This article is a part of "The Amish Cook Column", a weekly series of featuring a story & recipe from Gloria Yoder, Amish wife & mother of six from Flat Rock, Illinois
Owning sheep has been a dream of mine for years.
After purchasing over 1000 chestnut saplings, Daniel told us how efficient it is to have sheep grazing among the trees. Besides keeping the grass clipped, the trees are also naturally fertilized.
Not only that, growing children equals more energy to be spent somewhere. Having hands-on experience with sheep and nurturing young trees sounded appealing to both Daniel and me.
Now, a couple of years later, I find myself gazing across the chestnut field time and again, wondering if my dream has become a reality. A flock of sheep contentedly munching on lush green grass among seven-foot trees, reaching for the skies and growing with each rain shower.Our first group of three lambs arrived a month ago. The children were elated. Who wouldn’t want to be the shepherd whom the sheep would learn to trust?
The sheep were bouncy and full of energy- who knew sheep could jump that high? I had no idea. Then, since they needed names, Snap, Crackle, and Pop seemed to be the perfect fit, so it was a deal.
I watched with keen interest, observing the very nature of sheep. If they were scared, they stayed in one tight group; where one went, they all went. My mind flashed to the reality that, as people, we, too, are much more protected when not on our own.
A few weeks later, we all went to a local sheep farm to buy four more sheep. Our neighbors, the Josh Raber family, went with us and also picked out sheep to add to their growing herd.
The old-time farmer and his wife helped us fetch and load the sheep.
Austin had an eye on a chunky-looking brown sheep. I agreed it looked promising for it to have a lamb this fall. “By November, it should be lambing,” the farmer said.
We were all eyes as we watched a llama strut among the sheep, acting as if he were the owner of them all. The little boys weren’t sure of this strange-looking animal as he curled up his lip, glaring at us.
After an hour or two, we all piled into the 15-passenger van and headed home.
This group of sheep was unloaded at Josh’s for the first couple of weeks since they came from a different farm.
Last Monday night, I felt an urge to fetch Brownie at Josh’s (as Austin named the new brown sheep). “But then, why be in a rush? Farmer Joe had said she wouldn’t have her babies till November,” I reasoned.
“We’ll wait till sometime in October to bring her home,” I told Austin.
The following morning, Austin answered a phone call. It was Josh. “We have three extra animals on our farm,” he said. “Two of them are your horses that came last night.” (Sigh, they managed to knock down the gate, then paid a visit to the neighbors.) “And the third animal stays close to Brownie.”
Austin erupted with, “A lamb! A lamb!”
It was true. If I had only followed my instinct, she would have been home. It didn’t take long to plan to see Brownie and Baby.
Everyone thought she was the cutest thing ever. “Could we name her Frisky?” Austin asked.
That evening, Brownie and Frisky came to their new home, getting the utmost care from six happy children.
Hopefully, soon, we’ll bring Twinkie, Whoopie, and Cookie (the other sheep we got from the farm) home to join the herd. First, we need to get our fencing system fixed. Our little nanny goat, which runs with the sheep, discovered how to get through the fence; then, of course, she’s got a following of all the sheep, thinking the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence.
With the older children in school, Jesse and Elijah are pleased to do anything they can for the sheep. We hope to have one more ewe with babies this fall; they should all be lambing by next spring. Who is the most excited about that? I have no way of knowing. We plan to build up our herd by keeping the ewes and see where it takes us. At any rate, we’ll keep you in the loop.
With all our little shepherds around here, I couldn’t resist sharing our Shepherd’s Pie recipe with you. I have no idea where that name comes from, but in my mind, I picture an old-time shepherd, weary from an entire day of being outside caring for the sheep, coming to the house with soothing shepherd’s pie set in front of him to give him the needed nourishment!
📷 Editor's Notes and Photos
I have never made Shepherd's Pie before and was eager to try Gloria's recipe. It turned out to be very easy. But you just need to plan ahead if you want to follow the recipe exactly.
First of all, I halved the recipe and it still made enough for 6 or 7 people. So unless you plan to be eating leftovers for two weeks or freezing some of it for later, I'd halve it.
I used three pounds of hamburger instead of the recipe's, which calls for 6 pounds. The three pounds was more than enough and I just halved everything else (except I used two eggs)
I didn't know exactly how to do this. I didn't have one of those huge roasters like the recipe calls for, but I had a big skillet, like a giant deep skillet, so I just mixed up the ground beef, oats, eggs, etc in that and spread it evenly throughout the pan and stuck it in the oven for the prescribed time.
Okay, the next part is where I cheated and cut corners. I just didn't have the time or inclination to make homemade mashed potatoes, so I got some pre-made store-bought mashed potatoes. Blah, I know, it's cheating, but it was late at night when I got around to this.
I am happy to report that the store-bought mashed potatoes worked just fine. It saved me a few steps, I just mixed that and the cream cheese, milk, etc all together. I mean, I guess I might not have needed to since the mashed potatoes from the store had milk, butter, etc, but, well, the way I did it turned out just fine. Use your own judgment, this recipe is tough to mess up.
The other change I made was to the cheese. I just didn't want to eat a bunch of Velveeta cheese, but I am sure it'd be super with it. I just used shredded cheddar, but 2 cups wasn't really enough to cover it thickly. In the end I also spread some mozzarella on it too. I put it in the fridge overnight and then popped it in the oven in the morning for 3 hours at 250.
Not sure why it stays in the oven at 250 for 3 hours. It just never got that hot, the mozzarella cheese wasn't even fully melted after 3 hours. So if I did it again, I'd be tempted to do 2 hours at 250 and then maybe a final half hour at 350. Feel free to experiment.
This is my shepherd's pie helping I had for lunch. It is really good, I think. So, have at it with the recipe below!
And feel free to experiment. Chop some onion and add it. Parsley. Add some heat with some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. You can experiment with amounts. Just enjoy!
🖨️ Full Recipe
Amish Baked Shepherd's Pie
- 6 pounds hamburger
- 2 ½ cups oatmeal
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon onion salt
- 3 cups milk
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 /2 stick butter
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- Mix together hamburger, oatmeal, eggs, pepper, salt, onion salt, and milk.
- bake in a large roaster at 350 for 1 hour. Cool.
- Cook 6 quarts peeled and cut-up potatoes. When soft, pour off water, mash and add cream cheese, butter, salt, sour cream, and onion salt,
- Stir till it is creamy, add more milk if necessary. Cool.
- When both meat mixture and potatoes are cold, add 2 cans cream of mushroom soup on top of hamburger then layer with mashed potatoes. Top with Velveeta cheese. Refrigerate overnight.
- Bake at 250 for 3 hours.