Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Friendly Bird

I don't look out my office window over an ocean, mountain range, or a winding river, but I have a view of something as precious on my window sill. God must have created the peacock (and peahen) as his art class doctoral thesis. These extremely social birds love to hang around people, look in mirrors, and show their pride. Sound familiar?

The other day Kathy Miller sold a guest fifty of the cock's discarded feathers for her living room bouquet. Not may bird's get that honor. As the single geranium awaits the flowers of summer in the window box, it makes the reward of winter's endurance well worth the price.

We are planting Begnoias in the quilt garden today, the red, white, and blue bunting adorns The Inn at Amish Acres. Plain and Fancy is open for its 26th season and State Fair opens May 29th on The Round Barn Theatre stage. WFRN's  two day Friend Fest filled with Christian Music is just around the corner on June 29th and 30th. This bird's social calendar is about to be filled for the year; so much for time to gaze through the window!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is it Sorghum or Molasses?

If you have ever wondered--and who hasn't?--what the difference is between sorghum and molasses, here is a lot more than you care to know.

Pure sorghum, sometimes called sorghum molasses, is made from the natural juice extracted from a plant called sorghum cane. This juice is cleansed from impurities and concentrated by evaporation in open pans, producing a mild flavored syrup. Sorghum was used to make confections and flavor meats by America’s early settlers. Not to be confused with molasses, which is a bi-product of the sugar cane, sorghum is often used on biscuits, in cakes, cookies and in baked beans.

Shoofly pie (or shoo-fly pie) is a molasses pie considered traditional among the Pennsylvania Dutch--The state of Maine's claim to it is suspect. The more common version of the recipe — sometimes referred to as "wet bottom" — consists of a layer of sweet, gooey molasses beneath a crumb topping sometimes compared to that of a coffee cake. In contrast, a "dry bottom" shoofly pie is more thoroughly mixed into a cake-like consistency. Its distinctive flavor and texture is quite alluring and nostalgic. Sorghum is grown by some Amish farmers often grow forage sorghums primarily as silage for livestock. They are sometimes grown and harvested with soybeans to improve the protein content of the silage. 

Growing Sorghum Cane looks much like corn without the ears.  Instead of tassels on top like corn, it has clusters of many seeds.  The seeds are small and round about 1/16" in diameter.   It grows 6 to 12 feet tall and 1 to 2 inches in diameter at the base of the stalk.

After the cane matures (90 to 120 days)   it must be harvested.  This is the most labor intensive part of the 
whole process. Harvesting is done by striping it of its leaves by running a thin bladed stick swiftly down each side of the stalk. Knocking the leaves off as the stick goes buy.  Then the "head" of seeds is removed.   Next the stalk is cut off close to the ground.  All that is left is a stalk 5 to 11 feet tall, 1 to 2 inches in diameter at the end closes to the ground and about a 1/2 inch in diameter at the end closest to where the seeds were.

 The cane is then taken to the mill.   It is hand fed into the mill a few at a time depending on the size of the mill and its power source.  The rollers in the mill crush the stalks which squeezes the juice out of the cane.  The juice is collected into a container to await cooking.

After enough juice is collected to fill the first section of the evaporator pan it is strained to remove pieces of stalk that might have been left in the juice.  It is poured into the first compartment of the evaporating pan.  A fire is built under the pan using wood or sometimes more modernly gas.  The pan is divided into compartments so that several "batches" can be cooked at one time facilitating a continuous cooking process. The juice must boil.   While the first batch is cooking, more cane is being squeezed and juice collected.   When enough for another batch is collected  the first batch is moved into the second compartment and the second batch is poured into the first compartment.  The process is repeated eventually filling all compartments in the pan.  When the juice reaches the last compartment it must be watched carefully so that it is removed at just the right time.  This is the part that takes practice and know-how.    Remove it too soon and it will not be done.  Wait to long and it will be thick and have a strong taste.  The whole time that the juice is cooking, until the last compartment or two, it must be skimmed.  This involves running a skimmer across the top of the cooking juice to remove the skim that forms on top which is the impurities cooking out of the juice. There is another method of cooking the syrup that is called a batch method.  It is made basically like the above paragraph describes except the pan is not divided into compartments.  It is just one large pan about 3-4 feet wide, 8-10 feet long and about 12 inches deep.  Here the juice is cooked as one large batch.

Eat the finished product.  Fans have their favorite uses.  Mine is over hot biscuits with butter on them or in cookies, either reminds me of my grandma's kitchen. These steps may be preformed in slightly different orders but generally this is how it is done. 


Molasses is made from sugar cane. Sugar cane is not grown in northern climate. Unsulphured molasses is the finest quality. It is made from the juice of sun-ripened cane and the juice is clarified and concentrated. Sulphured molasses is made from green sugar cane that has not matured long enough and treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extracting process. Molasses from the first boiling is the finest grade because only a small amount of sugar has been removed. The second boil molasses takes on a darker color, is less sweet and has a more pronounced flavor. Blackstrap molasses is from the third boil and has the strongest taste. It is high in Iron and used for medicinal purposes. Blackstrap is also used in the manufacture of cattle feed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

Mother’s Day will bring nearly 2,000 families hungry totreat mom to a meal. We have served nearly 40,000 family style dinners on Mother's day over the last four decades. For us and the restaurant industry, it is the greatest invention since yellow color was added to butter. The local legend is that was first added by the Freese Creamery in Nappanee; my dad always told me that, so it must have been true.

Although the celebration comes from ancient traditions, as most observances are, and is celebrated all over the world in different ways and at different times. It was institutionalized in the United States in the early 1900’s and brought cries of commercialism as early as the twenties.

So if catering to husbands, fathers, children and grandchildren, who want a way to show their appreciation to their mothers, we are happy to oblige. It is a high water mark in our year. Everyone one here gets exited for Sunday morning—you wouldn’t believe how early families will come to be among the first to be served. Ruth Miller has been cooking all week and Sara Frey has been baking in the ovens all week, Mindy Liechty has been cleaning the dining rooms, yes rooms. We will have 500 seats available between Amish Acres Restaurant and The Barn Loft Grill, the former serving our famous Threshers Dinner and the latter featuring a buffet of the same menu.

You wouldn’t believe the size of some of the parties! It must take a social secretary to arrange for so many from so far to gather at the same time to honor mom. For our part, she gets a free ticket to the final show of Church Basement Ladies that has broken all box office records for the most attended opening musical in The Round Barn’s history. If this is commercial, we plead guilty with a smile on our faces.