Modern Telling of The Scarlet Letter Getting BIG Buzz

tnThis week, I’m excited to introduce you to an up-and-coming debut author who has the publishing industry all abuzz. I met Jolina Petersheim last fall in Nashville at the Southern Festival of Books, and I felt like we had been friends for years. She radiates joy and draws kindred spirits to her like a magnet.

But in a way, I had known Jolina for a while. Our mutual author friend, River Jordan, connected us earlier that year, and I was one of the lucky few who was invited to read an early copy of her novel, The Outcast, a story for which I offered full endorsement (It’s since earned a starred review by Library Journal!)

Now, it’s FINALLY time for the rest of you to enjoy Jolina’s talents, and because she has a fascinating family history involving the Old Order Mennonite community, I’m betting this is just the start of a long and prosperous writing career. Today, she’s agreed to share a classic Mennonite recipe that has been used for generations. Enjoy!

Hi Belles! Thanks for welcoming me to chat on your porch today. Once, when my family was visiting our relatives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my great aunties brought out crystal relish trays piled with fourteen-day sweet pickles that were as green as slices of jade. My mother, seeing how her children devoured the pickles and licked their fingers clean, found the recipe in her ancient Mennonite Community Cookbook, which our family had been using for generations.

That humid Tennessee summer, almost every cucumber in the garden was set aside for pickle usage. The recipe was time-consuming, but the results were just as scrumptious as our aunties’ batch. The pickles were sweet, crisp, with just a hint of spice from horse-radish leaves. I consumed a jar a day, so did my older brother. That crop of fourteen-day pickles was gone in less time than it took our mother to make them. But oh, were they worth it!

This summer, if you’re looking for a way to use up excess cucumbers in the garden, here’s a recipe for you:

Fourteen-Day Sweet Pickles (Recipe taken directly from the Mennonite Community Cookbook my mother gave to me after I married my husband, whose grandfather was kicked out of the Amish church!)Ingredients:

  • 15 pounds medium-large cucumbers
  • 1 cup salt
  • Water to cover
  • 1 tablespoon powered alum
  • Horse-radish leaves
  • 2 quarts vinegar
  • 2 ½ pounds brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 ounce stick cinnamon


  • Wash cucumbers and place in salt brine to cover, using 1 cup salt to one gallon water.
  • Let stand 7 days in a stone jar. Drain.
  • Arrange alternate layers of cucumbers and horse-radish leaves in the jar.
  • Cover with boiling water and let stand until next day.
  • On the ninth day, remove horse-radish leaves and drain.
  • Dissolve alum in boiling water and pour over cucumbers enough water to cover.
  • On the tenth day, drain off liquid and bring it to a boil.
  • Allow to remain on the cucumbers until the twelfth day.
  • Drain and cut pickles in 1 inch chunks.
  • Combine sugar, vinegar and spices and bring to a boil.
  • Pour hot liquid over cucumber pieces.
  • The next day, drain liquid and bring to a boil.
  • Pour over pickles.
  • On the fourteenth day, pack pickles in jars.
  • Bring liquid to a boil, fill jars and seal.

51pCAbkfXZL__SL500_My debut novel, The Outcast – a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter set in an Old Order Mennonite community in Tennessee – features more recipe titles I culled from the Mennonite Community Cookbook. It felt slightly strange to thumb through a newer addition of the same book my Plain grandmother, Charlotte Miller, and great-grandmother, Verna Grove, had once used.

Ten years ago, I would’ve never believed one day I would tap into my heritage and write Amish fiction. But now that I am older, I find that it is not the simplicity of the recipes that appeals to me – koppche cheese, grummbeere, fleesch, chicken welschkann supp – but the simplicity of the lifestyle itself. Just like my flawed heroine, Rachel Stoltzfus, I momentarily had to step away from what I knew to deepen my walk with the Lord and find myself in Him.

Jolina has agreed to send one lucky porch pal a  free copy of her soon-to-be-released novel, The Outcast. Comment below to be entered into the drawing. A winner will be announced next week on my Wednesday blogpost.

Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Visit Jolina and her blog at 




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Julie Cantrell

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author at Harper Collins Christian
Julie Cantrell is a tree-hugging organic-farm girl and mother of two who happened into a mid-life adventure as a novelist. She's having fun parenting, writing, teaching, speaking, and living the dream.

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  1. Brittany McEuen says

    This book sounds extremely interesting and I would enjoy a chance to win a copy. I remember reading The Scarlet Letter in high school and it was one of the books that really captured my attention.

    • says

      Hello, Brittany! Thank you so much for visiting with me here on “the porch.” I loved The Scarlet Letter in high school as well. I wrote a paper on it, and since then it’s held my fancy. Hope you enjoy The Outcast’s modern retelling!



  2. Lisa Wingate says

    Hi Jolina! It’s so good to have you here on the porch today. I so enjoyed having a chance to read The Outcast early. Beautiful writing, beautiful story. Readers are in for a treat!

    Love the pickle recipe. Am putting this in my file of “dream” recipes for that someday-when-there’s-time, which will certainly come along. Here’s one of our family fave, slightly labor intensive summer pickles. The cinnamon stick in your recipe made me think of these:

    Congratulations on the book release. Off to share!

    • says

      I visited your post, Lisa, and LOVED it! (Especially the image of jackrabbits carrying parasols. You are a hoot!) Thank you so much for your support of The Outcast. I cannot wait to meet you in person at Girlfriend Weekend. I just know that we are going to have a ball! Xo

  3. Teresa Merriman says

    Thank you for sharing the recipe with the family story! I love that! I cannot wait to read your book!

  4. Annette Davidsojn says

    Sounds like a book that would be just what I enjoy reading. Thank you for this opportunity to win,
    God Bless You.

  5. Velma Hunsucker says

    I must admit, I have never read an Amish novel, but this one sounds intriguing. I would love to read it!

    • says

      I’m so glad you think the premise is intriguing, Velma. I’m hoping to portray, with The Outcast, that the fallibility of man extends beyond just the Englisch. But God can bring redemption to every situation. Thank you for stopping by!

  6. bonnie says

    Admire the Amish for their simple lifestyle & convictions, love eating their cooking & reading books about them – hope I win this one!

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  7. Susie McQueen says

    Would love to read the book — have been blessed by so many Christian authors who challenge me with the lives of their characters to live my faith more fully, and to embrace God’s love for me even when I feel I least deserve it (I never deserve it, but there are times when I ‘blow it’ so much I am tempted to think I’m beyond His Grace!)
    Will share the Pickle recipe with my sister, whose garden usually produces abundantly!

  8. says

    Isn’t that true, Susie, about being tempted to think we’re beyond God’s grace? But we must always remember that His perfect grace covers a multitude of our sins, if we truly repent from them and turn. This is one of the main themes in The Outcast. Thank you so much for visiting with me here. I hope your sister enjoys the pickle recipe!



  9. Beth says

    Yum! This recipe makes me long for the garden from my childhood – we had a small one & my parents canned a lot of things. Fresh greens for salad…fresh tomatoes…they really are better than the store!

    Thank you so much for the chance to win! The Outsider has been on my radar for a good while!


    • Julie Cantrell says

      Hi Beth, You’re name has been added to the drawing. I love spending time in our garden, and you’re right…there is NO comparison to store-bought tomatoes. Or broccoli. Or strawberries…the list goes on and one 😉 Happy Reading! j

    • says

      I’m so honored to hear that, Beth. And your childhood garden reminds me a lot of my parents’. My dad was famous for making fertilizier from horse droppings. We had tomatoes the size of dinner plates. : )

  10. karenk says

    a great posting…I’ve been to Lancaster, PA many times (love it!!)…thanks for the chance to read your novel, Jolina.

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Hi Heather — I’m like you…have NEVER made pickles, and I admit I’m a bit intimidated by any recipe that takes two weeks to finish, but I’m going to give it a try when our cucumbers pile up. We’ll make it into an experiment for my budding scientific kiddos. Thanks for joining us. julie

    • says

      I’ve never made pickles, either, Heather, so we’re learning together. I have made applesauce, though, and I loved it so much that I am hoping I enjoy making pickles, too. We’ll have to see! ; ) Thank you so much for stopping by!

  11. Sheri says

    I have been following this book for quite a while. It sounds awesome and I can’t wait to read it! I would love to win a copy!!

    By the way, the pickles sound great too!!

      • says

        Some Mennonites do go through 12 years of shocol and on to college. Others still only go to 8th grade. I know this to be fact because I know Mennonites personally with varying degrees of education. My non-Mennonite step-daughter married a Mennonite with an 8th grade education. His parents drive horse & buggy, all of their 6 children drive. Another of their sons married a girl who was adopted into a Mennonite family,raised Mennonite & is college educated. There is a great deal of variety among people who are Mennonite, in their beliefs and lifestyles according to what I have personally seen.

  12. Diana Smith says

    I look forward to the opportunity to win your new book. Better yet to read it. I just can’t get enough of the Amish Fiction books. Seems that’s all I read any more. Thank you for the chance. I will share it with our church library.

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Hi Diana, welcome to our porch! You’re not alone…Amish Fiction is a huge seller in the market. I admit, I don’t read Amish Fiction…but I LOVED this book! And I really think you will too. Cheers, julie

  13. Karen Funk says

    Would love to win this book. I love to read and Christian fiction is a great way to spread the Word.

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Thanks for joining us, Karen. Good luck in the drawing! Glad you enjoy reading our works. Cheers, julie

    • says

      I agree with you, Karen, that fiction is a great way to help spread God’s message of redemption! Thank you so very much for stopping by on the porch! I’ve loved visiting with you all. : )



  14. Cindi Altman says

    Thanks for the pickle recipe. I’m going to try it when our cucumbers are ready.

    Love the cover of your new book. I hope I’m the lucky recipient of your giveaway.

    • Julie Cantrell says

      Hi Cindi – So glad you joined us on the porch. Like you, I’m eagerly waiting our cucumber harvest now and I too love that cover of Jolina’s book. Your name has been added to the hat. Thanks for reading! julie

    • says

      Hello, Cindi! So nice to connect with you here. I hope you enjoy the pickle recipe; it’s a lot of steps, but so worth it! I love The Outcast’s cover, too. Tyndale did a great job! : )

  15. Barbara Ann Beers says

    I started reading Amish fiction in 2006 and I haven’t much else since! I LOVE that there are so many new authors because it means more choices. I would be so happy to win The Outcast, it would be a very unexpected birthday present (my birthday’s 2 days after the drawing).

    It’s so nice to have cookbooks from our faith — a treasure almost. I have my grandmother’s Inglenook Cookbook that was published in 1901 by the Church of the Brethren (which, if you aren’t familiar with the Church of the Brethren, is also Anabaptist and a peace church like the Mennonites and Amish). Brethren Press is releasing a new edition next month and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new in the kitchens of my Brethren sisters.

    • says

      Hello, Barbara! What a small world! My grandmother became Brethern (she was Old Order Mennonite) once she married my grandfather. Therefore, my mother was raised in a Brethern church. I’m very interested in thsi new cookbook. Thank you for sharing with me!


  16. says

    Hello, Cindi! So nice to connect with you here. I hope you enjoy the pickle recipe; it’s a lot of steps, but so worth it! I love The Outcast’s cover, too. Tyndale did a great job!

  17. says

    Hey Jolina, you sweet girl! I’m late to the porch (pulling grand-duty in TX with the boys) but I’m so excited about your novel coming out. Just as Julie said, I was drawn to you immediately and have enjoyed watching you reach your goal! Love the pickle recipe, too! THX!

  18. Kathryn Hertz says

    I too love the simple lifestyle of the Amish communities and have longed to travel to one. It is on my bucket list. I would love to be able to win your book as it sounds very intriguing, and, I cannot wait try your pickle recipe. It will most definitely be a way to use up some of my cucumbers. Good luck with your writing adventure.

    • says

      Hello, Kathryn! Farm machinery auctions near Mennonite/Amish communities are a great place to come in contact with the Gentle People. It’s really nice because you are both at a neutral location and everyone can then feel at home. Thank you so much for stopping by; hope you enjoy The Outcast and the pickle recipe!

  19. Randi L. says

    I enjoy reading Amish fiction, and this book sounds very interesting. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!


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