Amish Haystacks

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Hopefully you’ll never find a needle in a haystack at an Amish home, because haystack can mean a meal.  I first became acquainted with Amish supper haystacks years ago at the home of the late Elizabeth Coblentz, the original Amish Cook..  A “haystack supper” is meant to be a fun “throw together” meal usually enjoyed on the weekends or at an Amish youth gathering..  I’ve put Elizabeth’s recipe for a haystack down below. It’s similar to eating a taco without the taco (although tacos don’t typically have spaghetti): layers of taco-seasoned meat, crackers, lettuce, tomatoes, and green peppers all smothered in a thick layer of shredded cheese.   A fun column about haystacks was penned today by John Carlson, a features writer for the Muncie Star-Press.  We invited him for supper at Elizabeth’s place about 15 years ago.  In so many ways, personally and professionally, that night seems like a lifetime ago.  The newspaper business was only just beginning it’s descent from its golden years to what I fear may one day be internet irrelevancy. Muncie had hung on to two newspapers well into the 1990s, long after most town’s second papers shuttered.  I was still in my 20s.  Ahh, youth.  Anyway, John writes entertaingly of his haystack encounter.  Haystack meals are well-suited for the Amish because in many communities meals are served in a bowl and everything sort of just runs together.  Peas get swirled in with mashed potatoes, corn with gravy, barbecue sauce with butter.  The food is all usually wonderful and most Amish will say “it’s all going to the same place anyway, so who cares?”  It takes some getting used to, I’ll admit, but after awhile it sort of works.

The breakfast haystack (pictured) is a more recent incarnation where biscuits, eggs, cheese, peppers, sausage, bacon is just served in one big mash-up drowned and drenched in sausage gravy.  I’m intrigued with this dish and look forward to trying it one day.
Okay, here is a recipe for a haystack and keep in mind, you can vary it any way you choose.  The rule is there are no rules.

Haystack Supper

1 3/4 cups soda crackers, crushed

3 pounds hamburger, browned, and 3 tablespoons taco seasoning added

4 cups lettuce, shredded

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 cups green peppers, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

Spaghetti, rice, or both — cooked until soft — enough to suit.

Put some of each on your plate, one layer at a time. Top with shredded cheese or a homemade cheese sauce. Also, salsa or ranch dressing is a good addition.

This will serve a family of six, but amounts can be adjusted to suit your taste and other vegetables can be added.

BREAKFAST HAYSTACK RECIPE: You put biscuits as your base and then pile diced ham, tomatoes, peppers, even some jalapeno peppers, plenty of eggs, some cheese and then drown the whole thing in sausage gravy.  Because everything is sort of piled on and it depends on how many people you have, giving measurements in a formal recipe for this is impossible. Just experiment and enjoy!

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The Discussion

  1. My sister learned the haystack supper when she lived in Texas. Her version had the hamburger, rice, lettuce, tomato, taco chips, cheese, sour cream, refried beans, peanuts, taco sauce, can’t remember what all, but it was very good, too.

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  2. You’re making me hungry.

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  3. Gotta try the breakfast haystack!

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