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Shoofly Pie and Other Amish Food Traditions

June 8, 2012 Le Cordon Bleu Chicago 0 Comments

Shoofly Pie and Other Amish Food Traditions

The Amish or Pennsylvania Dutch came to America from Germany in the 17th and 18th centuries. They settled mostly in Eastern Pennsylvania, but later generations spread throughout the upper Midwest and settled in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. There are still significant populations of Amish and Mennonite people to be found in these areas today.

They live a simple, hard life dedicated to religious fundamentalism and adherence to centuries-old customs. They tend to live alongside but separate from their non-Amish neighbors. Despite this separation, however, many of their cultural traditions have spread into the non-Amish world, especially food.

Amish food, based on their ancestral German traditions, is simple hearty fare high in carbohydrates and fats – perfect for their hardworking lifestyles. Many people who were raised in Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest eat these simple, delicious recipes on a regular basis and don’t even know it. Cooking in Chicago just wouldn’t be the same with these Amish contributions to the Chicago culinary scene.

Let’s take a look at some of those food traditions that people are still cooking in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest.

Shoofly Pie

Drive through any of the country’s Amish regions and you’ll find roadside stands operated by Amish women. There will be jams, jellies, and a host of baked goods. But the biggest treat of all will be the shoofly pies arranged across the back of their horse-drawn wagon. This rich molasses pie may have gotten its name because the sugary molasses attracts many flies that must be shooed away.

Apple Butter

Not butter at all but highly concentrated applesauce, apple butter gets its name because of its primary use as a spread for breads. Apple butter is made by slow cooking apples, apple cider, sugar, and spices. The mixture is reduced until the sugars begin to caramelize turning the apple butter a deep mahogany color.


The Amish live a subsistence lifestyle raising or growing everything that they eat. There is no room for waste. Scrapple is the result of this necessity. Scraps of meat and offal leftover from butchering a pig are rendered down and mixed with cornmeal or buckwheat flour and spices. The mixture is formed into loaves. Slices are then pan-fried and served as a breakfast dish.

Pickled Eggs

Walk into many taverns in and around Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia and you might find a large jar filled with eggs and a dark purple liquid. They are pickled or red beet eggs. They are made by putting shelled hard-boiled eggs into a solution of vinegar, salt, spices, beets, and beet juice.


Giant soft pretzels are an Amish treat that has become popular all over the country. Many large cities in the Northeast and Midwest have street corners populated by pretzel carts. The Sturgis family started the country’s oldest pretzel bakery in Lititz, PA.

There are many other Amish food traditions that spread across the country as they migrated westward. With so many immigrants to Chicago, Amish recipes have quietly taken their place along side other immigrant dishes in the Chicago culinary landscape.

This article is presented by Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago. Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago offers culinary arts and pâtisserie and baking training programs in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about the class offerings, please visit Chefs.edu/Chicago for more information. 

Find disclosures on graduation rates, student financial obligations and more at www.chefs.edu/disclosures.  
Le Cordon Bleu® and the Le Cordon Bleu logo are registered trademarks of Career Education Corporation. Le Cordon Bleu does not guarantee employment or salary. Credits earned are unlikely to transfer.


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