An Amish barn raising is a testament to brotherly love and community spirit. Like any big project, it doesn’t happen overnight. The family who needs a new barn must first prepare and lay the foundation for the barn. They also need to plan and purchase the thousands of feet of lumber, nails, and other construction materials needed to build such a large structure. Once these tasks are completed the owner will then approach the Amish elders to ask for assistance with the barn raising. If the elders feel the project is worthy, they will then grant permission for the barn raiser.
A date will be set and surrounding community families will be notified. Men from ages 16 and up will take part in the actual construction of the exterior of the barn. One man, usually an older man with years of experience, will serve as construction foreman and will direct the work. He will assign specific tasks to the men in order to make sure the project is done safely and efficiently. Younger boys usually don’t help with the actual construction but will fetch tools, lumber and nails for the men doing the work. Eventually, as the young boys mature they will be given more and more responsibility until they, too, will be on the construction crew.
Women and girls are equally as busy, preparing meals, watching the young children, cleaning up after dining, and running errands as needed. Usually the framing for the building is completed in the morning. After the noon meal is eaten the roof is built. A barn raising typically begins at dawn and is completed by dark.
As you can image preparing large amounts of foods for such a crowd can be daunting. Most families that help with the barn raising will provide a dish, but it is up to the owner to provide the rest of the food and the beverages. As with planning the actual barn, it takes a lot of preparation to plan, prepare, or purchase the ingredients in order to feed hungry laborers a satisfying meal. In fitting with the barn raising theme, here’s a recipe for an Amish Haystack that feeds twelve, but can be doubled, tripled, or whatever quantity is needed.
2 pounds lean ground beef
One 1/4-ounce package taco seasoning mix
One 14-ounce jar organic pasta sauce
2 cups crushed saltines
One nine-ounce bag tortilla chips, crushed
2 cups hot cooked rice
1 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
2 cups tomatoes, diced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced pitted ripe olives
1 cup diced green pepper
1 cup diced celery
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 cup sunflower seeds
One 11-ounce jar organic salsa
1. In 12-inch skillet, brown ground beef with taco seasoning over medium-high heat. Add pasta sauce; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates.
2. Mix crushed crackers and tortilla chips in a bowl. Place ground-beef mixture, rice, and remaining ingredients into individual bowls.
3. The meal is served buffet style with guests preparing their own plate. Instruct them to layer the plate as follows: lettuce, crushed cracker and chips mix, meat, rice. The rest of the toppings can be added according to taste.
Here’s another hearty Amish recipe that feeds a crowd or two.
4 pounds beef roast, cubed
4-6 tablespoons butter or oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 large can stewed tomatoes
8 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Beef bouillon cubes, dissolved in water.
Use a large, heavy pot to melt butter or oil over medium-high heat. Brown beef until nearly cooked through. Add onion and sauté until transparent. Add bay leaves and salt and pepper along with tomatoes and vegetables. Cover and cook on medium heat, stir occasionally. This will need to cook for about 4 hours. Check frequently. Add beef bouillon broth to the stew as needed if the stew becomes too thick. Remove bay leaves before serving.
This stew can also be made into a beef dumpling dish by adding about 1-2 cups of water to the pot and bringing the stew to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce the heat. Drop spoonfuls of biscuit mix into the stew and cover until the biscuits are cooked.