What Do Mennonites Eat?
Among the Mennonites, food in itself is a culture. Mennonites are hard workers and many of them raise and process their own food to keep them through the winter. It is changing now with people not living on farms and growing their own food and more and more food is bought in the store or at roadside stands.
Growing up, buying food at the store was not possible except the basics like crackers,sugar, and spices. Mom bought 50lb. bags of wheat and then had a flour grinder to grind fresh flour whenever she needed some flour. On the dial on the left you could choose how coarse or fine your flour will be.
We did our own butchering for the most part that would usually keep us supplied with meat through the winter along with what dad was able to get in hunting season. Mom would buy pig intestines(cleaned) to use for stuffing sausage.
Mom would also make homemade bologna.
I think this is the recipe mom used to use. I think she now uses one where she bakes it.
We used to have a smoke house( a very small one, basically the size of a one-hole outhouse) and then after they were cured by smoking they would be hung in the cellar till needed. We had an old manual crank meat slicer that I think is over a hundred years old that we used to slice our sandwich meats. This is basically what our slicer looked like except it had a small piece of plywood covered with plastic on the bottom left to catch the meat with.
Mom would also make dried beef which had to be soaked in brine to cure it. I remember it often being too salty for me and I strongly disliked it, dad likes his salt. I don't have a recipe but if you're wondering what the process is, here's a link to check out:
The bulk of the meat was usually ground up and some made into hamburgers but I don't remember that we ever really had steaks of any kind. I do remember though that some meat would be cubed which would then be canned for making stews and soups in winter.
Often our everyday meals would include "goulash" which is just a whole bunch of leftovers dumped together. Most times it didn't even look appetizing but we had to eat it. I remember often peeling a "popcorn"(kettle used for making popcorn) kettle full of cubed potatoes after school. I hated it because it took so long and the kettle was so big to my little eyes( probably a 5-6 quart kettle). It was then cooked and often made into mashed potatoes with browned butter on top. (Browned butter is butter that is melted and heated over medium to high heat until it turns a dark brown-black color and then poured over potatoes, vegetables and pasta.)It gives such a delicious flavor to so many foods that may be rather bland otherwise in my opinion.
Sunday evenings for supper usually consisted of tomato soup (tomato juice heated up and diluted with a double amount of milk, eaten with saltine crackers) and popcorn (we would put enough butter or oil and popcorn kernels to cover the bottom of the kettle and then heat it on high, shaking the kettle frequently while the kernels popped till they were barely popping anymore then we'd dump into a big bowl,generously sprinkle on seasonings and toss). Occasionally there would also be egg sandwiches with scrambled eggs and ketchup on slices of homemade bread.
We did not use cake mixes from the store unless it was given to us. It was all from scratch. I remember when I was learning how to bake I very often made a cake called Lazy Wive's cake. This recipe is basically the same. The only difference I can think of is that you were supposed to mix all the dry ingredients when make a hole for each of the liquids and then mix it all together. I don't know why but from what I remember ingredient-wise they're the same.
Store bought cheese was a rare treat. When we were doing the veal calves, every Christmas the meat packer company would send us a gift selection of different cheeses which was always a treat, trying these new cheeses that we never had otherwise unless we were invited to someone's house for dinner and they might have cubed cheese and pretzel sticks. Often the cheese used was Muenster cheese which still remains my favorite today. We didn't go without cheese though as we had a cow and often have plenty of milk and so mom made homemade cheese. This is the closest recipe I can find since I still remember how she made it so this may actually be the one.
I always loved when we had company because then we got to have "good" food. Here's some of the things mom would make when we had company. For a meat, I remember mom making poor man's steak, or depending on the season we'd have turkey or chicken. Mom would make the poor man's steak as a cake instead of forming patties like this picture shows.
For a vegetable she would have peas and carrots or creamed corn with browned butter on top. Then there was usually a potato dish of some kind. I still remember shredding potatoes to make scalloped potatoes. Here's a recipe for that.
She would also make pasta whether it be noodles or elbows. Sometimes she would add cheese and then on top would be browned butter and crackers crumbs. The butter is melted and cracker crumbs stirred in until they're crisp and crunchy. It's been so long since I had some that just thinking about it made me hungry for some so I made myself some. That is the picture below, too bad you can't taste it too.
Usually mom would have homemade bread that she'd serve in the beginning of the meal with homemade butter and jelly or honey. Here is the recipe I use. I cut this recipe in half because I only have 2 loaf pans. For the flour I do 2 cups wheat and 2 cups white. I usually use olive oil for the oil and buy a bulk package of yeast instead of the little packs. The yeast lasts me a long time and I store it in the freezer.
Usually mom makes a 7 layer salad. I haven't had some in so long! I think its about my favorite salad. Here's a picture.
Let me see if I can find a recipe...
I see that it says to put in a 9x13 pan but the sides won't be high enough. Mom would usually put it in a large bowl with high sides.
Often she would also have pickled things also, like pickled red beets, banana pickles or dill pickles. Sometimes there would even be deviled eggs with paprika sprinkled on top, another one of my favorites. Recipies below...
That concludes the main course. There are probably variations that I don't remember. Next comes dessert. Who doesn't like dessert and sweets? One of my favorites is cream cheese dessert. This recipe I see again mentions a 9x13 pan but mom would put it in a tall bowl. The graham cracker crumbs made the crust. The cream cheese mixture was several inches thick as well as the fruit mixture on top.🤤😋
Often there was a fruit salad and a cake to go along with the cream cheese dessert. Occasionally there would also be ice cream instead of the cream cheese desert. Some of the cakes I remember mom making are:
The chocolate cake usually got peanut butter icing, the rest usually got regular/cream cheese icing. Occasionally there was also browned butter icing.
This would usually finish off the meal for food and when everyone was done eating,except occasionally there was candy or dinner mints yet and then the toothpicks would get passed around and then the men would leave the table and the women would clean up the dishes and put away the food.
Some things mom would make dessert-wise for everyday eating is milk pudding.
Mom would usually make a popcorn kettle full. I don't remember how many times she doubled the recipe but I remember thinking it takes an awful lot of crackers, like the whole box full I think.
Caramel pudding didn't happen often but it was fun being near when mom was making it because it would caramelize in the bottom while mom was stirring and then she'd give us little crunchy bits to chew on.
Here's a one of my favorite recipes. This usually what I make when I have company. It is amazing hot out of the oven with vanilla ice cream. Now doesn't that about make your mouth water?
There's probably a lot more that could be said but here I've laid out a company meal my mom would make while I was growing up and a few other recipes besides. Perhaps by now you're itching to get your hands on a Mennonite cookbook for yourself but don't know where to start looking for one? Let me give you a few ideas...here's the two I'm most familiar with...
I hope you enjoyed all this talk about food. As usual, it is different in each family. This is what I grew up with. Now you can try some Mennonite cooking for yourself...
Let me know if you have any questions...and thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article!