lowed a gourmet recipe.

An­other pop­u­lar dish among the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, not to be for­got­ten is our chicken pot pie but not on New Year’s Day as a good luck meal. As an ac­tive collector of PA Deitsch an­tiques in our vast Dutch coun­try, I fre­quently see or read of a no­tice host­ing a typ­i­cal PA Dutch pork and sauer­kraut din­ner or chicken pot pie or ham and string beans at a Church so­cial hall, and am re­minded about how many lo­cal farm auc­tions in which I’ve at­tended where I seen many sauer­kraut tools among the PA Deitsh. Not only large wooden cab­bage slic­ing boards, but many huge sauer­kraut crocks used to fer­ment this pop­u­lar farm­ing dish; and their coun­ter­parts, long han­dle huge wooden stumpers in which farmwives and chil­dren pressed down var­i­ous lay­ers of shred­ded cab­bage to fer­ment prop­erly to be eaten with pota­toes and pork in the cold win­ter months.

The fam­ily sup­ply of pork was raised in their pig sta­ble where the piglets were of­ten fed with ta­ble scraps from the house­hold wastes. Hogs were an in­te­gral part of the PA Dutch diet, in­clud­ing fresh or smoked sausage, pop­u­larly used in sausage stews, as well ap­pre­ci­ated in cold, win­ter months. But a “good,” fru­gal Dutch fam­ily never wasted any­thing in­clud­ing pig parts and their prized crocks of sauer­kraut. So on New Year’s Eve, it is not sur­pris­ing that a fru­gal or wise Dutch fam­ily de­cided to eat the last re­main­ing kraut that had been fer­ment­ing from the pre­vi­ous sea­son. It is a Dutch proverb that a suc­cess­ful Dutch­man would eat pork and sauer­kraut to bring him good luck in the en­su­ing New Year, but many of our folk peo­ple still sub­scribe to the adage “Waste Not, Want Not!”

Lo­cals also have the lux­ury of din­ing at the fire­house so­cial quar­ters on the week­ends or take quarts of their pop­u­lar pot pie home to be eaten later. Many of these tal­ented PA Dutch farm­women who run these Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany kitchens, auc­tion kitchens, and fundrais­ing events are ad­mired for their con­ge­nial­ity, gen­eros­ity and cook­ing abil­i­ties. As well as for their hus­bands who ac­tu­ally fight neigh­bor­hood fires in the com­mu­nity, thereby be­com­ing a so­cial force for good in a vast ru­ral ter­ri­tory in some parts of Berks. Although these pot pie sales and farmer / fire­fight­ers have de­clined in num­bers over the years, one needs only to look in their lo­cal mer­chan­diser or news­pa­per to still find qual­ity pot pie.

With a num­ber of mostly se­nior ci­ti­zen cooks who have backed these or­ga­ni­za­tions and lo­cal fire com­pany kitchens, re­tir­ing from civic or­ga­ni­za­tions, we can only hope they have passed their recipes down to their daugh­ters, grand­daugh­ters, and other kin. Tra­di­tional PA Dutch menus, which were once pop­u­lar in the Dutch Coun­try, have un­for­tu­nately gone by the way­side in num­bers cou­pled with how our early culi­nary eth­nic­ity has been re­placed by fast food chains, ca­ter­ing to and more con­ve­nient to younger gen­er­a­tions in rush rush times, but it doesn’t mean we still can’t in­dulge at a lo­cal Dryville, Lyons, Pikeville, Vir­ginville Ho­tel, Kutz­town and Trexler­town fire com­pany or Deitsch Eck that still fea­ture these PA Dutch food dishes!

Au­thor’s daugh­ter, Kylie 7, par­tak­ing in the con­sump­tion of a good luck pork and sauer­kraut meal.

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