The Amish are one of the few people who have preserved a traditional lifestyle. Most Amish orders have strict rules against technology adoption for transportation and farming.
Considering there are still devout Amish groups that shun the use of electricity within the home, how do the Amish keep food cold without modern technology?
Even as more and more Amish people embrace some forms of modern technology, the community has perfected age-old techniques to keep their food cold. With these techniques, they can keep their food and farm produce fresh during summer and store excess food for later consumption. Let's look at how the Amish keep food cold.
What this article covers:
Can the Amish Use Refrigerators?
Conservative Amish orders have strict rules against the use of or association with worldly influences. They consider most modern technology worldly. Thus, they don't have to use refrigerators and other home appliances. All community members must always portray humility, simplicity, and modesty daily.
Less strict Amish communities allow gas-powered refrigerators. In fact, some community members manufacture their own.
Why do they prefer gas-powered refrigerators? Electrical ones mean that they have to be connected to the public grid. Such connections could expose them to over-reliance on the outside world and bring modern influences such as TV and the internet. That said, some new order Amish have electricity which they use to power everyday gadgets.
With such strict rules, do Amish drink coffee? Yes, they do. However, since electricity is still rare, they opt for a percolator or an old-fashioned stovetop pot to boil their coffee.
How Do the Amish Keep Food Fresh?
If you're wondering how some members of the Amish community keep their food fresh without having a refrigerator, the answer is cold storage. Here are several cold storage techniques used by the Amish.
The Amish have a unique way of keeping their perishables fresh and cool. A cold stream is a stream of running water from a nearby lake or river, usually under the house of an Amish family. The cool water enters the home through channels, and as it passes underneath, it maintains optimal temperatures for storing food.
Using a cold stream, they keep perishable food that needs to be kept cold but not frozen from spoiling. The stream is corralled into a stone trough that serves as a “chilling bath” for the food. The Amish have used this method for centuries to keep their fruit and vegetables fresh.
Ice houses are also popular cold storage techniques used by many Amish communities. An ice house is an insulated basement or cellar that stores ice throughout the year.
Various settlements hold ice parties in January or February, where they harvest blocks of ice from medium-sized ponds. Each family then places these blocks of ice in their family ice house.
Are ice houses effective in keeping food chilled? These small, insulated basements create their own atmosphere when loaded with the correct amount of ice blocks. The house can maintain temperatures for months if the users shut the door quickly after entering the ice house.
A root cellar is an underground or partially underground structure. These structures use the earth's natural properties to maintain controlled temperatures and steady humidity.
The Amish store fruits, nuts, vegetables, and other types of food in root cellars. They also store canned goods in the root cellar to help them get through the winter months. These cellars keep their food from freezing during winter and keep it cool during the summer.
Before refrigeration was available, these cellars were widely used to store food and wine. Do the Amish drink alcohol? They have strict rules prohibiting alcohol use so you won't find any alcohol in their root cellars.
Renting Refrigerators and Freezers
Conservative Amish orders, in Indiana, for instance, have yet to adopt solar or gas. How do they keep their food fresh?
You'll often spot outbuildings in these communities. These outbuildings are owned by non-Amish entrepreneurs. They house freezers that Amish families rent.
These outbuildings benefit the Amish as they help them keep the tradition of not embracing technology while allowing them to keep their food fresh even without electricity. Some entrepreneurs also have telephones in these houses that the community pays to use.
Even with these traditional storage methods, Amish food is still so good. Why is Amish food so good? All Amish food is homemade with freshly ground spices and herbs and utilizes techniques such as slow cooking.
Amish families have used several preservation methods to ensure that they have food even during off-season months. One such method is canning.
Just like the practice of weaving easter baskets for home use and for selling to support the community, Amish canning secrets have been passed down through generations.
The Amish use several canning methods depending on the type of food, including the following:
- Boiling water bath: This method is best for highly acidic foods such as tomatoes. It involves submerging jars of food in boiling water, which kills bacteria and seals the lid.
- Pressure canning: This method is best for low-acid foods such as vegetables and meat. It involves placing jars in a pressure canner that has been sealed airtight, thus removing all oxygen and killing harmful bacteria.
- Dehydrating: The Amish also use dehydration techniques to preserve their food. This process uses the evaporation of water from the food to preserve it.
Amish Canned Foods
Here are some of the popular Amish canned foods.
Red Beet Eggs
Chickens slow down laying eggs during winter and fall. To ensure a constant supply of eggs during these months, the Amish preserve them by pickling them in jars.
To pickle red beet eggs, you'll need these ingredients:
- Canned beets
- Hard-boiled eggs
- White vinegar
To prepare red beet eggs, the Amish boil the liquid from the beets together with water, sugar, and vinegar. They then put peeled boiled eggs in a jar with the beets on top and add the liquid. The eggs are ready when they turn purple and have a shelf life of 3-4 months.
Chow chow is a popular Amish canned food made of chopped vegetables such as green beans, cabbage, and corn.
The Amish mix the vegetables with a combination of vinegar and spices, such as mustard seed and turmeric. The mixture is then cooked in boiling water before it's poured into mason jars for canning. After canning, chowchow has a shelf life of 1-2 years.
The Amish use the pressure canning method to jar beef. This canning recipe involves cutting pieces of boneless meat into small cubes and then pressure-cooking them in a jar with vegetables.
This method is similar to the one used for chowchow, but it takes longer as the canner needs to be sealed tightly, so there’s no oxygen before cooking. After canning, jarred beef can last up to 1 year and should be consumed within 3-4 days after opening.
Do Amish eat pork? Pork is a popular meat option for the Amish, with pork sausages being a common breakfast food.
Amish fruit jam is a popular Amish canned food, often prepared at Christmas time. Amish recipes for jam include berries such as strawberries and blueberries mixed with sugar and cooked in a boiling water bath.
The cooked jam is then poured into mason jars and sealed tightly to preserve the flavor of the fruit. The jarred jam can last up to a year if stored properly. Once opened, families use these jams for 3-4 weeks as long as they keep them in a cool place.
The Amish have many ingenious ways of preserving food without electricity. From canning to pickling and dehydrating, these methods are essential for a community that wants to keep its culture alive while also having access to fresh food.
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