Farmer's market in Philly. Where the Amish and Mennonites sell their delectable fare

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

This is Pennsylvania Dutch country. The cooking styles that originated here in the Eastern heartlands of the United States came from the Dutch, English, and German settlers. They formed a food pattern that gravitated easily into the mainstream of American cooking.

Some of these specialties need to be tasted at the scene to be experienced completely - like Philadelphia scrapple and that city's renowned pretzels, and perhaps best of all, the traditional foods of the Amish and Mennonite cooks and farmers of Lancaster County.

To do this the easy way, one has only to stroll through the Reading Terminal Market, a Philadelphia ethnic-farmer's market since 1893, where people sell their wares in a down-home manner - doing business in the old-fashioned way.

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Once a train shed that hummed near the turn of the century, today this vast arena is filled with hundreds of stalls where there are snack foods from many countries to eat while browsing.

Hucksters with hoarse voices offer everything from pork bellies to strudel dough and chocolate tortes. Fresh peanut butter is made on the spot.

There are things to be sampled and tested. Or, you can head for the corner where locally grown produce, homemade breads, sausages, and pastries are brought into market in the early morning by Amish farmers from Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Going to market as stand-holders or preparing food to be sold have always been natural practices for Mennonite and Amish cooks and farmers. These disciplined nonconformists, who seem to have a preference for farm-related occupations, have a wealth of bounty to share - either from their truck gardens or their kitchens.

The Mennonite and Amish farm families make up a strong core of the market's character - men and boys in dark suits and hats, and women and girls in simple dresses and braided hair capped by white prayer coverings. Their credibility and the excellent quality of their wares is well known.

You'll see the women offering hand-rolled egg noodles, selling their famous shoofly pie - the regular kind and a chocolate variety as well.

Someone may be making funnel cakes by dripping batter through a funnel into hot fat where it swirls as it cooks into crispy curls. And there'll be hot apple dumplings and homemade apple cider.

You can find the makings for a true feast from this rich, rural region among these Amish food stands, which are open Thursday through Saturday, with a few farmers arriving on Wednesday.

David Esh, an Amish farmer from Lancaster County, presides over a staggering display of huge goose eggs that cost $1.50 each, large duck eggs, double yolkers, and eggs from free-range hens. His farm produces 20,000 eggs every day, and he has special equipment to make sure they reach market in perfect condition.

Hatville Farms is the name of Mr. Esh's operation, and on his counters you'll also find locally cured meats and good country ham, Lebanon bologna, dried beef, double hickory smoked bacon, and hot dogs.

At the other end of Esh's counter are his cheeses: low-fat baby Swiss, cream cheeses, blue cheese, smoked, Cheddar, and more.

There are Amish products to eat on the spot, too.

At the Stolzfus Snack Bar you can take out barbecued beef, pork sandwiches, sloppy joes, and homemade soup. French fries, made from home-grown potatoes, are excellent. Pork and sauerkraut platters are served with real mashed potatoes.

Stolzfus has breakfast foods as well - ham and fresh eggs, eggs with scrapple and toast.

On the far side of the market we found a meat case with both pork scrapple and another loaf called turkey scrapple.

Traditional scrapple is an old Pennsylvania Dutch dish. It is a kind of meat loaf of pork and cornmeal, seasoned and chilled, then sliced and browned in bacon fat. It's often served at brunch with apple slices and brown sugar.

There are plans for a huge convention center in the terminal buildings, to include meeting rooms, restaurants, exhibit halls, and retail space for non-food items. People wonder if this will detract from the charm of the old-fashioned farmer's market.

``Not a chance. Nothing can kill that market,'' says David K. O'Neil, market general manager, who is credited for bringing the market back to its glory in the last 10 years.

Mr. O'Neil says he is not planning to risk losing any of the old market people.

``We don't want to make it impossible for tourists to get here, but we don't want any direct entrance to the market from the convention center,'' he says. ``We've got to preserve the flavor of the market.'' Philadelphia Scrapple 2 pounds pork neck or other bones 1 1/2 quarts boiling water 1 sliced onion 6 peppercorns 1 small bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon sage 1 1/2 cups cornmeal

Simmer pork in water with other ingredients except cornmeal, until meat falls from bones, about 2 hours.

Strain remaining liquor and reserve about 3 cups. Chop or mince meat. To 3 cups of cooking liquid, add salt and pepper to taste. Return meat to broth.

Mix cornmeal with 1 cup water and stir into meat mixture. Cook on low heat until thickened, then 10 minutes more.

Rinse a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cold water, put in meat mixture, and chill. Unmold and slice. Brown in bacon fat.

Serves 6 to 8.

Shoofly Pie 1 recipe flaky pie crust

Filling 2/3 cup boiling water 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup molasses

Crumb Topping 1 1/2 cup sifted flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, margarine or vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare pastry as directed for 9-inch piepan, making a high fluted edge; do not bake.

Mix filling.

Also mix flour, salt, and sugar and cut in butter with pastry blender until the texture of coarse corn meal.

Sprinkle about 1/3 cup topping into pie shell, pour in filling, and sprinkle evenly with remaining topping.

Bake on center oven rack 35 to 40 minutes until well browned. Cool on wire rack and serve warm or cold.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Pennsylvania Dutch Cracker Pudding 1 quart milk 2 eggs, separated 2/3 cup granulated sugar 2 cups saltine crackers, crumbled 1 cup grated coconut, medium shred 1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat milk. Beat egg yolks and sugar until frothy and light. Add to hot milk and stir in crackers and coconut. Cook over medium heat until thick. Remove from heat.

Stiffly beat egg whites and fold in with vanilla.

Serve cool or cold.

Serves 6.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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