Monday, January 15, 2007

Gluten-Free in Amish Country

This weekend, we had a chance to take a short drive to what's known as "Amish country" here in Ohio. It's a region of Ohio centered around Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties that has a very high percentage of Amish residents, and plenty of Amish businesses, buggies, farms, and the like to go with it. There are plenty of German and Swiss-themed buildings and establishments throughout the region, including some of my favorite reasons for visiting Amish country like the Guggisberg Cheese Factory and various bulk foods stores catering to both the local community and tourists.

On this particular trip, we made it into Sugarcreek, Ohio and stopped by a place called Swiss Village Bulk Foods (at 309 S. Broadway, Sugarcreek, OH). Much to my surprise - especially for a store in a town of less than 2200 people, this business had an incredible amount of gluten free baking products and ingredients. They had the most diverse display of Bob's Red Mill products I had ever seen in one place, with flours like teff, rice, brown rice, sorghum, and so on (the ONLY noticeably absent one was Sweet Rice Flour, aka glutinous rice flour - which I use regularly). I picked up some of the Mary's Gone Crackers that I like (and, there are a perfect complement to the various cheeses I had earlier acquired at Heini's Cheese Chalet in Bunker Hill, OH - a favorite being the Bermuda Onion cheese, or the Smoked Hot Pepper cheese (wonderful on homemade nachos, tortillas, or even crackers of course).

The thing that struck me as most surprising with this glutenfree encounter, was of course the setting. Who would have thought that in such a small town, a little bulk foods store would have a rather substantial selection of gluten free baking ingredients and such? Certainly not me. I'm always excited and glad to see gluten free diets get more attention, and it seems that awareness is spreading throughout the population. Our next stop after the bulk foods store was another Amish-themed shop in the area, and even there I ran into some pre-packaged gluten-free pancake mixes and more of the Bob's Red Mill products. So, it was more than just a freak encounter at the first place.

On the way back, I stopped at a Super-Walmart in Wooster, OH, since I heard they may have the new Anheuser Busch gluten-free Sorghum Beer called Redbridge (reviewed at that link). Sure enough, they did! So, I picked up a 6-pack for a taste test. ($7.99 / six-pack of 12-ounce bottles: nearly 1/3 less than Bard's Tale) See the aforementioned link for a more detailed product review, but the quick bottom-line is this: excellent! I really enjoyed the beer, and although it is a bit sweeter than some beers I used to like, I really think it is quite like a "real" beer!

It rained for the entire trip on Saturday, and has been raining ever since. In fact, this weather is nothing short of strange for Cleveland in January. We have daffodils emerging from the ground (some are nearing 6" tall already), as well as grape hyacyinth and crocuses. Our lawns are green, and it is anything but a typical mid-winter month here.

The ice storm that pounded the Midwest just missed us to the North and West it seems, so instead we are getting our precipitation as rain (and many a yard look like shallow ponds now). I'm thankful the ice missed us, since it can be utterly devastating to the trees — we went through that a couple Springtimes ago here. According to the forecasts, our bizarre warm January is to finally switch gears and enter a deep freeze this week, which is probably a good thing overall even though I don't care much for the cold. I've been waiting for some cold weather to do a bit more baking and working on some other gluten free recipes I keep promising to get to.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.


Lynn Barry said...

Hi Mike,
I live in an area with many Amish folks and there is an Amish store not far from my house, so I will put that on my list of places to check out. Thanks.
Sounds like you hit the mother load on your outing. Amish -- Super Wal-Mart, one end of the spectrum to the other. What a wonderful day of it you must have had.
We waited all day to decide whether or not to drive the hour north of us to meet relatives in Rochester, due to the weather warnings we never actually went so our day was homebound, but nice.
Thanks, Mike.

Happy Homemaker said...

I wasn't sure which blog to post this on, but wow! My Gourmet Desserts Book came today and my family is drooling over the photos and arguing over what we should try first. Thanks for the super quick shipping.

Mike Eberhart said...

happy homemaker,
Glad it arrived quickly, and thanks for the compliments. Once you make a choice and bake up the dessert, let me know how it goes. If you need any advice or anything, just ask. Happy gluten-free Baking to you!

harmonious1 said...

You might find this interesting:
There is (or was) a study being carried out in Lancaster County on Amish and Celiac. They were all (those with positive serology) offered a free (?) upper endoscopy. Must be a lot of Amish with celiac or at least the symptoms to justify a study.