Spicy Tomato Jam

It's a crisp - 68 degree - morning here in Ohio. As summer begins to cool and close down, we have an abundance of tomatoes from our tiny garden.

When we are out and about, we pick up a local publication - The Vendor - which is aimed at Amish, Mennonite, other Plain Communities, and farmers. Remember there are many individuals who live the Plain life - that doesn't mean they're Amish. But Amish do live under the Plain people umbrella.

Anyhow, in The Vendor this month is a Spicy Tomato Jam recipe my husband tried. It used some of our tomato overload. If you're in the same boat - or are curious what Amish, others, and farmers might do - give this a try:

Warning: this jam is intense . . . a tad goes a long way to top a hamburger, chicken, use in a sandwich, or to flavor a casserole!

4 Cups peeled, seeded, and chopped ripe tomatoes (about 3 lbs)
2 Lemons, peel cut entirely away (discard), seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
1.5 Cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons (right) minced fresh Ginger (my hubs grated a root)
1/2 Teaspoon crushed Red Pepper
2 Pinches Salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Lower heat to maintain a brisk simmer and continue to cook. Occasionally skim off any foam that forms on the surface.
Stir frequently until a most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a thick, jam-like consistency.*
Transfer the jam to hot sterilized jars, filling to 1/2" from the top, attach lids and rings and let cool.
Once cooled, store jars in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
My husband put his jam in a random-size, clean jar and is storing it in the frig - which the recipe says you can do for up to 2 weeks. We plan to divide ours into smaller jars and share with our daughters.

If you make this, please leave a comment on your success. I hope you tell me it's "goot" (gut) as the Amish would say.

*Hubs said this took about 35-40 minutes.


Curiosities and Challenges about the Amish and my Book

Earlier this month an Ohio library invited me to speak and to sell and sign my book.

After I arrived and set up my book table, hung the Amish clothes, and booted up my power point, the librarian introduced me. The mixed audience leaned forward and eagerly listened while I showed authentic Amish clothes and shared my story. I detailed my experiences with the "fence jumpers" and about my book, Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish.

From the back of the room, a man shot up his hand. After I acknowledged him, he asked, "Why aren't there as many women as guys who leave and stay out?"

"Because - in my experience - the guys are born with a hammer in their hand. They easily find construction work. Some are hired on a farm." I said. "But Amish girls are groomed for childbearing, childcare, cleaning and cooking. Those are low-paying jobs in our society. If the gals can't find one of these jobs - or even if they do - they struggle financially and often return to the Amish where the family or a husband takes care of them."


Stories of Shunning

It doesn't just happen in the Amish culture.

Religions around the world shun those who leave the faith, the "infidels," the "wayward" ones. I've known parents who shun a child for a behavior or decision against them.

But since there's tremendous curiosity - and misunderstanding - about Amish shunning - which is not practiced in all orders - here are a few stories from those who've personally experienced it since leaving the Amish world behind:

Esther shared:
Here's my story.... We left 13 years ago and are still being shunned by our families. I went through a grieving period for them. At this point in time they talk to us, but don't eat with us or drive with us or do business with us. Some of our family are more like a distant relative than close family. Our kids don't know most of their cousins and my parents have no relationship with our kids.

Regina added that she has experienced the same treatment.


Do You know the Amish?

Usually I pen posts about the Swartzentruber or conservative Old Order Amish. This time, I want to ask how well do you know the Amish in general?

Some of these statements may be easy to you, some a challenge.


1) The Amish Culture is 600-years-old:

2) Amish share similar beliefs and behaviors:

3) Amish and Mennonites are nearly the same in behavior:

4) Mennonites came out of the Amish:

5) Only married Amish men grow beards and mustaches:

6) Amish send their children to school only through the 8th grade:

Let's see how you did. Here are the answers:


Amish on the Internet

Last year my pal and author colleague Janet Perez Eckles invited me as a guest on her internet radio show"Brenda please share about the Amish and what you're learning by helping those who leave," she urged.

How could I turn down an opportunity to share discoveries about the Amish with the world? Janet's producer set up the connection and she and I chatted comfortably for an hour - I from my home - the marvels of technology! "Wow, I never knew that," she frequently exclaimed throughout the interview.

Two things I declined to discuss . . . at least not on air; Amish underwear and dating practicesGuess you'll have to read my book to find out about those. I count it a privilege to answer questions and educate the public amid fun and laughs. A few moments of silence passed when new truths stunned her. Janet admitted she looked at the Amish from the outside and entertained the simplistic image.

Since last year she's discontinued her radio show. I wish it were still available to help listeners get an ear full of news about the Amish. Even if you can't hear this radio interview, I'd love it if you'd leave your comments or questions below.

Talk to ya next week. ~Brenda
(C)Copyright, 2016, Brenda Nixon.


Amish Voting Behavior

Those of us who know/assist those who've left the Amish use descriptive names:
ex-Amish, Former Amish, New English, Fence Jumpers.

Even "they" use these names! So in light of that - plus it being an election year - I had to share this . . .

One popular myth is that Amish don't vote - truth is,
some do,
some don't.

Typically, the lower the order the less they participate in "Englisch" government. The uber strict Swartzentruber do not vote. It was my privilege when helping Mosie adapt to our life, (he's Chapter 1 of Beyond Buggies and Bonnets: Seven true stories of former Amish) to help him register as a voter. It was my later pleasure to take him to the polls and watch him vote for his very first time!

Your turn. Have questions about other popular myths? Leave 'em below & I'll answer.

(c)Copyright 2016, Brenda Nixon.


Is Rumspringa a worry to Amish parents?

Thank You
for reading my blog posts and to those who leave comments! Speaking of . . . here's one I received recently,
I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog and have
learned a lot from your stories. Thank you for opening my eyes to how  
diverse Amish culture actually is.

I stumbled across it as I was doing a bit of research on various coming of  
age traditions for a fantasy story I'm writing at the moment (of all  
things!), and got sidetracked by Rumspringa. I'm so glad that I fell down  
that rabbit hole, I feel that I've learned a lot.


Her World In and Out of the Amish

Today, I share Saloma's Story. She grew up Amish and left as a young married adult. The former Amish who I've had most experiences with are teens or those in their early twenties. Saloma, however, left after marriage and children. Here's her touching story . . .
 Down Memory Lane
    "Hi, my name is Saloma and I'm the oldest child in my family. I have two brothers and two sisters. I was born in 1977 into a very conservative Old Order Amish family in Fredonia, PA.

    My parents bought a dairy farm when I was seven years old. We didn’t have much of any toys and what we had we usually made ourselves. We made stilts out of two-by-fours and chased each other around in the barn. Our heads would almost touch the barn ceiling.


The Hidden World of Amish Gangs

Are you serious? Amish gangs? Are they like violent Mafia-type groups?

Naw. No TV hype here, just insider trivia.

In most cases Amish gangs are teen cliques with mutual interests. Some of the gangs are wilder than others, and some gangs pretty much hold to the Amish ways. 

Below some of my ex-Amish pals tell it like it is...gang names and activities. (boy, this'd make a good book...

One online pal remembers one of the gangs was called the Sparkies.


What Happened to My Life as Amish

Jesey has had an exciting, tumultuous journey unlike any other person I know. Here's her story in her own words . . .

"Do I ever regret my experience? No. 

Does it sometimes feel like it was a surreal dream and other times more real than my life today? Most assuredly. 

Would I recommend it? Only to a very, very select few.

I am the oldest of 10 in a Catholic family from upstate NY. When I was about 11 we started the journey to becoming Amish. We met a newlywed Old Order Amish couple (Dan and Ruth) on a train as we were heading back to NY for the family holidays. Dad was intrigued. He struck up a conversation with the couple and the rest is history.

For the next ten years my family lived the Amish lifestyle while trying to find a group Dad felt was "the one." This took us thru several different old order Mennonite and Amish groups as well as Charity and Hutterites, sometimes several simultaneously (as in, we were living according to the rules of one Amish group but on an off Sunday we might go to a Mennonite church). I must step back here a little and explain, Our trip home for holidays to New York became a longer one when my parents


Curiosities, Confessions, and FREE e-book

Whether it's a speaking venue, media interview, or booksigning, I'm frequently asked these common questions.
Where do you live? Are you married? Do you have a family?

We live in Ohio – home to the largest number of Amish settlements nationwide. My husband and I have raised two daughters but, along through the years, God has asked me to temporarily “parent” other children. 
For a year, we took in a homeless twelve-year-old and helped her feel safe and secure, while tending to her formal education and medical care until she was able to join her father.
Another summer, I sensed a divine urge to house a French exchange student. We did that two separate summers.


Speaking the first half of 2016


I'm asked to write guest blogs, sign my book, and answer questions in media interviews.