You don't have to look too hard at the first two-thirds of my name to figure out that I'm of Irish extraction. I can dance my "sevens" and "threes." I used to know an eight-hand reel. I've gone to my fair share of Irish Festivals, Irish Nights, and I've certainly tapped my toes at a seisùn or two. Take a look at my married name, though, and you might be a bit baffled. That, my friends, is what a Pennsylvania Dutch name looks like. Pennsylvania Dutch isn't even Dutch, of course. Rather, the term comes from how the English settlers of our area asked the German settlers what language they spoke. The Germans replied, "Deutsch." Dutch? Sure, whatever. There ya go. So here I am with a "Dutch" last name.
If you think being a "Cupp" is funny, think of my husband who didn't quite know what to make of it when we were sent on a beer run for my grandmother's wake. You really should've seen his face when my relatives got out their guitars and such and started playing music and singing.
Anyway, we Irish may know how to party at a funeral, but the "Dutchies" know how to have fun! With all apologies to my ancestors, Irish Night at the KofC just can't compete with a good Oktoberfest party. Alas, Oktoberfest often seems to coincide with Oktobercold, and this year we had to miss a party thanks to my asthma. Bummer.
But not to despair! I wasn't well enough to polka, but I was well enough to whip together our traditional Soft Pretzels and Beer Cheese!
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 c brown sugar
1 1/2 warm water (about 100° F)
1 c whole wheat flour
3-3 1/2 c bread flour
1/4 c baking soda
Pretzel salt or Kosher Salt
Preheat oven to 450° F. Start a large pot of water boiling, at least a quart. In stand mixer or food processor bowl, bloom yeast and sugar in water for about five minutes. Add flour to yeast-water and knead until smooth. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and cut into 12 ropes of equal thickness (roll each rope around on the floured surface until all evened out). Twist into pretzel shapes (check YouTube if you need a tutorial).
Once your water is boiling, add baking soda carefully, because it may foam up at you. Drop each pretzel into boiling brine for a minute or so. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on baking sheets. Repeat until all pretzels have been brined. Sprinkle with salt. Bake at 450° F 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm.
While those bake and cool, you can make your...
1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 1/2 T flour
12oz bottle of beer, room temperature (I've done this with lager, stout, IPA...use whatever you have on hand)
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
Brown onion in oil and butter over medium heat. Sprinkle with flour and toss to coat. Pour in beer and whisk until smooth. When this reaches a simmer, slowly fold in cheese and stir until thoroughly melted, smooth and hot. Serve immediately with pretzels for dipping.
Make this a full meal by matching it all up with pickled anything: I was able to pickle some standard cucumbers as well as some spiced beets this summer, bringing me that much closer to earning my "Dutchy Farmwife" badge. Chow-chow is the final frontier, I think. If there's one thing my husband's people are even better at than having fun, it's preserving summer in cans. Prost!
Copyright 2014 Erin McCole-Cupp
About the Author
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. She's working with Our Sunday Visitor on a book about parenting spirituality for survivors of family abuse and dysfunction. Find out more about her novels and other projects at ErinMcColeCupp.com.