From necessity to comfort food

Process of making slippery potpie remains the same

Process of making slippery potpie remains the same

February 10, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

CHEWSVILLE - This time of year, when the food supply was at its lowest, early German settlers soothed their hunger with slippery potpie.

The month of February and the first two weeks of March are known as "the six-weeks' want," said culinary historian Sally Waltz.

Because there wasn't much food, this was the time of year when survival meant living off of little, making a meal with the minimal.

"So they were trying to find foods that were nourishing and required very few ingredients," Waltz said.

Potpie is one of the meals that got them through.

Much has changed since the days of the German settlers. Dwindling food supply is not a concern anymore. Slippery potpie, once a meal made out of necessity, is now comfort food.


But the process of making slippery potpie hasn't changed much.

Waltz gives historic cooking demonstrations at the Rural Heritage Museum south of Hagerstown. She and her husband John Waltz Jr. live on a 153-acre farm that has been in John Waltz's family since the late 1700s. The farm still has a detached cooking house with a hearth, where Sally Waltz cooks Thanksgiving dinner each year.

Standing in the summer kitchen on her farm near Chewsville, Waltz explained the traditional process of making slippery potpie. When it came time to prepare the meal, she returned to her modern kitchen.

"You begin by preparing the broth," Waltz said. "I'm using chicken, but beef and pork also would have been used in this dish."

In a crockpot, she stewed chicken with salt, pepper, carrots, celery and onion. After the chicken has stewed for a day, she removes the meat from the bone. She takes out carrots, onion and celery from the broth, and adds saffron and dried marjoram. The broth is simmered in a large pot over medium heat, just warm enough to maintain a low boil.

Waltz next rolls out the dough, cuts it into squares and adds the squares to the boiling broth. Once the dough has been added, it only needs 20 minutes to cook.

"And then try it," Waltz said. "Some people like (the dough) a little more done, some people like it a little more doughy."

Slippery potpie

For the broth:

1 whole small chicken, cut up
3 stalks celery
1 large onion, quartered
3 carrots, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of dried marjoram
pinch of saffron

For the dough:

2 cups of flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
Milk, as needed to stiffen the dough

Place chicken, celery, onion, carrots, and salt and pepper in a crockpot with enough water to cover the chicken. Stew all day on high heat until chicken is tender.

Remove celery, onion and carrots from broth and discard. Debone chicken. Combine the chicken and broth in a large pot over medium heat on stove. Add a pinch of dried marjoram and a pinch of saffron. Add salt and pepper to taste. Maintain a low boil.

To make dough, combine flour, salt, egg and enough milk to stiffen the dough. Roll out to about 1/8-inch thick on a floured board. Cut into 2-inch squares.

Add dough squares to boiling broth mixture, a few at a time, stirring often to keep them from sticking together. Cook for 20 minutes, then taste for doneness.

- Courtesy of Sally Waltz

Talking with Sally Waltz

Sally Waltz chats with The Herald-Mail about German cuisine.

Q: You're into culinary history; What would you say (the German immigrant) legacy has been on American cuisine as we see it today?

A: They introduced, early on, ... a more simple diet. Early on, there were primarily two cultures here: the English and German. The English diet was rich, using a lot of ingredients. The German diet was more plain, and yet very flavorful. Just because they didn't add a lot of things to their foods, it was (still) very flavorful.

Q: If you were to pick a favorite historical dish, what would it be?

A:Probably my favorite is gumbis. This recipe dates back to the 1500s. It's cabbage, apples and onions, and you put it in a dish, like (an early) crock-pot, and set by the fire and let it simmer for hours, and the last hour before you're ready to serve you add some pork product, usually something left over from a previous meal. And you let that simmer and it is excellent.

Q:How did you find such a recipe?

A: At Landis Valley Museum, which is in Lancaster County (Pa.), outside of Lancaster. They pride themselves in doing everything historically correct - recipes to how to do it and this kind of thing. And this is where I became acquainted with gumbis, but I have found it in many books. Some varied ingredients, but basically the same thing.

Q: Gumbis, the name does not sound appealing, and then there are some ingredients I wouldn't think to put together. Sell me on gumbis.

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