Thursday, December 31, 2009

PA Dutch Cold Weather Foods & New Year Traditions

My grandparents are PA Dutch. No they are not Amish (only a small portion of the PA Dutch are Amish or Mennonite) nor are they actually Dutch. Their ancestors came over from Germany and settled in PA before the 1800s. Many believe the term "Dutch" came about because the German word for German was "deutsch".

My grandmother is an amazing cook. Ever heard of shoefly pie, pickled red beet eggs (I loved the purplish color of these hard boiled eggs), funnel cake, fastnachts, or chow chow? These are some of the more well known Dutch specialties.

On New Year's, my grandparents would invite the family over for the traditional Dutch meal of pork and sauerkraut or pig's stomach. Yep, you read that right. Your nose probably wrinkled as you read that but remember that people eat foie gras and caviar and they are seen as delicacies. The Scottish eat haggis, which I understand is an acquired taste.  The pig stomach, as it is prepared by the Dutch is actually just stuffed with sausage, parsley, potatoes, onion, and seasonings.  It is really quite delicious.  Personally, I just like to eat the stuffing that my grandmother makes and prefer to steer clear of the pig's stomach. In some ways it reminds me of the skin of a chicken, yet I can't get over the unappealing thought of what it is that I am eating.

The PA Dutch see eating pork as a way to ensure good luck for the new year. Some say their beliefs are tied to the fact that pigs root forward.  By eating pork, you are going to move forward in the new year. They avoided chicken or other fowl on New Year's Day.  Fowl, such as chicken, scratch backwards. You don't want to move backward in the new year repeating past mistakes.

What's my family having for our New Year's Day meal? This year we're having ham using my mother's traditional recipe. 

My Mother's Baked Ham Recipe
  • ham
  • brown sugar
  • ginger ale
  • pineapple slices

Place the ham in a roasting pan. Poke several holes in the ham. Pour enough ginger ale over it to fill the bottom of the pan.  Layer the brown sugar over the top of the ham and place the pineapples on top. Pour a small amount of ginger ale over the top of the ham.  Cover it and bake according to the instructions on the ham. When checking on the ham, pour the "juice" over it. The brown sugar will fall into the "juice" just stir it occasionally.

I love leftover ham sandwiches with honey mustard to complement the sweetness of the ham.  The perfect accompaniment to ham is potato filling.  My grandmother has always made potato filling at the holidays rather than mashed potatoes.  Ever since my husband and I have started hosting holiday dinners, we now do the same.  We have never had someone not like this dish.

PA Dutch Potato Filling (recipe from Teri'
  • 5 pounds Idaho potatoes
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley (or dried parsley flakes)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter or margarine
  • 3 cups cubed bread
  • 1-2 cups milk, or enough to moisten bread cubes
  • Salt, pepper and celery salt
Cook potatoes with salt until tender. Sauté celery and onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in 2 tablespoons oil until tender and slightly browned. Push to one side of the pan; add 1/2 stick of the butter and soak parsley in butter, then mix with celery and onions. 

Drain potatoes; put in large enough container to hold all ingredients. Add the remaining 1-1/2 sticks butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1-1/4 teaspoons celery salt. Mix with electric beater. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Add celery and onion mixture and mix. 

In the same pan used for the celery and onion mixture, soak bread cubes in enough milk to moisten thoroughly and heat. Add to potatoes and mix. If mixture is too thick, add milk. Add dry bread cubes if too thin. Also use more or less of seasoning to taste. 

Put in greased baking dish (or dishes), dot top with butter, and bake at 400° for 1 hour until golden brown.

Another one of my favorite cold weather PA Dutch recipes is chicken corn noodle soup.  It is delicious and even better than plain old chicken noodle.  No, we are not serving this on New Year's but I did pull some out of the freezer today to thaw in the fridge. I plan to heat it up for lunch tomorrow. 

PA Dutch Chicken Corn Noodle Soup (adapted from recipe on Recipezaar)

  • 1 whole chicken (remove giblets)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 3-4 large carrots sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (I use this instead of using more onion since my husband doesn't like onions)
  • 3 celery stalks chopped
  •  fresh parsley chopped
  • 12 ounces frozen sweet corn (the sweeter the better)
  • 2/3 package broad egg noodles
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
*My recipe calls for more seasoning that the original recipe since PA Dutch recipes often are more conservative with the amounts of seasonings they call for. You may want to adapt the measurements based on the tastes of your family.


  1. Rinse chicken and place in large pot and cover almost completely with water.
  2. Add some salt and poultry seasoning.
  3. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is cooked.
  4. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. 
  5. Strain broth into a bowl and then return to pot.
  6. Add celery, carrots, onion and onion powder to the broth and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through.
  7. After chicken has cooled, remove the meat from the chicken. Place meat back into pot.
  8. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. Add egg noodles, corn, parsley, pepper, and salt if desired.
  10. Bring back to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  11. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
  12. Add additional seasoning and water (to reach desired consistency) if needed.  

I hope you enjoy these recipes.  Have a safe and happy New Year!


Ruby said...

Oh I know what you mean I think i've had every part of the pig except the stomach and the face ok and the feet or tail lol but same thing goes when I had my husband try cow tongue it was good up until I had to tell him what it was. Anyways I hope you have a great new years!

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Anonymous said...


Just saying hello while I read through the posts

hopefully this is just what im looking for looks like i have a lot to read.

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