Cocalico Corner: ‘Dutch Treats:’ Cooking up history

By on September 7, 2016
Donna Reed, author of the weekly column, Cocalico Corner

“If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much!”

Who among us residing or with roots deep in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside hasn’t heard — or used — that expression?

For those of us native to the region, we might be prone to say that about the food on which we were raised: pork and sauerkraut, shoofly pie, AP cakes, potato filling, red beet eggs, pepper cabbage, schnitz un knepp.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Are you recalling some wonderful family meals, maybe Sunday suppers at Grandma’s house?

Dutch Treats by William Woys Weaver will be available in September, according to publisher St. Lynn’s Press.

Dutch Treats by William Woys Weaver will be available in September, according to publisher St. Lynn’s Press.

A new book entitled “Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens,” published this month, offers scores of traditional recipes and provides the unique history behind many of them. The author, William Woys Weaver, holds a doctorate in food studies from the University College in Dublin, Ireland, the first degree of its kind awarded there.

He is the founding president of the Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley and director of the Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism, a non-profit academic research institute where he teachers courses on regional American cuisine.

He also maintains the Roughwood Seed Collection of more than 4,000 heirloom food plants. Weaver resides in the 1805 Lamb Tavern, a National Register property in Devon,

The result of all that experience is the publication of 16 books and hundreds of articles on foods. Prior to “Dutch Treats,” his most recent book was “As American As Shoofly Pie.”

Indeed, Weaver seems to have a special affection for and knowledge of Pennsylvania Dutch — Deutsch — or German cuisine.

“Dutch Treats” contains more than 100 recipes from the 25 counties that form the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, replete with the history of each dish, its Pennsylvania German and English names, and the ingredients and how to prepare it. Also included are intriguing profiles of some of the cooks.

Lancaster and Berks are well represented. And, interestingly, recipes from our Cocalico corner are offered up as well.

The recipe for these luscious-looking “snowballs” or “schneeballe” was provided by Lenore K. Fritterling of Denver.

The recipe for these luscious-looking “snowballs” or “schneeballe” was provided by Lenore K. Fritterling of Denver.

Lenore K. Fitterling of Denver provided a recipe for the ever popular Snowballs or Schneeballe cookie covered with white powdered sugar that gives them their name. Her recipe calls for pecans rather than the traditional hickory nuts.

Weaver noted that Fitterling’s recipe “comes the closest to the snowball recipes preserved in old German cookbooks, a confection that easily dates back to the late Middle Ages, leaving aside the pecans of course.”

Cocalico’s Clara Lutz Bowman (1864-1957) gets a mention. She was a long-time cook at the well-known Black Horse Hotel in Reinholds and is credited with “reinventing” Semmeda Budding — or Chocolate Gribble Pudding — and putting it on her menu. Bowman’s cooking attracted quite the following, including that of three authors who included her recipes in their books.

Also included is the recipe of the late Hattie Brunner of Reinholds for Honey Cakes or Leppkuche. The pastry, strongly flavored with dark, preferably buckwheat honey, is usually baked in two-inch diameters with mushroom-shaped tops.

“Hattie was a remarkable cook and a legendary antique dealer with an eye for the unusual,” Weaver writes.

Weaver provides a list of sourcing for ingredients and bakeware which includes Foltz Pottery in Reinholds and Jeff White at Booth 161 in the Black Angus Antiques Mall in Adamstown.

Among the cited sources in the book’s bibliography are aged publications of the Ladies’ Aid Society of St. Paul’s Lutheran and Reformed Church in Adamstown and the Missionary Society of St. Paul’s Reformed Church, Bowmansville and Denver.

Weaver is a frequent lecturer on foodways in the area. He presented a special program a few years back at the Historical Society of Berks County that was well attended.

Tiffany Fisk, a former society board member and former columnist for the Historical Review of Berks County, now on staff at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, attests to Weaver’s historical knowledge of local cuisines.

“I first met Dr. Weaver many years ago, when he published his book, Sauer’s Herbal Cures (a book I frequently reference),” she said.

“He was giving a lecture about his research at the annual meeting of a regional group, Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley. Weaver had been president of the organization, and was still very committed to it.

“Most recently, I heard his lecture on century heirloom squash and the work of French botanist Antoine Duchense, who visited Pennylvania in the 18th Century. My notes from that lecture have helped me in my research as an apprentice in the Historic Foodways Department at Colonial Williamsburg.”

Fisk, formerly of Berks, notes Weaver’s importance to regional cuisine here in Lancaster and surrounding counties.

“Dr. Weaver’s work on Pennsylvania Dutch foodways has been essential to the preservation of that culture in Eastern Pennsylvania,” she said. “He has encouraged and influenced food historians throughout the region, and beyond.”

Weaver’s 208-page book is set to hit book stores Thursday, Sept. 15. It is published by St. Lynn’s Press (www.stlynnspress.com) with a price tag of $21.95.

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