Pig Stomach & Other Berks County Foodways


Vicky Heffner, Education Curator at the Berks History Center, has fond memories associated with pig stomach. In her family, it’s a tradition to make pig stomach every year on her father’s birthday. So today, like every January 16th, Vicky prepared this family favorite.

Vicky first learned to prepare this Pennsylvania German treat with her grandmother. The pig stomach is cleaned and soaked in salt water overnight. Then, she cubes potatoes and removes the casing from the sausage (always from Peters Brothers Meat Market in Lenhartsville), mixing both with salt, pepper, and parsley. She stuffs the pig stomach with the mixture and sews it shut with a special sewing needle, which belonged to her great-grandmother. The stuffed stomach is baked for about 3 hours at 350 degrees in a special roasting pan. As you can see from the photo, the roasting pan is well-worn because it is the same roasting pan her grandmother used to make pig stomach. A perfect pig stomach is one that does not break open while cooking. Once cooked, the pig stomach is sliced and served. Vicky says the dish tastes best with corn and coleslaw.

You can almost imagine as she prepares this traditional Pennsylvania German meal, with all the knowledge and materials passed down to her from the previous generation, Vicky’s grandmothers, standing right there beside her in the kitchen as she carefully stitches up the pig stomach with her special sewing needle and roasting pan. You can imagine them smiling as she serves this meal to her children and they taste the same comforting flavors that their great-great-grandparents once enjoyed. This is the power of foodways. Our stories, our family history, our heritage can all be told through the food we eat. Just one bite can connect us to our past.

This year, the Berks History Center will explore this compelling human experience. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, foodways are the “eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period.” As we delve into this topic, we will focus on the foodways that are important to the people of Berks County. We will do so through themed programming, including Second Saturday programs and the Berks History Conference, as well online communications. We will share our local foodway stories, including stories from BHC staff, here on our blog, NewsBits (the BHC newsletter) and social media ( Follow @berkshistory).  We hope that you will share your stories too. Send us photos, recipes, and information about your traditional family foodways by participating in the #MyBerksHistory project or email us at publicity@berkshistory.org. We want to share as many stories about Berks County’s history as we can! Stay tuned!

This article was written as part of the Berks History Center’s 2018 Berks County Foodways Project. Click here to learn more about Berks County Foodways. 


Sauerkraut History: The Pennsylvania Dutchman


Happy New Year to all of our Berks County History fans! In Berks County (and beyond), pork and sauerkraut have become synonymous with the New Year. Here is Don Yoder’s interpretation of sauerkraut history from the January 1, 1951 edition of The Pennsylvania Dutchman. The photographs may be a little challenging to read, but we think this fascinating food history is well worth the effort!


Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature April 25, 1941

Dialect Nomenclature

Several weeks ago we asked readers to furnish us the dialect names of places in Berks and nearby. There were a goodly number of responses to the request but some of the correspondents requested that their names be withheld from publication for reasons of their own. Others were willing to have their names used. Der Ewich Yaeger respects all requests of this kind.

 The replies gave us a number of unfamiliar terms. There were a number of roads named “Wassem Schtross” or “Sod Street” and another recurring name for a road was given as “Bisskatze Schross” or “skunk Road”. Here we furnisha list of names supplied by anonymous writers.

Die Gass- A section between Adamstown and Blainsport, probably the tiny village of Vera Cruz, Lancaster County.

Knarrestettle- Knorrtown, Brownsville near Wernersville.

Wohlhaeverstettle- Bethel – Mt. Aetna. Dort eht mer hie fer en neier Rickstrang.

Hetrichestettle- Mt. Pleasant or Obold, along route 83.

Millerstettle- Bethel

Summerbarrick- Summer Hill in Tulpehocken township

Schpook lane- Near Newmanstown

Klappboardstettle- Clapboardtown, near Brownsville.

Greitzwaeg- Elizabethville, Dauphin County.

Warren Clouser of Berne Station supplies the following:

Mollossich Barrick- Molasses Hill, in Penn Township.

Grundt Aechle Barrick- in Centre Township.

Backmohl Schtross – in Tilden.

Kaes (Cheese) Lane, in Tilden.

Frank W. Matz, of Mohnton reminds us of these:

Schmutz Deich- Grease Bottom. So named because it was very muddy in wet weather. The road through this vale extended from Shillington, by the way of Mohnton to Gouglersville. There is another reference to a section named Schmutz Deich which cut through South Mountain near Fritztown.

Gens Lane- Goose Lane, extending from Lancaster Pike one half mile north of Gouglersville to Fritztown.

Gleiye Schtross- Bran Street, leading from Mohn’s Hill to Vinemont.

Der Schtate Waeg- State road leading from the Kurtz House, Oakbrook, to new Holland, now route 73. Certainly there must be other place names which hold interest for the historian and folklorist. Send them on.

…Bei ‘N Ewich Yaeger

Graeff, Arthur D. Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature. Reading TImes. April 25, 1941

Schutz Deich Leroy Gensler. Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature. Reading Times April 25, 1941
Schutz Deich Leroy Gensler. Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature. Reading Times April 25, 1941
Schpook Lane. Leroy Gensler. Reading TImes. Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature. April 25,1941
Schpook Lane. Leroy Gensler. Reading TImes. Scholla: Dialect Nomenclature. April 25,1941

Scholla: Fire Charms January 20, 1941

Graeff, Arthur D. Scholla: Fire Charms. Reading Times. January 20, 1941

Destruction by fire was a constant threat to the security of farm homes of the early settlers of Pennsylvania. Civilized society had not yet erected guards against this menace and cooperative societies to insure against loss were unknown. It is not strange, therefore, that our fathers resorted to occult practices in their helplessness. The Pennsylvania Germans had several forms of fire charms and omens which would foretell the danger of conflagration.

The following Feuer-zettiel is supposed to have saved two of the buildings at Ephrata from the flames in 1747. Instructions are to draw the shield of David upon a piece of paper. The shield of David is formed by interlacing two equilateral triangles so that seven angles are formed. Into each angle mystical letters are written, the letters A, G, L, A, possessed a charm. In case of fire this design was to be drawn upon the sides of the threatened buildings. In addition to this procedure a verse from the book of Numbers was to be written on wooden platter, paper or breadcrust, carried three times around the building and then thrown into the flames.

Another zettlel consisted of a rhythmic incantation recited by the member of one sex to a member of the opposite sex. This would guard against the danger of fire, but only if recited on Friday, at full moon between the hours of 11 and 12 at night. This ritual could never be committed to paper and therefore could be transmitted only by word of mouth. The one who recited it faced the listener across a table on which lighted candles stood. Each actor placed his or her left hand upon the heart and with the right hand struck crosses over the breast.

The fire-spell used by conjurors was to hold two straws crosswise in his right hand and then repeat mystical phrases.

The omens by which a fire could be foretold were connected with sounds. A howling dog presaged a fire in the neighborhood. A feared sign was the striking of a clock during the tolling of a church bell. This was supposed to prophesy a conflagration within 24 hours. Sextons and bell ringers were careful to avoid such a coincidence. The horned beetle was believed to cause fires in stables and barns by carrying glowing coals from the hearth fire in then house to the outer buildings.

We have come far from those days, it is true, but many of us can remember the credulity with which we accepted the occult remedy of “blowing upon” burns and minor aches.

Leroy Gensler. Reading Times. 1/201941
Leroy Gensler. Reading Times. 1/201941
Leroy Gensler. Reading Times 1/20/1941
Leroy Gensler. Reading Times 1/20/1941

Scholla – by Luke Sutliff

My new assistant Luke is processing a series of Scrapbooks created from a tri-weekly newspaper column in the Reading Times. The column, originally titled Scholla aus Pennsylvanisch Dietschland translates to “Echoes from Pennsylvania Dutch Country”. The title was later shortened to Scholla. The author of this column Arthur D. Graeff signed his columns “bei ‘N Ewich Yaeger”, which translates to “the Eternal Hunter”. His pen name is very fitting because he wrote his column from July 26, 1938 until the last article being published on the day of his death March 28, 1969. During that time our Eternal Hunter scrounged together material for over 4,800 articles. We at the Berks History Center are excited to expose new generations to writings of Arthur D. Graeff and pay tribute to his work. Due to the elapsed time since the writings of these articles, we encourage our readers to expound on the topics/ideas in Arthur’s articles.

For more information on Arthur D. Graeff we recommend referring to
Graeff, Arthur D. and George M. Meiser IX. “Echoes of Scholla-Illustrated Choice Bits of Berks County History and Lore”. The
Berksiana Foundation. Kutztwon Publishing Company. 1976

Haag, Earl C. “A Pennsylvania German Anthology”. Page 263

Luke will be making frequent posts, as he reads through these articles to make them more accessible in the Henry Janssen Library.


Thanks Luke!  And…enjoy!

Book Review: Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch

Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World, by David W. Kriebel; published 2007 by The Pennsylvania State University Press; ISBN 978-0-271-03213-9; 6.25 inches x 9.25 inches hardbound; 295 pages, black and white images.  $30.00 in the Museum Store at the Historical Society of Berks County.

Being new to the world of the Pennsylvania Dutch, I am always eager to read something that will help me understand the history of this area.  My volunteers love throwing “new” words at me with a little smile however, the one word they have not successfully explained was the Pennsylvania term Powwow.  Even my parents assumed, as did I, that it had something to do with the Native American Tradition in Pennsylvania.  David Kriebel’s book, Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch: A Traditional Medical Practice in the Modern World is an historic look at this early form of medicine.  Kriebel not only provides descriptions of actual powwow doctors, but also provides an in depth look at the rituals used through successful cases.  Kriebel relies on past histories, oral tradition and personal experience to bring understanding to the practice of Powwow.  The reoccurring theme is that this practice is not medical based, but faith based and if one truly believes, it will be successful.  In an age where we are turning to a holistic model of medicine, and look for natural remedies for our ailments, the Pennsylvania Dutch Powwow is ahead of the curve.  While many tout this practice as old or uneducated, Kriebel makes a case for the relevance of Powwow in today’s society.

Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch is an interesting analysis on a practice that was once believed to be dead in today’s society.  Anyone interested in learning more about this practice should definitely read this book.

Written by former BHC Archivist, Kim Brown.