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Pennsylvania Dutch cooking

By Staff | Jan 3, 2014

BERNICE DIXSON rolls out homemade noodles with her grandmother’s rolling pin. She said it’s something that feels familiar to her, and she is happy to think about her grandmother as she uses it.

MARCUS – Bernice Dixson said she grew up cooking. It was something she felt was important for her children to learn-the boys as well as the girls.

“There were five kids in my family,” Dixson said, “and Mom showed us how to cook in large quantities.

“We fed all of the people who helped us on the farm. My mom felt it was important. She fed threshers, too.”

Dixson said she and twin sister Eunice learned to cook together.

“If Mom was sick she told us what to cook, and we cooked it,” she said. “I remember in the 1930s and 1940s walking to the field to get potatoes, and bringing them back to the house to cook.

BERNICE DIXSON said she enjoys a good cookbook, and when she finds one she likes, it becomes obvious that it gets used often. Above, she looks for a particular recipe in a Marcus town celebration cookbook.

“We always had a huge garden when I was growing up, and we did after I was married, too.

“We always had our own milk and cream, and we churned our own butter. We always cleaned chickens and had plenty of eggs.”

Dixson continued that when she had children of her own, they all worked outside together.

“Everyone pitched in to help,” Dixson said, “and Jake (her husband) told the boys that they even had to help with the dishes because the girls were also helping outside.”

Dixson grew up in Plymouth County, near Remsen, and moved to her current farm in 1953 after she was married.

MAKING CHICKEN SOUP is something Bernice Dixson has done often in her years in the kitchen. She said some of her recipes were from her own grandmother, who lived in Pennsylvania. She calls them “Pennsylvania Dutch” recipes.

“Jake was so tickled to come home for supper and have home-cooked food,” she said. “He used to go uptown to eat all the time.”

The Dixsons reared six children on their farm, and that meant the food dollar needed to stretch as far as possible.

“I made a lot of soup,” she said. “I didn’t buy things like cookies or noodles in town because I always made my own.

“I wasn’t a good bread baker, but all of the kids would pitch in and help me cook.

“I made a lot of homemade chicken noodle soup, bean soup and pot pie. Some of those recipes came from my Grandma Harman in Pennsylvania.”

Dixson said she uses her grandmother’s rolling pin to roll out pastries and noodles.

The family was busy on the farm, raising corn and soybeans, along with some hay and managing pasture for their cattle. They also raised sheep at one time.

The family kept two or three milk cows in production so they would always have milk for their growing family.

“Jake and I worked together outside and inside. I think that’s why we got along-it was a total give and take kind of thing,” she said.

Jake Dixson also ran a full-service Phillips’ 66 station from the time he was discharged from the service in 1947 until 1969.

Dixson said that over the years she learned not to wait until the last minute to do the cooking.

“I don’t like to throw things together,” she said. “Even though there’s not a bunch of kids here now I still tend to get a lot of things in town, while I’m getting groceries so I have things here if I get snowed in.”

Today, Dixson still resides on the farm where their children grew up.

“You don’t have to have fancy things to be happy,” she said. “People ask me why I don’t just move to town, but I like the peace and quiet out here.

“I feel free walking around out here. It’s home.”

Homemade angel food cake

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 3/4 cups egg whites

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond flavoring

Pinch of salt

Beat egg whites until foamy.

Add salt and cream of tartar.

Fold in sugar, flour and flavorings. Beat until stiff and fluffy.

Pour into ungreased angel food cake pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and turn upside down to cool.

Buttermilk brownies

(Bernie Dixson said this is her signature recipe)

Bring to boil:

1/2 cup oil

1 cup water

1/4 cup cocoa

1 stick oleo

Pour over:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar


2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

Pour into greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts if desired before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Watch carefully not to overbake.

Frost with:

1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons milk

6 tablespoons oleo

Heat until bubbly. Add 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips.

Beat until chips are melted and spread over cooled brownies.

Homemade noodles

(For soup)

4 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 teaspoons milk

Whip eggs until frothy.

Mix in flour until it is the consistency of pie crust.

Roll out and turn over until no longer sticky. Roll out thin and let dry a little.

Cut into thin noodles. (Pizza cutter makes this job much easier.)

They can be added to hot soup stock right away or can be frozen for later use.

Note: For pot pies Dixson said rolls out the dough and places half into a pan to line it, then fill with any kind of creamy meat and vegetable mixture, then top with the other half. Bake until golden brown and bubbly.

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