11 Genius Cooking Ideas, Straight from Amish Country

The Amish are well-known for their plain and simple lifestyle, to which they adhere for spiritual reasons. But some of their kitchen values are so wise, you'll want to add them to your own modern lifestyle.

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Amish paradise
Shutterstock / Photo Spirit

Grow your own, or at least, eat local

Nearly all Amish homes have fruit trees and vines as well as a sizable garden that includes corn, celery, beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and peas, according to Amish America. This is so that they can rely on themselves, rather than supplies from the English (or modern) world. But there are many good reasons to eat local, including freshness, natural ripeness, food safety and environmental preservation. Take a look at these Amish baking tips you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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Boxes of organic blackberries for sale at local farmers market.
Shutterstock / Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz

Eat what’s in season

The Amish believe that “God is pleased when people work in harmony with nature, the soil, the weather, and care for animals and plants,” according to the BBC. To live in harmony with nature, you don’t have to move to a rural community and grow your own food, but you can be mindful of eating what’s in season because you’ll be eating better, fresher food that you know didn’t have to travel any distance to reach you. And that’s good for the environment and your peace of mind.

To get you started, here are guides to what’s in season in winter, fall, spring¬†and summer.

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Taste of Home

Preserve some of what’s in season now…for next season

Home-canned goods are a sensory treat for the Amish. While in-season fruits and veggies are being “put up” for use for the rest of the year, the kitchen bursts with delightful colors, aromas and joyful noises. When preserved foods are warmed up in later seasons, they bring back all those delightful sense memories. Plus you know where they came from, and you know what you put in them. Check out these top-notch canning recipes to get you started on preserving this summer’s bounty.

Here’s how to avoid the most common canning mistakes.

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Green tops of carrots on wooden board.
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Use everything

The Amish make every attempt to waste nothing. In addition to preserving seasonal produce, the Amish often raise their own livestock, from which they get milk, eggs, and meat; and when they’ve got nothing but bones, they make soups and stocks.

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warm fire heating a coffee kettle in wood burning stove. Traditional style in countryside of Brazil
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Cook with fire

The Amish avoid modern technology not because they want to live uncomfortable lives but to preserve the uniqueness of their way of life, according to the BBC. In addition, wood stoves provide heat to the entire house, which could make a dent in your heating bills.

If you’re not about to install a wood stove inside, just fire up the grill to cook. We’ve got some great recipes.

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Rustic wooden vintage kitchen in country house interior decoration for Thai style house with wooden furnitures
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Make your kitchen your family room

Amish households shun electricity, and that means no television. Instead, the kitchen becomes the undisputed social center of the home, where everyone ends up gathering to share stories, plans and prayers. Usually, it’s the Amish mom cooking and baking, but no matter who’s doing the cooking in your family, unplug for a few hours while preparing a feast and see how popular you and your kitchen become!

If your kids want to get involved in the cooking, here’s a guide to what’s age appropriate in the kitchen, all through childhood.

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Wooden table setup for garden party or dinner reception.
Shutterstock / Sophie McAulay

Share food with friends and family

The Amish believe that community is the foundation of life, according to the BBC, and communal meals are part of the Amish way of life. To replicate this experience, host a party, invite your neighbors over or participate in potlucks. Whatever you do, enjoy the pleasure of eating good food with good people.

These heavenly church potluck dinners will get you going.

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Taste of Home

Go ahead and satisfy your sweet tooth

The Amish are famous for their baked goods: breads, pies, cookies, strudels, soft pretzels and donuts. But you won’t find many overweight Amish because they work off those extra calories, including by working in the kitchen making all the sweet treats like their famous apple goodie. Shoofly pie, made with molasses and sometimes chocolate cream, is a huge favorite, and here’s an authentic Pennsylvania Dutch recipe for Shoofly Pie that’s been passed down from generation to generation.

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Rye and spelt sourdough toast with butter, blackberry jam, and strawberry preserves.
Shutterstock / Mariela Naplatanova

Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day

The traditional Amish breakfast is hearty, including eggs, fried potatoes, cornmeal mush, ham or sausage or bacon, and even shoofly pie. But the biggest meal of the day is the midday meal, which often features, beef or chicken soups or pot pies, potato salad, gravy, an assortment of veggies and noodle dishes, and, of course, pie. The end-of-the-day meal is much lighter.

Here are some classic comfort foods that could make a nice, hearty lunch.

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grungy page of bakeries vintage handwritten cookbook
Shutterstock / Torsten Lorenz

Share your cooking secrets…with humility

If you’ve ever traveled to the Amish country (such as the Pennsylvania Dutch Country in Southeastern Pennsylvania), you’ll have the opportunity to buy lots of homey, homemade, or self-published Amish cookbooks. Crack one open, and what you’ll find is there are few if any names attached to recipes because, in keeping with their modest lifestyle, the Amish like to a job well but not to boast. Amish butter is the little luxury you need to know about.

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Mixing bowl with flour and butter, vintage sifter, measuring spoons and dish cloth
Shutterstock / Alice Day

Treat cooking as an art as well as a science

While there is something to be said for following precise directions, especially in baking (and here are the top baking secrets we’ve learned from the Amish), Amish recipes are often passed from person to person and generation to generation without everything being spelled out with precision. Vagueness in recipes may require guesswork about pan size or how much a “pinch” really is, but reveling in the art (and not just the science) of cooking will make you a better cook overall.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.