The Secret Ingredient That Gives Amish Recipes A Major Upgrade

Anyone who's driven through central Pennsylvania or rural Ohio will likely immediately recall not just Amish country, but Amish baked good country. Those who grew up in these places or in the less-well-known Indiana Amish Country may recall buggies tied up on Main Street on weekday afternoons with tables set out selling their wares — handicrafts, elaborate quilts, and, of course, Amish baked goods and candy-colored Ball jars of glorious Amish jam (via IMPress). While sturdily made and unpretentiously beautiful Amish-made furniture can be bought in specialty stores all over the country and even online (like from the Amish Show Room), Amish culinary specialties like velvety Amish butter, shoofly pie (aka the most famous pie in Pennsylvania), and hand-held turnovers called Fry Pies, are essentially limited to farm stands, farmers' markets, and local markets near Amish communities.

But just as the magic of the internet can bring a Shaker chest to California (via Dutch Crafters), it can also bring a little Amish homestead to your kitchen wherever it may be. Before you could watch Amish reality shows (or really Amish reality TV hoaxes) on your laptop, an Old Order Amish wife and homemaker Elizabeth Coblentz hand-wrote a cooking column, starting in 1991, that became so popular it was ultimately syndicated across more than 100 newspapers nationwide (per the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times). While Ms. Coblentz passed away in 2002, her timeless advice can still be found swimming around the internet.

Adding vinegar to fruit helps keep things 'tart'

The Amish Cook columnist Elizabeth Coblentz once wrote of baking 70 pies for her daughter's wedding (via New York Times). How many of us can say we've baked 70 pies in a lifetime, let alone on just one occasion? So if she says to add an ingredient to your pies, she's probably on to something. Even if that something is vinegar.

While you may scoff (or wretch) at the thought of a vinegar and fruit pie, there's plenty of precedent for adding a shot of something sour. The Pioneer Woman's Ree Drummond, known for her down-home classics, recommends adding balsamic vinegar to boost a cherry pie's tartness. Without thinking too hard, you can probably recall a fruit dessert that calls for lemon juice, such as blackberry pie.

Just as lemon juice keeps luscious fruit fillings from coming off sickly sweet (via Bon Appétit), vinegar fills a similar role. Traditionally, lemons were hard to find much of the year. Vinegar stepped up as an equally sour substitute for lemon juice, unhindered by a growing season. Vinegar seems particularly well adapted to cherry recipes. According to Taste of Home, The Amish Cook's Coblentz recommended adding a splash of vinegar to all cherry baked goods, not just pie fillings. Just like The Pioneer Woman, The Amish Cook says vinegar keeps cherry pie "tart." So this cherry season, maybe skip the treasure hunt for the tartest cherries you can find and just add a spoonful of vinegar.