How to Get Lost in Ohio’s Amish Country

ClotheslineOctober is leaf-peeping time again in Ohio’s Amish Country and part of the fun is losing yourself in the vibrant fall colors and quaint sights of the area.

Especially in the October high season, the heavy traffic and crowds in the tourist areas can snarl your day. If you’d like to search out your own adventure, we suggest getting off the main routes to see what the locals see every day. You’ll find things that you’ll never see in the city such as colorful red bank barns, fawn-colored Jersey cows, buggies and wagons, sweeping views of rolling hills and Amish stores scattered here and there.

Here’s a driving tour that will take you off the main tourist roads and into “the interior” of Ohio Amish Country. We guarantee that you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Hang in there and enjoy the ride!

Get Lost in Charm and New Bedford

View MapThe entire route is approximately 18 miles route trip.

Part 1: Walnut Creek to Charm – 6 miles
  1. Start your backroad tour in Walnut Creek, Ohio.Purple Martin houses on an Amish Farm
  2. Travel east (towards Sugarcreek) on State Route 39 to Country Road 114.
  3. Turn right onto Country Road 114. Note the impressive red barn and pond next to the road.
  4. At the fork in the road, bear to the right onto County Road 135.
  5. After a 90º turn in the road, turn left onto Township Road 374 which leads straight up a hill. To the locals, this is called “Brown Ridge”.
  6. Remain on Township Rd 374 for approximately 2 miles.
  7. When you reach the stop sign at Township Road 369, turn left.
  8. Township Road 369 will travel along a ridge, then descend towards Country Road 70.
  9. Turn right onto Country Road 70 to reach the town of Charm.

If you’ve reached the end of your rope or kids’ patience, Charm is a good place to get back on the main roads or stop and shop. Turning right onto State Route 557 will take you back toward Route 39 and Berlin.

Part II: Charm to New Bedford – 5 miles

Even the township trustees jokingly refer to this area as “Siberia”, but don’t worry. This is definitely away from the tourist drag but it’s not hard to get back to state roads if you wish. New Bedford does not play a part in the tourism industry, so you will not find restaurants or tourist attractions. You will, however, find a harness/shoe shop, grocery store and grain elevator here.

  1. From County Road 70, turn left onto State Route 557. In less than a half mile, you should see the turnoff for County Route 600.
  2. Turn right onto Country Road 600. This road will wind and roll up and down hills, but eventually you will arrive on the “Flat Ridge” for extraordinary views across the countryside. This is one of the highest ridges in the area.
  3. Stay on Country Road 600 for about 5 miles until you reach the small village of New Bedford.
  4. New Bedford is located on State Route 643.

Again, if you’re ready to quit, you can turn left onto Route 643 and follow it all the way to State Route 93. Left onto Route 93 will take you back to the junction of Route 39 in Sugarcreek.

Part III: New Bedford to Farmerstown – 4 miles

Dairy CowsFarmerstown is a little Amish burg that has a few small businesses and a livestock auction (Tip: Auction Day is Tuesday.)

  1. Turn left onto State Route 643 in New Bedford. This is a wide, easy road to travel, but has scenic views of farmsteads along the wide valley and less traffic than most State Roads. Follow 643 for about 2 1/2 miles to County Road 114.
  2. Turn left onto County Road 114.
  3. Follow 114 for 1 1/2 miles until you reach the junction of State Route 557.

For another “shortcut” back to civilization, you may turn right onto State Rt 557 to reach State Route 93 into Sugarcreek.

Part IV: Farmerstown to Walnut Creek – 4 miles
  1. Cross State Route 557 to continue on Country Road 114. This is a blind intersection so be especially careful of traffic coming from your right.
  2. After traveling about 2 1/2 miles, Country Road 114 junctions with County Road 70. Stay to the right on 114.
  3. After 3 1/2 miles, you should find yourself in familiar territory. Stay to the right on the 90º turn and you will soon end up where you started – at State Route 39 below Walnut Creek.
Good to Know: About etiquette and safety on the back roadsFall in Amish Country
  • Cows crossing the road and farm machinery may be in your way. Farmers usually bring in the cows for milking around 4 to 5am and again at 4 to 5pm.
  • Leave your RV or camper trailer at the campground. Roads are often narrow and difficult to navigate with a large vehicle.
  • Bicyclists and pedestians with children are common. Also, be aware of loose pets who may be trailing along.
  • Take lots of pictures but just be respectful of the fact that Amish adults do not pose for photos.
  • Fences are there for two reasons – to keep animals in and people out. You never know – there may be a cranky bull on the other side of the fence, so it’s best to stay out of pastures.
  • Look out for semi trucks loaded with chicken feed or milk – they take up a lot of room on the road and often drive faster than they should.
  • If you follow a buggy, dodging “horse apples” can cause accidents. Driving through them is part of country life. It won’t hurt your car and the car wash can take off any residue.
  • If you think you’re lost, don’t be afraid to ask a passing bicyclist or walker. They’ll tell you where you are, but probably not in terms of streets. A GPS or a map will still be useful.

 

The Old-fashioned way of making Apple Butter

The cool days of autumn are a sign that it’s time to “put up” the last crops of vegetables and fruits of the year. It’s time to harvest pumpkins, apples, grapes and squash in preparation for winter.

Apple Butter and Bread

Apple Butter and Bread

Here in Amish Country, one of the traditional ways of preserving apples is to make apple butter. Yes, it’s possible to make apple butter in your kitchen, but it’s often an event for families to get together, visit, eat and stir a big batch of apple butter to share. My neighbors, the Harry and Kate Gerber family made it a priority every October to schedule a stirring where everyone, old and young,  chipped in the help prepare apples and then help stir the pot. It is an all-day affair.

Prepare the apples

According to June Miller, Harry and Kate’s daughter, the first step is to purchase the right kind of apple. Grimes Golden is the Gerber family pick, but they’ve tried blending other varieties to enhance the taste. Grimes Golden a yellow apple and is the perfect for apple for apple butter because it cooks down to a fine texture and is sweet. Although it can be used for eating, it’s also an excellent apple for pie baking.

The night before the Stirring, the family gets together to peel the apples (yes, done with an old-fashioned apple peeler). The peeled apples are quartered or cut in eighths if the apples are large. This is called schnitzing. The seeds are cut out and discarded and the apple slices are soaked in water overnight.

Stirring the Apple Butter

Apple Butter Stirring at Yoder's Amish Home, Walnut Creek, Ohio

Apple Butter Stirring at Yoder’s Amish Home, Walnut Creek, Ohio

It literally takes all day to make apple butter – the Gerbers start cooking at 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. The soaking apple pieces are drained, then a copper kettle filled with 13 gallons of apples and 13 gallons of fresh water is set over the fire to cook…and cook…and cook. The kettle must be watched at all times so the apple butter does not burn.

A long-armed wooden paddle is used to stir the pot almost constantly for 8 or 9 hours. This is not a job for the weak and frail. It will work out your arms and back after a day of stirring!

When is the apple butter ready?

After the apple slices have cooked down into a fragrant brown sauce (you don’t want to see any pieces floating) it’s time to add brown sugar and white sugar. How much depends on how sweet you want your apple butter to be. It’s especially important to keep stirring the apple butter once the sugar is added because it will burn more quickly.

The apple butter is ready when it cooks down to exactly the right consistency. To test it the “Gerber way”, dip a spoonful of apple butter out of the kettle, let it cool slightly on the spoon and then tilt the spoon downward as if to empty it. If the apple butter slowly drops off the spoon with a “plop” (a very technical term), it’s finished and ready to take off the fire.

June recommends having some freshly baked butter bread ready to test taste and consistency of the apple butter as you go along. This is half the fun of the stirring!

After the apple butter is cooled, everyone brings their own jars to fill and take home for the year.

A recipe for a small batch of Apple Butter

Most of you won’t be stirring apple butter in a 30 gallon kettle, so we’ve included a recipe for a small batch you can make in your own kitchen. If you don’t want to schnitz apples, you can also cook apple butter directly from applesauce. It should cook faster that way.

APPLE BUTTER  – taken from Der Dutchman’s 1973 Cookbook
Contributed by Mrs. Ben D. Miller
3 gallons uncooked apple schnitz
8lbs white sugar
1 gallon Karo

Put all ingredients together and cook 3 hours with the lid on the pan. Take the apple butter off the heat and put through a sieve (such as a Victorio strainer). Return the apple butter to the pan and heat again. When the apple butter is thick, put in canning jars and seal.

 

 

 

Who is Eli Mose’s Sam’s Henry’s Noah?

Recently, I was invited to an estate auction for my Amish neighbor, Mosey S. Over the age of ninety when he passed, he had collected both a wealth of interesting household items and a large extended family of nephews, nieces, cousins, cousins once- or twice-removed and so on. Mose was a fine man and friend to everyone, evidenced by the many Amish and “English” neighbors, friends and church members in attendance. Everyone wanted to take home a memento of Mose.

I bought one item (inscribed with Mose’s signature), a genealogy book familiar to many people of either Amish or Mennonite ancestry – a 1938 edition of 1,391 page book, The Descendents of Barbara Hochstedler and Christian Stutzman. In this volume, I found both a fascinating snapshot of Amish pioneer life and almost endless lists of names of my relatives dating back to the early 1700’s. Why is this important to me? Because our culture values family and understanding where we have come from.

Family History is important

Family Bible

Amish and Mennonite families kept track of births, marriages and deaths in family Bibles such as this one.

Long before websites and television shows that show you how to look up your ancestors, the Amish and Mennonites kept track of their family histories. Almost every family had a Bible inscribed with the names of the husband and wife, date of marriage, children’s birthdays and possibly their spouses and marriage dates.

From these family records came large genealogies dating back to the early 1700’s when the first Amish left the persecution and wars of Europe for the religious freedom of The New World. We can’t begin to understand the courage of these people who left family and friends behind to carve out a new life in the deep woods of the American frontier.

Eli Moses’s Sam’s Henry’s Noah?

At Mosey’s auction, I ran into a local man who is known as Eli Moses’s Sam’s Henry’s Noah (that’s pronounced “NO-ee” if you’re in Amish Country). He was related to Mosey S. and inspired the writing of this blog post. That’s five generations of identification, all needed to swiftly and accurately identify one of many Noah Millers.

If you’ve ever looked through a phone book in any Mennonite or Amish community (or the Amish Directory for that matter), you’ll see that there is a concentration of surnames. Each community has more or less, but in Holmes County (Ohio), it’s Yoders, Millers, Hochstetlers, Troyers, Masts, Beachys, Hershbergers, Mullets, Kauffmans, Rabers, Gingerichs, and so on.

How many John Millers or Jonas Yoders might there be in our community? It’s hard to say – sometimes it causes issues. For example, if your name is Sam Troyer (names are made up to protect the guilty) and your neighbor up the road (also named Sam Troyer) doesn’t happen to pay his bills on time, you might be out of luck if you call the local grain elevator to deliver a batch of cattle feed. So, you might call yourself by your father’s or grandfather’s name, such as “Jake Eli’s Sam”. Ah, yes. Now you’ve established EXACTLY who you are. The cattle feed will be promptly delivered.

Or, you might have a nickname, such as ‘Bama Dan or “Pretty Mose”. It can be assumed that Dan visited Alabama at some point in time, hence the ‘Bama nickname. Pretty Mose used to keep his beard neat and trimmed, and therefore was “pretty”. John Schmid, a local musician and evangelist often sings a song that describes this phenomena pretty well. It’s in Pennsylvania Dutch, but you won’t have to speak the language to understand the names he’s listing. John’s song is called Amish Nicknames. It makes me smile, and I bet you’ll enjoy it too.

Where were you in 1969?

From guest blogger, Vicki VanNatta

For some of you, 1969 was ‘before your time’….way before your time. For some of you, 1969 was part of the ‘good old days’ — dating, less responsibility and more fun – and those great cars: Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac GTO, the Ford Mustang.  Others were in the throes of raising your children, dealing with how long your teenage son’s sideburns were, making sure his hair didn’t touch his collar. And were your daughter’s skirts down to her fingertips when her arms were at her sides?   Infractions meant they would be sent home from school or reprimanded.  Wearing slacks or jeans to school? Forget about it. It wasn’t happening.  It was a different time in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

What was happening in Walnut Creek, Ohio in 1969

In 1969, Dan and Shirley Lehman had just partnered with Emanuel Mullet and Bob and Sue Miller to purchase Der Dutchman Restaurant on the square in Walnut Creek. I was a teenager, and I began my very first job as a dishwasher at Der Dutchman Restaurant. A paycheck! I earned a paycheck!

Original Der Dutchman Restaurant

The original Der Dutchman Restaurant in Walnut Creek, Ohio

Bert and Emma Hershberger had started the small 75-seat restaurant in what was previously a hardware store. The business was doing well, but if you’ve ever been in the restaurant business, you know the demands put on your time and energy can be draining.  It was those demands that led Bert and Emma to sell Der Dutchman Restaurant to Dan Lehman, Emanuel Mullet and Bob Miller, owners of Dutch Corporation, formed for the specific purpose of purchasing the Restaurant.

It started with one restaurant

Forty-five years later, that 75-seat restaurant is now a 650-seat restaurant that has undergone six major renovations and expansions. What was once known as Dutch Corporation is now Dutchman Hospitality Group, and that ‘group’ includes two Carlisle Inns, six gift shops, a retail food market, a wholesale food and hospitality supply company, live theater productions, and not just one 650-seat restaurant, but six, with locations in Ohio and Sarasota, Florida, plus a sister location in Middlebury, Indiana.

45 years later…still the same traditions

Der Dutchman Walnut Creek

Der Dutchman Walnut Creek as it appears today.

Forty-five years later, high school freshmen boys might have their hair below their shirt collar and most girls are wearing jeans and shorts to school, but Der Dutchman Restaurant is still on the square in Walnut Creek.  Der Dutchman is still serving real mashed potatoes, delicious pan-fried chicken, dressing, noodles and more than twenty kinds of pie.  Their traditional menu hasn’t changed, but at each Dutchman Hospitality restaurant you will find a variety of menu items including delicious salads, stir fry, and salmon plus other regional and local favorites – just in case you aren’t craving mashed potatoes on any given day.

Relax, visit with each other

What you won’t find is a large screen TV over your head in the dining room. You won’t find loud music playing and you won’t find a bar. But you will find a place where you can sit down, look across the table and actually have a conversation about the day or just quietly relax and enjoy.  Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops, and inns are all about fellowship and food around the table, a sense of peace and comfort during an overnight getaway, and delightful shopping for your home, your friends, and your family.

Continuing to grow and adapt

Forty-five years later, I’m not washing dishes at Der Dutchman, but Dutchman Hospitality continues to grow and serve the six communities they now call home. Throughout the annual seasons, Dutchman Hospitality employs approximately 1300 individuals who speak a variety of languages; arriving from many parts of the US and the world, Dutchman Hospitality employees work together each day to make sure everyone eating at their tables, staying at their inns, and shopping in their shops enjoys the traditional foods, simple comforts, and rural charm of the Midwestern Amish and Mennonite communities.

Dutchman Hospitality remembers 1969 as the year it all began.  No matter where you were that year, 2014 is good year to visit any of the Dutchman Hospitality restaurants, shops or inns. Bring a friend, your family, or your neighbors. Gather ‘round. It’s time to make some memories of your own.

Why do Amish ride in cars but don’t own them?

Yes, Amish will ride in cars. So, what’s the difference between riding in a vehicle and owning one?

Breaking down the community

For the Amish, being a part of the community is extremely important. They live among their family and friends, depend on one another and keep social boundaries and traditions for the greater good of everyone. Their values are quite different from that of the modern world – progress and change are pondered and weighed seriously. Sacrificing the individual’s wants and accountability to one another are main parts of Amish culture.

photo by Beth MillerOwning and operating a car is not particularly modern to most of us, but the Amish have decided that having speedy convenient transportation at their fingertips will lead to spending more time away from family, home and the community. Owning a nicer car than your neighbor may promote pride as well as a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Conforming to a modest black buggy and slow moving horse is a sign of commitment to the church and community.

The same theory goes for using horses for farm work as opposed to a tractor. Slow work and hard work are not necessarily bad. Labor-saving devices and engines may do the work more quickly, but the teamwork of putting up hay or corn is lost. That cooperation strengthens relationships and traditions.

When to call the Driver

When is it appropriate for an Amish person to ride in a car? As the Amish communities have grown larger in scale and spread out across more territory, it becomes a long round trip to visit family or run errands. High volume traffic on our roads can be just plain scary in an unprotected wooden buggy. In buggy vs. vehicle accidents, the buggy and its occupants always come out on the worst end.

Day-to-day errands such as grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments must be run, so it’s sometimes necessary to call an Amish “taxi” driver for a ride. Travel for medical emergencies and visiting hospital patients is always allowed. Drivers can be anyone – a neighbor, friend or a for-hire professional service. They use any kind of vehicle, from a four passenger car up to a 15-passenger van.

Since many Amish no longer work on farms, local businesses will buy a van or truck and employ a driver just to pick up or drop off Amish workers. Construction or mason crews often travel hours away to work on homes and building projects scheduled through contractors.

For entertainment?

Here’s where the issue of hiring a driver becomes a little more murky. Depending on the type of Amish church, entertainment isn’t encouraged, so a van trip to the hunting show might be off-limits for some churches. But generally, Amish are allowed to hire a driver to transport them for hunting or fishing trips out west or in Canada, weddings, shopping trips or sometimes out to eat.

Rides are also accepted for service trips, where many Amish volunteer to help people clean up after natural disasters, such as tornadoes, fires, floods and hurricanes.

“Driving the Amish” Book

In 1997, retired journalist and Amish taxi driver Jim Butterfield published a book about his experiences driving to places beyond easy reach of traditional horse-drawn buggies and wagons. This charming account of a unique personalities and old-timey events is still available at amazon.com.

Etiquette in Amish Country

Amish Farmer Chopping SilageIf you’ve ever visited Amish country, you already know that you’ll see and hear things that are both unique and fascinating. And while you may have the feeling that you’ve traveled back in time, please remember that this is, in fact, real life for everyone who lives here – both Amish and “English”.

To enhance your experience, you’ll want to remember a few things before setting out on your trip…

Driving in Amish Country

You’ve left the beltways and four-lane highways behind for a slower pace. A very slow pace. A trotting horse will be traveling at 8 miles per hour or less. A team pulling farm machinery may be painfully slow. Especially on the hills of Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties, you may catch up with a buggy or bicyclist on a hill where you can’t see oncoming traffic. Just be patient. You’ll get there eventually – wait until you have a clear view of the traffic coming from the other direction.

Be very cautious at night – even though some Amish churches allow reflectors and lights, black buggies are still difficult to see on a dark road without streetlights. The most conservative orders of Amish allow only one lantern hung on the side of the buggy and are almost impossible to see at night. They are most common in the Mount Hope and Apple Creek areas in Ohio.

Honking is rather disrespectful. Horses, by nature, are flight animals. Honking can “spook” or frighten them and cause a wreck. Most horses on the roads are “traffic safe” (broke to drive in traffic) but you never know. Give them the benefit of the doubt and be ready for anything. If you feel the need to alert a buggy driver, a light tap on the horn will suffice.

Photographing the Amish

Amish do not pose for photographs or videos, the key word being “pose”. Posing for photographs is seen as prideful or interpreted as making a graven image, forbidden in the Ten Commandments. Exceptions may be made for children or young people who have not yet joined the church.

However, many Amish will not resent visitors taking photos of their buggy, working on the farm or in public places. Just be careful and respectful – no need to hang out of your car trying to shoot an up-close photo of a “real Amish person”. If you feel uncomfortable taking the photo, just ask permission. The answer may be no, but your polite request may open the door to a conversation!

Buggy horses and other farm animals

It’s fine to stand back admire that beautiful field of shiny black and white Holstein dairy cows, but it’s impolite and dangerous to enter the field to pet or feed them. Again, animals are unpredictable – they have teeth that could bite or heels that could kick! The occasional bull in the field could also ruin your day.

The same warning applies to buggy horses tied at a hitching rail. It’s always best to ask permission to touch the animal or buggy. Stories have arisen of Amish returning after shopping, only to find tourists sitting in their buggy posing for pictures. Please, don’t do this.

Conversations with the Amish

Tourism is so common in Ohio’s Amish country that most people have become accustomed to questions and conversations with visitors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or say hello, especially in a public setting. Be genuinely interested in the response and never make anyone feel foolish (a good reminder for all conversations!)

One fellow blogger recommended trying to speak a little Pennsylvania Dutch. This makes me smile – the day-to-day Dutch spoken by the Amish is a little different than the “Dutch” you may read in popular Amish romance novels. Even those of us who know enough Dutch “to be dangerous” would not try speaking more than a few words here and there. That is, unless you want to be the latest amusing story at their next Sunday church lunch.

Amish Etiquette 101

Really, the main thing to remember is the Golden Rule, paraphrased as: treat others the way you’d like to be treated yourself. It’s mostly common sense. Amish Country isn’t a zoo or a show with actors. We’re all people just like you and appreciate the same kindnesses that you do.

Peach Pie Season in Amish Country

Dutchman Fresh Peach Pie

Dutchman Fresh Peach Pie

Nothing tastes like summer like fresh peaches! Beginning mid to late July, they are in season here in Ohio. Families all across Amish country will buy them by the bushel and either can or freeze them.

Whether you can them or eat them fresh, you’ll want to start out with quality fruit. Here are a few tips for buying peaches.

Selecting your fruit

When shopping for peaches, be very picky. You’ll want to make sure the fruit is soft but not bruised. While bruised peaches spoil quickly, peaches that are hard will never ripen correctly and are not as tasty. To save yourself both grief and work, be sure to select free-stone varieties – “cling” peaches do not lift off the stone easily and will be harder to slice. Red Haven is the variety of choice but there are many good options for eating and “putting away.”

If you plan to can or freeze your peaches, try to ask for varieties that do not turn brown when sliced. Although the peaches may taste OK, they won’t retain the beautiful yellow color they had when fresh. If you’re not sure what kind of peaches you have, just coat your sliced peaches with an acid, such as lemon juice or orange juice. The acid helps the peaches look fresh and yellow until you eat them next winter.

It’s fine to store peaches in your refrigerator, but be sure to store them side-by-side. Stacking peaches will cause them to bruise and get mushy. Before eating fresh peaches, remove them from the refrigerator to warm up. Peaches at room temperature seem to have better taste than those straight out of the frig.

If you do happen to buy some peaches that aren’t ripe (a ripe peach should be soft but not mushy), just lay them out in one layer on your kitchen counter. They’ll ripen up naturally in a day or so.

Where to buy peaches

In Walnut Creek, Hillcrest Orchard is one place that raises their own peaches (50 acres of peach and apple trees) and they pick them only when they are ripe. Peaches will be available there by August 1.

Another option is at our local livestock auctions, such as Farmerstown (Tuesday), Mount Hope (Wednesday) or Kidron (Thursday). You’ll find multiple vendors there with peach varieties such as Harvestor, Contender, Red Haven and the later varieties of “white” peaches. If you are in the market for large lots of fruit, check out the Farmer’s Produce Auction in Mount Hope on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

In Plain City, just west of Columbus, you’ll be able to find peaches at Yutzy’s Farm Market. They’ll be selling the varieties Contender, Red Glow and later Red Haven. All three are good for freezing and canning and are free-stone varieties.

Peach Pie

Fresh peach pie, as the name states, is made with fresh uncooked peaches. At our Der Dutchman and Dutch Valley restaurants, pie bakers peel and slice the peaches, then cover with a homemade peachy-orange glaze. Although we can’t give you our recipe (it’s got a secret ingredient), it’s made with peach-flavored jello as its base. It’s the job of one baker to peel the peaches for all our pies – it takes nearly all day. The pies are made by filling a pre-baked pie shell and topped with whipped cream.

On the other hand, if you’d like to bake your peaches into a pie, here’s a simple Peach Cream Pie recipe that comes from our original and old-fashioned 1973 Der Dutchman Cookbook

Peach Cream Pie
From Mrs. Ben Miller

1 cup white sugar
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Approximately 3 – 4  fresh peaches, depending on the size

Fill an unbaked pie crust with peeled fresh peaches. Mix the sugar, cream and cornstarch and pour mixture over the peaches in the pie shell. Bake like a custard pie.

Editor’s note: Instructions for baking a custard pie are as follows: Bake for 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until until nicely browned on top.