Local Flavors: Wayne County, Ohio - #109

Every town in the world has a local flavor.  A flavor that comes from its signature dishes, from a group of preferred ingredients, or a type of restaurant that is popular.  It is a flavor that comes from appreciating a particular piece of equipment or a cooking technique.  There are dozens of things that make up the local flavor.  The most important influences are always the result of history, geography and economics.

This is Wayne County, Ohio, an agricultural community that has preserved much of its past and is presently home of the largest Amish community in the United States.  It's a good spot for a relaxing family holiday.  So please join me, Burt Wolf, for a taste of the local flavors of Wayne County, Ohio.

At the end of the revolutionary war the newly formed United States of America found itself long on land, but short on cash.  Congress soon decided that a fast way to pick up a few bucks would be to organize groups of settlers and sell them the land that was west of the original colonies.  The area was called Ohio after an Iroquois word meaning beautiful river.  In 1794 part of Ohio was established under the name of Wayne County and surveyed by the Larwell brothers who liked some of it so much that they purchased the land and became the area's first settlers.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  They built their first log cabin in 1808 and named the area after Brigadier General David Wooster who fought in the revolutionary war.  Their nearest neighbor of significance was Chief Beaver Hat of the Delaware tribe.  In addition to his beaver hat, he had a wonderful apple orchard planted by none other than the great Johnny Appleseed.  And most people know Johnny Appleseed as a character in a Walt Disney movie.  But in fact he was real.  His name was John Chapman and he was born around 1775 in Massachusetts.  He appears to have been a bizarre character wearing unusual clothing and wandering around the country teaching people how to plant and raise apple trees.  Which was a good thing, because without him we’d have a hard time saying something was as American as apple pie.

The earliest settlers in Ohio came from Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and New England.  Maryland laid claim to the area because it had invested money in the Ohio Land Company.  Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania had charters that said that they could go from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  So they wanted a piece of the action.  The folks from New Jersey came because they wanted to get off the turnpike.

One of the largest groups to arrive were the Amish who came to Ohio from the Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Today this area has the largest Amish settlement in the United States. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The protestant reformation that took place in Switzerland during the 1500s produced a group known as the Anabaptists who were anti-baptism for infants.  Jacob Amman was a bishop in that church and he thought things were getting a little too loose and wanted to return to the basic principles.  So in 1525 Aman and a group of his followers split off and became known as the Amish. 

During the early 1700s about 100 Amish families arrived in North America and eventually created a number of substantial settlements in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  An unwritten set of rules known as the Ordinum governed Amish behavior.  They are regulations dealing with most of the aspects of everyday life, from mattresses to machinery.  Their  lifestyle is a deliberate effort to separate their community from the world and to maintain a high level of self-sufficiency.  During the early years of the 20th century, they decided that allowing electricity into their lives constituted an inappropriate connection with the outside world.  So they live without it.

And that has led to the formation of an unusual retail operation: Lehman's.  It's just like any other hardware store, assuming the year is 1890.  Lehman's has the country's largest selection of non-electric appliances, old-fashioned tools, toys and wood burning stoves.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  The company's slogan is “Serving The Amish and Others Without Electricity for a Self-Sufficient Living”.  Now a few years ago I would have come in here and thought, interesting-it's a look at the past.  But considering the number of power failures in major American cities, I may be looking at the future.  Like, next week.

Galen Lehman is the son of the founder, and he took me on a tour. 

GALEN LEHMAN ON CAMERA: Ah, here's one of my favorites.  Wind-up radio.  30 seconds of winding, plays for half an hour.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  That's where you wind it?

GALEN LEHMAN:  Right here.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Wind it for 30 seconds and it plays for half an hour.

GALEN LEHMAN:  Half an hour. Turns on in the front. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  Chubby Checker.  No battery.

GALEN LEHMAN:  No battery.  And you don't need one either the by way you were dancing.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  Well, not for a couple of years anyway.  I love this.  I have to get one of these.

GALEN LEHMAN:  Great.  Thanks.  Oh, wait, wait.  You've got to check out this flashlight.  You like the radio?

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  I love the radio.

MAN: I've got a hand crank flashlight for you.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Oh!  You saw me coming, huh?

MAN: It's such a pretty color too.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So you crank it like ... just like the radio?


BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: And then you put that in there and

GALEN LEHMAN: Right here you turn it on…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: ... here.. S-O-S.  Save Our Show. 

GALEN LEHMAN:  Oh, you've got to see this apple peeler.  Check this out.  It's the world's fastest apple peeler.  It's a design from 1878.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: That is the world's fastest apple peeler.

GALEN LEHMAN:  Peels a whole apple in six seconds. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The apple tastes good too.

GALEN LEHMAN:  This is a wood-burning cook stove.  And we're going to fire it up today.  Uh, you can load this one from the top and ...

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: I can see the fire in there.  Let's see the fire in there.  The fire is in there.

GALEN LEHMAN: And then the ashes come out down here.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Right.  And it comes into a bucket so it's really easy to clean out.

GALEN LEHMAN: That's right.


GALEN LEHMAN: Once the thing gets hot, it begins ... it starts getting hottest over here.  And then it gradually gets hotter across the top.  When you want to cook something fast, you start on this end.  If it gets too hot, you slide it away from the heat.  You can't control the temperature on the top.  So what you do is, you constantly slide back and forth to get whatever temperature you need.  You take this damper and you close it.  Now the smoke can't get out and back anymore.  It goes across the top, down the side, across the bottom.  Now the oven has heat on all four sides.  No heating elements in there like there is on electric range, of course.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: You just have the heat from the fire going all the way around.

GALEN LEHMAN: So we've always told people that food cooks better in a wood cook stove because it has heat on all sides.  Here's where you get your water for shaving in the morning.

GALEN LEHMAN:  Of course you don't need that. 


GALEN LEHMAN: But I do.  You've got hot water in here all the time.  In the old days, they used to dip it out with a dipper.  But now, they've got a spigot on there.  So this is a modern innovation.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: How much do these cost?

GALEN LEHMAN: About $3,000.


GALEN LEHMAN: But I ... I have them from $695 and up.


GALEN LEHMAN: No, no.  $695.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: That's amazing.

In 1882, John Mishler and his family arrived at the Ellis Island Immigration station in New York harbor.  He'd come from Berne, Switzerland with his family; a small truck filled with clothing, $5 and train tickets to Ohio.  When he arrived in Ohio, he set up a weaving mill to supply products to the town of Smithville.

It was a small business weaving rugs, dish cloths and towels on a hand loom.  It was and still is a slow and complex process.  But in spite of its repetitive nature, requires great attention to detail.  As a commercial operation the mill closed in 1993.  But the weaving continues.  Today the mill is operated as a fund raising venture by volunteers of the Smithville Community Historical Society.

It's a historical landmark for visitors, but it's also the place to get an amazing bargain.  And your money goes to the Landmark's Commission.  Doing well by doing good.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Another immigrant to the area was August Imgard.  He arrived from Germany in the mid-1800s.  And as Christmas approached he wanted to celebrate it the way he did back home with a Christmas tree.  Now Christmas trees were very common in Bavaria where he came from.  But very unusual in North America.  Nevertheless, he cut down an evergreen, brought it in his house and decorated it with candles and a star.  Next year, everybody in town wanted one.  And Wooster became one of the first places in the United States with a Christmas tree tradition.

To meet the growing market for quality Christmas trees, a number of farmers began growing them commercially.  The Dush family has been growing Christmas trees since the middle of the last century.  In 1980, they added a shop called The Pine Tree Barn to sell Christmas tree ornaments and gifts.   And after all, if you're going to come out and buy a tree, the least thing a Christmas tree farmer can do is give you the convenience of buying the tree ornaments and a few gifts in the same place.  But Christmas is not just about giving material gifts.  It's also about sitting around and enjoying the gift of family and friends.  And of course you can't sit around without furniture.  So it's only right that The Pine Tree Barn give the shopper an opportunity to buy the furniture for sitting around with their family and friends.

The Pine Tree Barn also has a simple restaurant so you can sit around and enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside.

And in the spirit of giving, they gave me the recipe for their beloved lemon crumb muffins.  At the end of this program, I'll tell you how to get the recipe for these muffins and all the other recipes in this program and all the other recipes in this series. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Monique Theoret is going to do the baking.

MONIQUE THEORET ON CAMERA:  We start out by mixing the dry ingredients together. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  First, the dry ingredients are blended together.  The sugar is added to the flour.  The baking soda and the salt go in. 

MONIQUE THEORET ON CAMERA:  The reason that I use the pastry cutter is, it's really important in muffins if you want them to rise really high to, you know, mix your ingredients really well so ...that it’s… the pastry cutter helps me to make sure that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: It keeps your nails clean.  And the wet ingredients are mixed together.  Sour cream goes into beaten eggs, melted butter is whisked in; the lemon juice, and finally the lemon zest.  All right. The dry ingredients go in.  May I?  A little bit at a time?

MONIQUE THEORET ON CAMERA: Actually, you can put ... pour the whole contents of the bowl in…

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The entire contents in.




BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: …fabulous swoopness.

MONIQUE THEORET ON CAMERA: We have found here that if we try to use a mixer, we just don't get the same results.  So it's really important if you want to have success with this recipe to do it by hand.

And the batter is spooned into the muffin form.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: The muffin tin we're using looks like it's made out of flexible rubber.  But it's actually a mixture of fiberglass and silicon.  It's heat-proofed to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and has a non-stick surface.  So whatever you cook in it, when it's finished cooking, it will just ... pop right out.  

A streusel topping is made from sugar, flour, and soft butter and sprinkled onto the muffins.  And it's into the oven for 25 minutes.  When they come out, they're allowed to cool.  Holes are poked into the top with a toothpick and a glaze made of sugar and lemon juice is poured on.  At this point, they are ready to serve.  Muffins from a high-tech muffin pan.

This town is filled with interesting technology.  For almost 200 years Wooster has been Ohio's center for dairy products and cattle, which is one reason that it's the headquarters of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center which is part of the Ohio State University College of Agriculture.  It's an internationally respected facility dedicated to improving American farming.

But these are not scientists lost in abstract theories.  The researchers that work here are interested in making our food better and they want to produce an impact as quickly as possible.  If not at tonight's dinner, then at least lunch tomorrow. 

Francis Fluhardy and Daral Jackwood are the kinds of scientists I'm talking about.

FRANCIS FLUHARTY ON CAMERA: You've just had a steak dinner at a restaurant.  You may have paid $40 or $50 for this meal.  And then the waiter comes over and asks you, “How was your steak?”  Well, that's a horrible way to do quality control. 

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  Where do you think that should take place?

FRANCIS FLUHARTY ON CAMERA: I think it ought to take place the day that a calf is born so that that animal is raised to give you a good eating experience.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  And that's the research you're doing now.

FRANCIS FLUHARTY ON CAMERA:  That's the research I'm doing with Daral Jackwood.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: So how do you do this?

DARAL JACKWOOD ON CAMERA: Well, we're designed as a diagnostic test.  We're looking at ... for genetic markers.  These are just pieces of DNA that are part of the cattle's genome.  And we're looking for markers that correlate very highly with tenderness and marbling in these steaks.  And we looked for many years for these and eventually found a couple that correlate very highly with marbling, and others that correlate very highly with tenderness.  So now we can go into an animal, look at its genetic potential; in other words, look for these markers.  If they're present, we know that animal is going to have the potential to marble.  If the tenderness markers are there, we know we're going to have a tender steak at the end of it.  And we can do that the day the calf is born.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Marbling is really a measure of the fat content in the beef.  And an increased fat content is a better flavor.  I actually think that fat is the magic carpet on which flavor travels.  You take out too much fat, flavor doesn't travel.

But the center is not just about beef.  It's also willing to talk turkey.  Because the demand for white meat has been greater than for dark, turkey farmers have concentrated on increasing the size of a turkey's breast.  And they've done a great job.  So great, that many of the turkey's don't have legs that are strong enough to support their breasts.  As a result, scientists here at the center have begun a genetic research project to produce turkeys with larger and stronger legs.  The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center is also the home of the 85-acre Seacrest Arboretum which is used to grow over 2,000 different species including holly, azalea, rhododendron, and ash trees.  It's a perfect place for a quiet walk or a picnic.  And right nearby is the Garden of Roses.  Over 1,500 plants representing 500 varieties of roses.

During our filming, everybody in Wooster was extremely cooperative.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Hi.  I’m really glad you could come down this morning.  I know your mornings are very, very busy.  Most of you have not been on television before, so this is a new experience.  I think you’ll find it very enjoyable.  It’s not a difficult thing to do.  Uh, Ok.  Now, this group over here, I think you can stay seated just the way you are.  You look absolutely great.  Those over on the left that’ll be standing- wonderful!  The most important thing to remember is just to ignore the camera.  Just talk to me…work with me.  Do no pay attention to the camera or the soundman.  I think you’re gonna have a great time.  You all look absolutely wonderful.  Your makeup looks great.  I think we’re all gonna enjoy this.  Thanks again for coming. 

This morning’s guests were part of the herd at one of the Hartzler’s dairy farms.  The Hartzler’s are an unusual family and so are their dairy farms, milk, and ice-cream.  Janice is one of the 25 Hartzler’s in the business. 

JANICE HARTZLER ON CAMERA: In the early '60s my father was farming and he was farming with chemicals.  He was an avid chemical user.  And he had sprayed his field with some herbicide and it killed the hay that was in that field.  And from that point on, he began to wonder, really, if that was the smart thing to do.  So after that, he quit using any chemicals on his farm, cold turkey; just quit.  Because of that, when we were growing up, we'd hear every now and then, wouldn't it be nice if we could bottle our own milk?  And in '96 we opened our bottling plant and our cafe and since then we are processing milk in glass, half-gallon containers.  And we ... it's a non-homogenized milk.  And of course it doesn't have any of the chemicals in it because all of the family farms, uh, do farm without chemicals.  And we do also make wonderful ice cream from that cream and milk.  And we have wonderful names, Heifer Tracks, Cow Pies and Cream.  All kinds of neat kinds of ice cream.  And we always say it's the best this side of The Mississippi.

Another organization of importance is The College of Wooster.  It was founded in 1866 by a group of Presbyterians, many of whom were of Scottish ancestry or felt an association with Scotland because of Scotland's role in the history of Presbyterianism.  Of all the activities that are available to the students, there is one that perfectly combines the traditional elements of the college's history.  And that is the school band which became co-ed in 1940, but only after a brilliant move by the band master.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: In 1938 the band master noticed that visiting bands included women and were much larger.  The bands were larger, not the women.  So in spite of the fact that women had never been in a Wooster band, he petitioned the dean to include them.  The dean took a broad and scholarly approach and responded that no girl would ever march on his football field in trousers.  The band master had an inspired moment and said well, if the girls can't wear pants, then the guys are going to wear skirts.  Cleverly disguised as Scottish kilts.

Bag pipes have been part of the musical history of every European nation.  But it was the Scots who made them famous as a military instrument.  For centuries Scottish pipers would lead troops into battle under the theory that the sound would confuse the opposition while at the same time rousing a sense of patriotism in the Scots.  This theory is presently being tested here in Wooster.  Pipers are preceding the college teams into their sporting contests.  And with the exception of the chess team, they are having considerable success.

And now it's time to march over to the Wayne County Fair.

MAN ON CAMERA:  1934 was the first year of the Wayne County Fair.  We've been making doughnuts ever since.

WOMAN ON CAMERA: They're delicious.  They're sugar-coated energy.

BURT WOLF:  Energy.  Good.

MAN: People love our doughnuts because they're fresh.  We make them fresh all day long and ... the oldest doughnut they get is maybe an hour old.  Often when they get them they're still warm.

WOMAN:  We drove all the way from Rochester, New York to come down to have some doughnuts and go to the Wayne County Fair.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA:  The idea of a county fair goes back thousands of years.  At the end of a growing season, farmers would get together and exchange information about what techniques work the best and bring along a couple of examples for show and tell.  In our colonial period, sophisticated English farmers and cattlemen would come by and show us how to do it.  Of course after the civil war the English had very little interest in improving our technology.  And so we began to develop our own county fairs. 

The first Wayne County Fair took place here in 1833.  Less than 25 years after the first log cabin was built in the county.  The idea of displaying the best of class in both plants and animals is still the central part of this fair. 

One of the most fascinating examples is the horse pull.  A team of horses does the pulling.  But one of the horses is the leader, and he knows it and controls the action.  The objective is to have them work together to pull a weighted sled as far as they can in a set time.  After each team has had a chance to compete at a specific weight, the weight on the sled is increased.  Eventually, one team ends up as the winner with the top weight.

BURT WOLF ON CAMERA: Well, I guess that's enough horsing around for one show.  I hope you have enjoyed this visit to Wayne County, Ohio and that you will join us next time on Local Flavors.  I'm Burt Wolf.

If you would like free copies of the recipes from this program, or hundreds of other recipes from Burt’s programs, to read his special reports from around the world, and interviews with leading food authorities, or to order a copy of The New Cooks’ Catalogue, a critical guide that tells you what to look for when purchasing cooking equipment and utensils, with over 1,000 color photograph and recipes, just visit Burt on line at BURTWOLF.COM.