This 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.
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 www.jolinapetersheim.com