When people think of Pennsylvania (PA), they often think of cheesesteaks and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, steel and sports in Pittsburgh, and of course between the two cities…farms. To me however, this is what I called home before I moved to England.
Pennsylvania has a rich agricultural history mainly due to early settlers coming from Germany and Sweden. With this combined culture came a unique take on cuisine from two nations that became uniquely American and Pennsylvanian.
I grew up with a lot of these foods and it’s fair to say I took them for granted. Luckily many PA-Dutch foods are incredibly simple to recreate, which means I can enjoy the flavours of my childhood without having to book a plane ticket to cross the Atlantic.
Working at a food and drink PR agency, alongside a bunch of foodies, I love being able to share and discover new food trends. So, this is me, sharing my top 5 Pennsylvania Dutch foods to try…
- Apple Butter
Pennsylvania is full of orchards and apple farms, which means that we need to do something with all those apples. Apple butter is a delicious spread made by pureeing and concentrating the apples for a long period of time with seasonal autumnal spices like cinnamon cloves, as well as sugar. The resulting spread is rich and buttery making it the perfect topping for toast or scones.
- Shoofly Pie
What came first, the song or the dessert? Shoofly pie is an amazing molasses (or black treacle as it is known this side of the Atlantic) based pie with a biscuit base. This pie is a perfect way to follow a hearty meal and pairs brilliantly with a strong cup of coffee!
- Pork and Sauerkraut
Here you really see the German influence on the Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. Fun fact: Pennsylvania Dutch is a mistranslation of the German translation: Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch or Pennsylvania German. Pork and sauerkraut is a personal favorite as it brings back many memories of family getting together and eating on New Year’s Eve, when dining together it is said to bring good luck!
- Birch beer
Birch beer is similar to root beer, I remember drinking this at every family get together and honestly didn’t realize this is not internationally known until I left Pennsylvania. This soft drink is characterized by its crisp and light taste, with an aftertaste similar to spearmint. Perfect on a hot Summer’s day.
Ah, scrapple. Like the almighty hot dog, it is best not to really question what is in this. The important thing is it tastes great, and can be served a number of ways, from frying to baking, accompanied by anything from mustard to grape jelly (don’t knock it ‘til you try it!). Scrapple can even make a great sandwich filling. For me I remember this being served for breakfasts at sleepovers and everybody getting together in the kitchen to help cook a hearty morning meal.
If you’ve tried any of these Pennsylvania Dutch gems, let me know what you thought over on socials @jellybeanagency. If not, make sure you give them a whirl next time you head across the pond.