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LANCASTER COUNTY
PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH FOOD AND SHOPPING

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Lancaster County is idyllic, with picturesque farms and patchwork fields, horse-drawn buggies clip-clopping along country lanes, and bearded farmers, with broad-brimmed hats, steering mule-pulled plows.

Amish farmer and horse-drawn cultivator
Amish farmer and horse-drawn cultivator
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Pennsylvania Dutch immigrated here (and to settlements in 21 other states and Ontario) to escape religious persecution in Europe during the late 1600s. Their name comes from the word Deutsch (meaning German), which was changed to "Dutch" by the English.

Lancaster County is home to members of the Amish, Brethren and Mennonite faiths. Most Brethren and more than half the Mennonites dress like the rest of society. Smaller numbers wear distinctive clothing, but use "worldly" goods like cars and electricity. Old Order Amish, the most conservative, dress in plain clothing, limit education to grade eight and shun modern technology.

To prepare for a Pennsylvania Dutch Country trip, pick up free maps and brochures at the Visitors Center, in Lancaster, then watch the film Who are the Amish? at the Mennonite Information Center. The three-screen documentary is a heartwarming glimpse into their lives.

Driving tours

The best way to see Lancaster County is by car. Mennonite Information Center guides accompany visitors in their cars for tours of the Amish farmlands. You can also buy auto tours on CDs or cassettes at Dutch Wonderland, a family amusement park in Lancaster. These do-it-yourself driving tours provide mile-by-mile highlights with history, music and sound effects.

Culinary trails

The Lancaster County Visitors Center suggests Five Culinary Trails. The Market Basket driving tour visits farmers' markets, including Bird-in-Hand and Lancaster Central Market. The flavors and aromas at the food-laden stands are irresistible. Vendors offer mouth-watering samples of apple fritters, funnel cakes and hickory-smoked sausages. You'll invariably leave with jars of homemade preserves, bags of snickerdoodle cookies and tubs of soft cheese.

The Ale Trail features microbreweries, including Stoudt's Brewing Company and the Lancaster Brewing Company. The Dairy Trail includes Kreider Farms, where you can see some of Lancaster County's 98,000 cows, as well as the Strasburg Country Store and Creamery, which makes homemade ice cream.

The Sweet & Salty Trail brings you to the Sturgis Pretzel House and the Wilbur Chocolate Co. Candy Americana Museum. On the Water & Winery Trail, you can sample wines at Nissley Vineyards & Winery Estate, one of Pennsylvania's oldest wineries, as well as at the newer Moon Dancer Winery.

Mennonite woman sews quilt.
Mennonite woman sews quilt.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Shop for crafts, quilts, candles and preserves

The Old Country Store, in Intercourse, is a treasure house of regional handicrafts, patchwork tablecloths, wooden rocking horses, soft calico dolls and quilts in a myriad of patterns and styles. Don't miss the free People's Place Quilt Museum inside.

In the nearby Old Candle Barn, you can watch craftspeople pour wax, hand-dip and carve candles. Scents of bayberry and honeysuckle permeate the air. Aromas of a different sort come from the Jam & Relish Kitchen at Kitchen Kettle Village, which sells jams, relishes, locally smoked ham and bologna.

Kitchen Kettle preserves, jams and relishes
Kitchen Kettle preserves, jams and relishes
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Several places make Pennsylvania Dutch specialties. For hex signs, go to Will-Char*The Hex Place in Paradise. Legend claims that, depending on the design, folk art plaques will bring luck, love, virtue, fertility, success or strength to those who display them.

Mud sales

In spring, Mud Sales are so popular that they attract more than 15,000 shoppers in one day. Held in local fire stations, the sales and auctions benefit local farming communities. Items for sale include quilts, furniture, buggies, antiques, crafts, livestock, tools, garden supplies and foods.

Some of the most popular mud sales are held in Honeybrook, Leola (Beiler's Auction), Strasburg, Quarryville (Bart Township), Gordonville, Penryn, Ephrata, Gap and Holtwood (Rawlinsville Fire Company).

Pennsylvania Dutch restaurants

Sticky pecan buns at Good 'N Plenty Restaurant
Sticky pecan buns at Good 'N Plenty Restaurant
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A typical home-style Pennsylvania Dutch dinner consists of chow chow (an addictive sweet n' sour mixed-vegetable relish), honey-glazed ham, fried chicken, thick buttered noodles, sausages and sauerkraut, a half-dozen vegetables and salads, home baked bread, apple butter, and at least four desserts. Miller's Smorgasbord serves a dazzling buffet. The hot chocolate pecan pie is so good that you'll buy their cookbook for the recipe.

At Good N' Plenty, motherly waitresses load tables to the groaning point with heaping platters of mashed potatoes, roast beef, pepper cabbage, chicken pot pie and baked country sausage. Keep room for their fabulous sticky pecan buns and shoofly pie.

Amish farm
Amish farm
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The bounty on these tables reflects the richness of the land, which farmers cultivate much as they did at the turn of the century. Several model Amish farms give visitors a close-up look at rural life and customs. You'll see clothing, tools and furniture and learn about their schools, weddings and funerals. At Amish Farm and House, you can see sheep shearing in April and tobacco planting in June. The Amish Village, in Strasburg, has a one-room school, a blacksmith shop and an operating smoke-house.

The best way to see a Pennsylvania Dutch farm is to stay at one that offers rooms to tourists. They're reasonably priced and children love them. Here you can enjoy good home cooking and the tranquil charms of the Amish countryside. Food for the body as well as the soul.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.padutchcountry.com

More things to see and do in Pennsylvania:

Philadelphia Pennsylvania - Cheese Steaks and Mummers