“Amish Cook – March 5, 2012″

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EDITOR’S DISCUSSION:  I could have posted some photos of steer butchering but, honestly, the ones I got ended up being too graphic to share, so I decided on solar stuff. Solar and wind energy is becoming more more common among the Amish, it keeps them “off the grid” while allowing them to “cherry pick” technologies that can enhance their life (like a freezer) without chewing away at family life (like the internet or an automobile).

On the issue of butchering, I do like the fact that nothing is wasted…but, ugh, eating the brains?…I just don’t know that I could….have any of you eaten something unusually exotic or just plain gross? – Kevin

PHOTO CAPTIONS:  Top photo is of Lovina’s new solar-powered freezer, while the bottom shows the solar-panels outside that power it.

THE AMISH COOK

BY LOVINA EICHER

It is 7 am and our six youngest children just left for school. I thought I would get this column written right away this morning. I am battling a bad head cold which kept me awake a lot during the night. It makes for a very tired mind and it doesn’t help matters any when I think of the extra busy week ahead.

Friday evening we butchered a 1280 pound beef. We are glad temperatures stayed cold with the thermometer now showing 20 degrees. With the mild temperatures during the winter it can be tricky to butcher meat. The girls and I plan to start putting up the beef tomorrow. Joe and the children will help when they get home. I enjoy the job of cutting up beef even though it is a big job.

We washed laundry this morning because daughter Elizabeth will go to work this afternoon. While Elizabeth is working Susan and I plan to get the tables ready for the beef. We want to get everything ready today so we can tackle the big job tomorrow. Hopefully by then I will be feeling better as well. I will do some canning but not as much as I used to. It is so much easier to freeze everything. I like canned beef chunks for soups and canned hamburger for casseroles. The sun is shining brightly already but next week it will be an hour later with the time change. I always like to see the sun come out but even more now that we have the solar-panels to run our freezer.

Amish cook march 5 2012

We want to see how much room we have in the freezer after the beef is done. If we have enough room we might butcher a hog or two yet if the weather stays cold enough. I still have a few bags of sausage left in the freezer from last year. I mostly use the sausage in chili soup and in making gravy. Also I use sausage in casseroles or pizzas sometime. A person can’t be thankful enough when there is plenty of meat in the house for another year. And before we know it gardening time will be here again. The garden also helps fill the jars with food. God has been good to us but let us not forget to take time to thank Him for our blessings.

Amish cook march 5 2012

Our thoughts and prayers go to the families hit by the tornadoes last week. We wish them God’s blessings in their recovery and rebuilding. Although we were not in the area of the tornadoes one of the big red oak trees in our yard uprooted during a windstorm. We are very thankful the children were not home at the time because they could have been playing in the front yard. That night it was a nice sunny evening with temperatures in the upper 60s.

Yesterday we had a nice surprise visit from Joe’s Uncle Solomon in Ohio. Joe’s cousin’s son Ben was also along. The girls and I were making breakfast so we had them eat breakfast with us. On the menu was eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, Swiss and Colby cheese, fried brains I fixed from beef we butchered. Uncle Solomon helped Joe eat them. I dip them in egg and roll them in flour and then fry them. They come out looking just like a chicken breast, you could fool someone it looks so much like chicken. I never tasted them and I don’t think I want to, but Joe likes them. I told Joe I am glad that is over with for another year. Three boys tasted the brains and said they were good but none of them asked for seconds. The highlight of butchering beef for our family is having rare beef again. It is steak sliced real thin and deep-fried a few seconds on each side. Grandpa Graber added a lot of pepper to it and Mom also peppered hers a lot. Joe and I like ours very peppery but the children just a little. So I fry one stack with a lot of pepper and another stack with less for the children.

Last week Jacob, Emma, Joe, and I attended the viewing of a second cousin in a nearby community. He was a bishop in that community and 69 years old. Our sympathy goes to the family.

With it being beef butchering time I thought I’d share this recipe which makes for a good casserole.

BEEF CHUNK CASSEROLE

1 pound canned beef chunks

3 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

6 slices of bread, cubed

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 quart corn

1 cup grated cheese

Place cooked meat in a baking dish. Beat eggs, milk, salt,and add broken up bread, corn, and onions. Pour on top of the meat. Melt butter and pour over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle cheese over all and bake until cheese melts.

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The Discussion

  1. Darlene Kistler-Alvord says:


    I remember eating brains and I guess most of the organs from the beef and pork that was butchered at our house. It is not ‘gross’, maybe ‘exotic’ but good.

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  2. Please don’t eat the brains!

    My father died of Crutzfeld-Jacob disease (the human form of “mad cow”). One of the ways it is spread is by eating the brains or nerve tissue (spinal material) of infected animals. It is not an easy way to die, and there is no cure. Animals that are butchered young will not have had time to develop symptoms.

    Sorry to be negative – but this is a very dangerous practice.

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  3. The concern about eating commercially produced beef is real, but when you know the whole history of locally produced meat there is little cause for concern. If you have never had the opportunity to eat that kind of beef it is an experience you really need to try. We had some $70 steak in Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonicos and though it was good, it was no better than the steak we get from our neighbors.

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    • Charlotte says:


      You also have to know the history of all of the food that was fed to the cattle. “Mad cow” disease is spread to cattle through commercial feed that may to contain animal by-products. Not sure that practice is done in the US any longer – but it is in other parts of the world.

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  4. We used all the parts also when butchering. They had something call brain pudding or brain sausage. No one seems
    to know what it is or heard of it in later years. We also like
    prettles, but only by certain recipes. Used pin head oats, not
    rolled oats as some seem think is correct. I agree butchering
    time was a big busy week for all.

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  5. Barbara Thomas says:


    Kevin, If you do not know about cannng beef, and I do not, at this point, would you take fresh beef and cook and then put it in this recipe? Obviously, this meat would already be cooked if canned????
    Thanks so much….topdawgBarb

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    • Hi, Barb! – I don’t know a ton about canning, but I do know that the meat in this recipe would be cooked and canned ahead of time so it’s just a matter of reheating. Hope that helps!

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  6. Connie Fritz says:


    I recieved my cookbooks and i am really enjoying them!! To tell you the truth I have only found one book so far with misprinted pages just stretched out but nothing missing!! Thanks for the great recipes and the wonderful stories!! Can’t wait for more!

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  7. Barb W. says:


    When I was young, we ate from the garden, and raised beef,hogs,chickens, and rabbits. I have eaten both beef ,and hog tongue, and heart.

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  8. It is so wonderful that in this day and age someone grows/feeds and then uses what they grow and feed to feed their own family. Now most children and for sure adults think everything comes right from Stop and Shop or Publix!!!

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  9. Virginia Morse says:


    I have never eaten brains ,Don’t think I’ll ever try ! !
    I do want you to know that my daughter signed me up to your e-mails , and I love getting them . I also enjoy the letters that Lovina writes ! Also when the daughters write .

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  10. Cheryl in WV says:


    I have never ate brain, no desire to even taste brain..my theory is, I won’t eat anything that an animal has been thinking with…:-)

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  11. Mary Doeson says:


    Germans and Austrians commonly eat fried brains with scrambled eggs. I grew up eating ‘Hirn mit Ei” – brains and eggs. They are a delicacy. Very tender and yes, chickeny. Fry them up with butter and some bacon. Delicious!

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    • Deanna Schroeder says:


      My daughter talks about eating brains and eggs for breakfast at her cousin’s house in Colorado. I think she only tasted them. She is the brave one in the family and will try anything. Not me.

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  12. Carol Morris says:


    My grandparents were Old Order German Baptist and I remember butchering days. My mother ate brains with scrambled eggs. I never would. I do love baked tongue but it’s hard to get now. Heart is also good. Maybe age makes a difference in what we like and eat. (I’m not so young any more)

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  13. I’m thankful I’m a vegetarian!

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  14. pat rizzi says:


    My husband’s family are from Italy, and frequently ate brains and other organ meats. Brains taste good when mixed with scrambled eggs. You don’t find brains any more in the store. Probably due to the Mad Cow Disease scare. I would be hesident to eat cow or deer brains today. Could you lease follow up some more on the solar freezer? I would be very interested in doing something like that myself.Did they buy a comercial solar unit specificly for a freezer? What do they do when the sun doesn’t shine. Oh I have to many questions! But I am really excited about this. What a life saver if your conventional power goes out.

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  15. tink2034 says:


    On the note of eating brains, cant say in all my yrs being a butchers daughter we never saw the need to eat them. We often heard that people ate them, just never knew till Lovina’s column today how they were served.
    About the Beef chunks. If you can they are great. We canned alot of meat in our time, anything from chicken, ducks, rabbit, pork etc. Put your chunked meat in a jar, fill with water and salt and can. Very tender and moist, mostly my folks would then pop a lid and then fry it up to reheat it. Its wonderful, very tender.
    We did alot of butchering on weekends and i sure do miss it. My father did everything the old fashioned way, and boy i sure miss those weekends learning those old fashioned life skills. I look back on those experiences and realize just how lucky i am at 34, those life skills sure come in handy today. Wish my father was still with us to help pass those reciepes etc. down to his grandkids. Such wonderful memories. Keep up the good work Lovina and family, we sure do like your column here in PA. God Bless

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  16. Donna Lu Smith says:


    Our Dad butchered beef and goat. In the winter, it was not unusual to see a carcass draped in white cloth or brown paper hanging on our North porch. When I was a toddler, I remember seeing a large carcass on our red and white enamel l kitchen table. Now, I realize it must have been a goat. I grew up eating heart liver, sweet breads. and brains. My mother fried the brains with a crunchy cracker coating that was delicious. Years later, my mother in law cooked brains with scrambled eggs. and I could not stand them. without the crunchy crust.

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  17. My husband had veal brains once (sweet breads). It was prepared exactly as Lovina described what she made. There isn’t enough money in the world to get me to try that!

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  18. Diane Adelstone says:


    You know, just hearing the word brain and knowing all the nerves from the spinal column attaching all the way up to the brain leads a clear thinking person to understand that you are not to eat a brain. Why would a person benefit from eating a brain anyway….there are much better parts of the animal. I do not see anything mentioned in the bible where God’s chosen people were instructed to eat the brain of any animal.

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  19. Theresa says:


    My mom grew up eating brains & eggs. they also ate a lot of fish eggs after cleaning the fish. I have never tried either one & have no desire to either!! I am wonderind how is steak canned? If you don’t have much freezer space & want to buy 1/2 side of beef how woul you store it?
    Thanks You Theresa

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    • Theresa,
      Your question about storage is where home-canning comes in. Lovina – and many Amish-homemakers who don’t have freezers – simply cook and home-can their meat so it can be stored in an out of the way place….Kevin

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      • What about steaks Kevin? Let’s say they butchered a steer & cut t-bones & other types of steak along with chunks of beef for stews. How did/do they preserve the steaks without a freezer? I don’t have a big freezer that’s why I’m so curious. Thank You

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  20. Marty Wells says:


    Never tried brains, but love tongue!! Nothing in the world like a cold tongue sandwich!! Did a lot of butchering in the fall, but didn’t stop at beef and pork, also add goat, lamb, rabbit, and all types of poultry!! Yes, you can can them too, raw or hot pack either way! My family (four boys) always pitched in. I also do venison when we get a couple.

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    • How do you cook your tounge Marty? We boil it up with some apple cider vinegar!! Makes for some good eating!! Although my city husband won’t touch it.

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  21. Lisa Combs says:


    never tried brains myself, not sure if I’d want to. but I do can my own beef as well. it makes fixing supper easier when you work. no, still can’t talk myself into trying brains. all that butchering brings back childhood memories!! thanks Miss Lovina and Mr Kevin!!!

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  22. For foods like beef, chicken, or even green beans or carrots you would need a pressure canner to get a safe level of preservation. Grandma would can meat till they got a freezer and always canned green bean soup in summer for the winter.

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  23. Jim Weiss says:


    Kevin, my grandparents came from germany.Nothing was wasted, from pork &cow brains to chicken feet. It was all good!

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  24. cheryl wise says:


    grew up butchering. i remember mom and dad butchering a hog. the smell when he went in a huge pot of boiling water was awful. i also remember mom rendering lard. the whole family hunted, so there were always rabbit and squirrel, along with game birds.
    since getting remarried in 93, i have found that my inlaws grew up pretty much the same way i did, and we still do our own butchering. we did 2 steers late last fall. we buy the steers from a local farmer, and he hauls them to the house. dad goes out and shoots them with my 20 gauge, and we all pitch in to help skin and gut. we have a few neighbors who pitch in to help with the work and the costs.
    we cut the beeves up into quarters, and let them hang for a week. then, the same crew comes in and we spend the day cutting and wrapping.
    mom amd dad and i get all the bones, and we cook those down for 6-8 hours, then pick the meat off and use the broth to can with. if it doesn’t end up in the freezer, we can it.
    mom, dad, and the neighbors split up the heart and the liver. mom lives for beef tongue. a friend took brains home last time, but he said they didn’t turn out very well.
    my husband and a friend also hunt turtles in the spring, so we always have a good supply of meat. we also fish, so there are always plenty of blue gill in the freezer.
    recently, we had a “game feed” for friends and neighbors. we had venison, goose, beaver. beaver is like a real moist roast beef, but the flavor is a little different. mom was afraid we wouldn’t have enough meat for 30 plus people, so she fixed a 20 lb. turkey as well.
    since we also “do” farmers markets during the summer, we, too,can and freeze a lot of the produce we grow. last year, i started making jellies and jams for the markets.
    we have a space under the stairs that we turned into “the canning cupboard”. usually, by nov. 1st, it, and the freezers are completely filled. last year, we canned so much that we had to move into another room.
    there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the freezer, and the cupboard full of home canned goods. it gives you a sense of fulfillment, that you can provide food for your family, and not have to go to the store to get it.
    i keep asking my husband when i can get some chickens, but since he is allergic to feathers and dust, i think that may be a lost cause. :)

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  25. JANE CAMPBELL says:


    I’m new to posting on here but I do follow the site. I read Amish Cook in the South Bend Tribune until they stopped 7 day delivery. That is when I found you online. Today’s colum and comments brought back so many memories just like all the others. I too grew up on a farm and we raised all our own beef, hogs, chickens, ducks, sheep and a HUGE garden every year.
    The “city guys” that came to hunt on our land kept us supplied with wild game, squrriel,rabbit, goose,ducks, racoon,muskrat, etc. My uncle was a “big ” game hunter so he added moose, bear, elk, antelope to our table. When Mom and Dad would butcher steers, or hogs, nothing was wasted. I didn’t really mine eating all the “odd parts” but some off it wasn’t my most favoirite part. Mom used to take all small scraps off of the boiled off bones and make pickled souse. You can still find it in some of the “Amish” markets in Middlebury IN. I sure enjoyed all the stories ane the memories you brought back today. Thanks

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    • Jane, welcome, thanks for sharing the memories..I hope you come back here.,I post Lovina’s column each Monday!

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  26. Joan Van Blaricome says:


    I grew up also with pressure canned meats and a garden. Lots of fish and wild game, too. My parents purchased a house for the first time when I was 13 years old where we had electricity, but no indoor plumbing. My first indoor plumbing was when I married in 1957. Those were really the good ole’ days. My question is regarding the Beef Chunk Casserole. Do you drain the canned beef and corn? I pressure can venison with a few chunks of beef or pork. I like the pork chunks the best. Some times I add beef broth, but don’t need much as I pack the meat chunks pretty tight. Makes wonderful noodles, hot meat sandwich on bread with mashed potatoes, pot roast or anyway that you can use canned meat.
    My maiden name was Miller (German). In-laws Van Blaricome(German-Dutch)
    I have most of your cookbooks. I get the column in the Fairfield Town Crier, Fairfield, Iowa. I truly enjoy the Amish Cook. Joan

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    • Joan – So good to see you here, thank you so much for your support and encouragement over the years! – Kevin

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