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Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking from AlansKitchen.comThere has been much pleasantry about the "seven sweets and seven sours" of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  Their spicy flavors and their endless variety are so tempting that the only calm review they ever earn is at the county fair.

There, if you must count them, you can wander through the array of blue-ribboned exhibits and add away!  But the immediate result will be cooking nuisance!

At the Martinsburg or the Reading Fair, you can obtain a good idea of the whole year's farm activity, for it is all spread out before you. You can admire the prize cattle and swine, poultry and grain, pumpkins and apples. You can see the handsome results of the long winter evenings on the farm: quilts, hooked rugs, and crocheted tablecloths. 

And you can see some fascinating old furniture: stenciled chairs, water benches, dough troughs-even an old cradle that winds up and rocks itself for fifteen minutes. The practical objects of Grandfather's day are, of course, antiques now.  The farmer knows this, for he has shown the same heirlooms at the fair year after year, just as his wife has gone on exhibiting her grandmother's "show towels" and woven counterpanes. It is all part of the fair routine.

After the farmer has made his careful assessment in the exhibition building, inspected the new farm machinery, satisfied himself that his year's appraisal of crops and progress is a good one, he collects his family and enjoy the balance of their annual holiday. He finds them pausing to listen to the barkers along the midway, grinning at the heckling going on in broad Pennsylvania German.  Pushing and jostling good-naturedly, along with everyone else, they make their way to the nearest stand to buy the hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut.

The youngsters beg for huge blobs of pink spun sugar on sticks and get them. The races are as exciting as ever, and tense crowds pack the grandstands. True, the sideshows are the same old frauds they've always been but that is as it should be, part of the fun. The beer stand does a rushing business; with constant reunions of old friends come from far and near. 

It's been a heartening day, and when at last the family turns homeward, the exhausted children fall asleep in the back seat, Mother steals a quick look at the prize ribbons in her purse, and Father, gazing fixedly at the highway ahead, quietly plans his next year's triumphs.

But "the morning hours have gold in hand," his grandsire used to say, so next day the farmer is up before sunrise. He is going to give back to the farm the day he has stolen. His wife, however, is not ready to settle down to the year-long routine. She is still in a gregarious, if not talkative mood. It is a fine, bright day. She begins to think about apple butter.

With a little persuasion, the farmer loads his battered truck with apples and goes off to the cider mill, just as his grandfather loaded the old two-horse wagon before him. He balances his empty barrels for the cider on top of the apples, and he rumbles down the road in pleasant anticipation of the spicy odors that soon will be filling the fall air.

While he is gone, the neighbors gather and the women and girls set to work peeling and cutting the huge quantity of apples that they need. The boys keep bringing apples and more apples in baskets and find time to gather wood for the fire. The great apple-butter kettle is brought out and set up in the yard. By the time the farmer comes back with the cider, the fire is burning brightly under the kettle and in goes the cider. 

A penny or a peach pit is dropped on the bottom to prevent burning, the cider is brought to a boil, and the apples are poured in. Then the stirring begins, for apple butter must be stirred constantly, even if there is a penny in the kettle. But stirring can be an agreeable occasion, especially if the right young people stir in combination. It can be distracting too-and burned apple butter is a dead giveaway!

So another day wears pleasantly into evening. The fair is gone over thoroughly, crops are catalogued, and neighborhood news is' brought up to date. The young people stir the apple butter, and the �old folks� with the sweet smell of apples filling the air decide that yes, smokehouse apples do make the best applesauce, that pound sweets are best for dumplings, and Paradise apples make the finest Schnitz. Cider, they agree, can be made from almost any kind of apple-but here there is an interruption: the apple butter is finished!

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