Fried Amish Cornmeal Mush

No breakfast in Amish country is complete without a hearty helping of fried cornmeal mush. Most often eaten with syrup or sausage gravy, it’s a simple, honest and economical dish that has long been a staple in Amish and Mennonite households.

Fried Cornmeal Mush

Fried Cornmeal Mush

Humble Cornmeal

Made with ground corn, mush was well-known on the American frontier. Corn was first cultivated by the Native Americans, but newcomers to the New World soon learned the value of corn. Easily dried and ground, corn could be ground and used in mush (either fried or in a porridge), cornbread, corn pone and grits.

Because mush required few ingredients to make and cornmeal was plentiful, the American pioneers carried corn mush with them on wagon trains and other travels. A breakfast and/or supper dish, it was served with butter and milk if available. Since the Amish themselves were pioneers from Europe with large families to feed, they soon learned to appreciate humble corn mush as must in the farmhouse kitchen. It’s been said that that corn mush might have been the food staple that kept the pioneers alive during long winters and lean times.

How to make Amish cornmeal mush

Corn mush is made with finely-ground yellow corn meal. It’s easily available in grocery stores or, if you are ambitious, you can make your own. Just be aware that corn meal is not made from sweet corn! Sweet corn is what you eat off the cob, but it’s not suitable for corn meal. Yellow cornmeal is made with “dent” corn or field corn (look for the dent at the top of the kernel). Field corn is harder and more starchy.

You will need to make sure the corn dried thoroughly before you grind it in dry mill. Specialty stores such as Lehman’s Hardware carry mills and even corn to grind.

Once you have cornmeal, mush is pretty simple. Other than cornmeal, the only ingredients are water and salt. There are variations, but here is a recipe:

3/4 cup – cold water
3 cups boiling water
1 cup – corn meal
1 tsp – salt

First make a paste with cold water and cornmeal/salt mixture, then stir in boiling water. Continue to cook (stirring often) over a low heat for about 20 minutes, then pour into a pan and let cool until the mush is set. Slice thinly and fry in oil until crispy brown. Serve hot with breakfast syrup, sausage gravy, tomato gravy or apple butter.

If you’d rather go straight to the frying, ready-made corn mush is available in many bulk food stores and bakeries in Ohio’s Amish country or online at the Dutchman Online Store.

Scrapple

For a really Pennsylvania Dutch variation, try scrapple, also known as “pon haus”. Pon haus was made at butchering time and consists of pork scraps and trimmings mixed with cornmeal mush. We won’t go into the details here, but the scraps were cuts that were not usable elsewhere and therefore made into scrapple to avoid waste. Pon haus is sliced like regular mush and fried. It’s still available in some butcher shops and sometimes bulk food stores.

18 thoughts on “Fried Amish Cornmeal Mush

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  2. Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some help from an established
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    • Hi, no it’s really very easy to start a blog. WordPress has all kinds of skins (templates) that you can choose from. And, I’d just search Google for tips on starting a blog. The most difficult part is coming up with the ideas and content. I wish I had time to write more often, but my other tasks keep me too busy. Best wishes as you get started!

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  4. Question… I made a batch and had a couple pieces, but forgot about the remainder in the refrigerator…. How long do you think a prepared batch would last if in a refrigerator?

    • Our experience is that mush that hasn’t been fried yet doesn’t have a very good shelf life. If it’s more than a few days old, I’d throw it out and make it fresh. Hope this is helpful.

      • Compost worms love any left-over cooked cornmeal you might have hanging around. That is, if you can stop yourself from eating every bite yourself I love fried mush.–a childhood delicacy that might be the ultimate comfort food for everyone from major carnivores to vegans–Real butter is definitely tastier, but could definitely be substituted.

  5. Thanks for the great info. I bought packaged mush from an Amish store. Is the shelf life linger than a few days since it does have sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate added?

  6. My Mom used to make fried MUSH for us and she either fried it in butter or bacon fat. We added more butter and maple syrup ! So delicious :-)) thanks for the memories and now I must make it :-)).
    Sincerely,
    Anne

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  8. I love love love Scrapple and cornmeal mush! I’m from Delaware with Mennonite and Amish roots and we actually have several commercial scrapple manufacturers locally. Great article!

  9. Growing up in PA with the PA Dutch and helping them to make scrapple I know there is a little more to it than pork scraps and cornmeal. We always butchered hogs and steers at the same time and used the scraps from both of them together. Also along with the cornmeal we used buckwheat flour for flavor.

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