When people think of foodie culture, they may think California, with its wine country and avocados. Or they may think of regional cuisines, like Florida’s Cuban eateries.
But Pennsylvania has an entire list of distinctive foods associated with it. The uniqueness comes from a compelling blend of immigrant histories, distinctive farming and agriculture, and the innovation of families throughout the region.
Here are eight distinctive foods associated with Pennsylvania that you must try on your trip!
Scrapple is a cousin of bacon, country ham, Canadian bacon and pork sausage. It’s made of pork scraps and cornmeal. It is less like ham than either country ham and Canadian bacon, and more like bacon if it doesn’t have separate strips of fat and meat. What it does have in common with all its cousins is the delicious cured flavor. It’s also eaten most often at breakfast, like the cousins, but there’s no rule about when you can tuck in.
Scrapple arose from the tendency of Pennsylvania farmers to use every piece of the hogs they were raising. It is now popular throughout the state. You have to taste it to get past the name, but once you do taste it, you’ll look for it everywhere.
This one is an urban innovation. Legend has it that a cook in Philadelphia threw some steak on the grill in his hot dog stand. Then cheese on top on it. Maybe he added onions and peppers, who knows. But a taxi driver smelled it; the cook threw the meat between the two parts of a bun…and lo, the cheesesteak was born. According to the same legend, the next day taxi drivers were lined up waiting.
The cheesesteak is as indelibly associated with Philadelphia as Ben Franklin and the Liberty Bell. There are many topping variations, and diners can take their pick.
3) Shoofly Pie
Shoofly pie is the creation of the farm wives of central Pennsylvania. It is made of molasses, long a farm staple, and brown sugar. It’s a very sweet dessert pie.
How does it get its name? Well, picture yourself as a farm baker in the nineteenth century. You pulled a pie out of a hot oven. You set it on a window sill to cool, a traditional method then. There was no air conditioning. But flies like to swarm around sweet things, and…the words “shoo, fly!” were said often that afternoon.
4) Amish Food
Amish country is one of the most distinctive things about Pennsylvania. The Amish, with their black clothes, bonnets and wagons, wear the dress the religious sect wore back in the 1800s when they fled Germany to establish their way of life. Although the Amish live not only in Pennsylvania but in parts of the Midwest.
Amish food offers wholesome country cooking, with homemade pies and bounteous tables. It is hearty and simple, as hardworking farmers would eat.
5) Apple Butter
Apple butter is a spread that was the guacamole toast of its day. Apple butter is an alternative to butter to spread on toast. It really has nothing to do with butter. When harvest season comes, you see, farmers often have a ton of fruits ripening at the same time. Creative cooks back in the day, with limited refrigeration, did what they had to do. They got creative.
They slow cooked apples until they were a consistency that could be spread. Much apple butter is spiced with cloves and cinnamon. It’s associated with Pennsylvania because there’s a lot of it, but apple butter can be found where a lot of apples get ripe at the same time.
Pretzels are yeasty dough put into a cool shape and fried. Salt is added. The shape is so identifiable that to be “like a pretzel” doesn’t mean salty; it means tied in a knot. Originally, they were German. But many Germans emigrated to Pennsylvania. They brought the tradition of pretzels with them. Now, you can find pretzels nearly everywhere in Pennsylvania, from Philly street corners to local markets.
The advantage to pretzels is that they are a filling snack. Hot, fresh pretzels are nothing like their more anemic siblings found in a vending machine.
7) Hershey’s Chocolate
In 1905, the Hershey brothers founded a candy-making factory near the town that now bears their name in central Pennsylvania. If you’ve ever eaten a Hershey bar or Reese’s peanut butter cup — and who hasn’t — you’ve eaten their distinctive contribution to Philadelphia cuisine.
The story of Hershey’s chocolate is a combination of the farming history of Pennsylvania and the early twentieth-century move to factories, to mass produce goods.
8) Red Beet Pickled Eggs
This is a unique food item out of Pennsylvania Dutch country. They are vinegary pickled eggs a deep red in color. While not to everyone’s taste, they are a tribute to innovation in farms that had lots of eggs and, well, beets. Red beet pickled eggs also show the contribution of German cuisine with a vinegary, tangy side, the same side that has given the world sauerkraut and pickles.
Traveling Pennsylvania’s roads and byways? Put these eight foods on your list to sample. They range from the main course to delicious dessert, from super-sweet to amazingly tangy. Good stuff!
About the Author
Kacey Mya is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective – an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture and the world around us. Throughout her life, she has found excitement in the world around her. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations, cultures, and styles while communicating these endeavors through her passion for writing and expression. Her love for the world around her is portrayed through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing and inspiring posts.
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