Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ohio Wine

Many people know that Amish youth are known for "Rdum Shdpringa", a period of time when, prior to their joining the church and committing themselves to the ordnung (church rules) they might explore the world.  During this unrestrained time, it is not unusual for Amish youth to be introduced to alcohol by their peers.  Over consumption of alcohol and reckless social activity is not endorsed by parents or the church; however, "Rdum Shdpringa" is tolerated as a rite of passage, so to speak.  It is commonly not known that some households of the Old Order and stricter sects of Amish make their own wine.  Driving through Holmes County, Ohio, you may see Amish homesteads with long rows of grape arbors.  The grapes may be made into grape juice and canned; however, some Amish families who I know personally make their own wine.  These are Amish church members in good standing with the church. They consume wine very discreetly and in moderation.  It would be socially unacceptable to over indulge, drink openly, or frequent bars.  Only those closest to the society know about the role of wine in their culture.

Those who have attended an Amish wedding reception are familiar with the wedding party sitting in the "eck" (corner).  In keeping with long-standing tradition, the bridal table is set with wine glasses and the bride's best china.  Only the bridal party table is set with wine-filled goblets.  There is never a toast made to the bride and groom, and no public mention is made about wine, thus only Amish "In the know" are aware of the presence of wine.  It was only through having Amish girls work for me here at the Millersburg Barn Inn, that I learned about the wine at their wedding tables.  This is not to say that all Amish bridal parties have wine; however, I have confirmed the use of wine at numerous weddings.  Wedding guests are served water and coffee with the wedding feast.  Also, I know that my Amish grandmother made wine.  She was most conservative about wine consumption, most discreet, and very appropriate.  She was a very quiet, exemplary woman, fulfilling her expected role in the community.

Here is a recipe for Amish Grape Wine given to me by an Amish employee.  It makes a small batch and I am writing it exactly as it was given to me.  She told me that this is a sweet, fruity-tasting wine.  She said that they have several recipes, but this is the easiest one.

                                             Amish Grape Wine

Take enough grapes to fill a wide-mouth gallon jug and 2 pounds of sugar.  Don't wash the grapes so they can work.  Layer the grapes and sugar.  I pack the grapes in and try to have a little sugar left to put on top.  Do not put cap on, but put something on top so gnats can't get in.  It makes a mess, so I set it in some kind of pan.  When it stops working, it is ready; usually 3-4 weeks.  During this time I keep it in the kitchen then when it is ready I put cap on and put it in the basement or panty.  If you fill 1 gallon, you will probably get about 1/2 gallon of wine.

Contrary to the Old-Order, Swartzentruber and stricter sects of Amish, Mennonites maintain a strong stance against the use of alcohol.  Likewise, the New-Order Amish, Beachy Amish, and other more evangelical "Plain" churches, as they refer to themselves, would not approve of the use of alcohol, unless perhaps only for medicinal purposes.

When you are in Holmes County, Ohio, make The Barn Inn in Millersburg your lodging choice.

Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
February 4, 2011

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