Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie

Pennsylvaniadutchpotpie

Also known as Aunt Alice Ann’s pot pie.  Or you might think it’s not a pot pie at all.  And you might even be right.  Pennsylvania Dutch’s “pot pie” is not a normal pot pie as we know it–you know, the kind with chicken stew topped with pie crust and baked?  Uncle John, Aunt Alice Ann’s husband, explained to me that the Pennsylvania Dutch name “pot pie” is actually a bastardized form of the original German term bot boi. It refers to a thickish chicken soup (usually with corn kernels) with homemade noodle (typically cut into squares.)  I’m sure the noodles are there to stretch the soup much farther than it otherwise would be.

Still curious about the term bot boi, I texted Thomas the (real) German boy to see if he knew what it meant.  “Potpourri”, he replied instantly.  Hmm.  Odd.  “How about something regarding food, or perhaps something phonetically similar but not the exact spelling”, I tried again.  “Ah, it’s an antiquated expression for a thick stew, which in modern German is eintopf”, he explained.  Eintopf, according to Thomas, has a starch element from mashed beans, peas, potatoes, or lentils, which are cooked with chunks of meat to make a thick stew.  I suppose when the Pennsylvania Dutch migrated here from Germany they imported the idea but adapted it to the more readily available ingredients, namely flour and corn.  So what they now call pot pie is typically a thickish stew of chicken or other meat, with corn and homemade noodle made with plain flour, eggs, and butter.  Ron, David’s dad, told me when he was growing up they had bot boi with pretty much every meat or game imaginable.

Insidehouse

David’s aunt Alice Ann took charge of turning this Thai girl “Dutch” by teaching me how to make “pot pie” in her gorgeous kitchen in a farmhouse dating back to the 1800′s.  Every family has their own pot pie recipe, Alice Ann said.  Hers came from her husband John’s mother Sally.  She also has recipes from other people–like her own mother and her Amish cleaning lady–but she likes the one from John’s mother best so it is the one she uses.  This recipe calls for a bit of milk to bind the dough, and also an addition of saffron to the broth.  According to Alice Ann, though pot pies are common throughout Lancaster county and Pennsylvania, the use of saffron in the broth is specific only the town of Denver, where she and most of the family are from.

Potpiemixing

Alice Ann made the first batch to show me, then let me do the rest so that I could get the feel of the dough myself.  I needed that too, as it turned out.  When I watched aunt Alice Ann do the work, the dough looked pretty dry and tough to my eyes, but once I tried with my own hands, it was much softer than I expected.

Potpiedough

Once the dough is mixed and lightly kneaded, it’s then rolled into very thin sheets, and cut into about 2-inch squares.  John’s mother also liked to insert the tip of a pairing knife into the middle of each square and, with a flick of a wrist, twist the blade and cut a short slash into it, probably to make sure the middle bit is also cooked through in the pot.  The noodles go into a boiling pot of chicken broth with some potatoes, onion, and saffron in it.

Aunt Alice Ann’s Pot Pie  (Bot Boi)

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, soften
  • about 2-4 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • about 10 cups of chicken broth
  • about 2 cups of chicken meat
  • one onion, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 3-4 ears of corn, slice off the kernels and discard the husks
  • more salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, beat the egg, butter, milk, and the half teaspoon of salt until well combined.  Add the flour all at once, stir to mix with the tines of a fork.  Once the dry and wet ingredients are combined into large crumbs, knead the dough until everything comes together into a smooth ball.

Break the dough into thirds, and roll each into a thin rectangular sheet.  The noodles will puff up after the cooking so roll as thin as you possibly could if you think you’ll like it on the thin side.  Let the sheets of noodle dry out for about fifteen minutes before cutting into about 2-inch squares.  Insert the tip of a pairing knife into the middle of each dough squares and cut a tiny slash into it.

In a 6-8qt pot, bring the chicken broth to a roaring boil.  Add the onion and the potatoes (we used freshly dug potatoes from the garden) and let cook for about ten minutes.  Keep the pot at a rocking boil, add the noodle squares, one by one, right into the middle of the boiling pot.  Add a pinch of saffron, salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are done (15-20 minutes.)  Add the chicken meat and the corn kernels about five minutes before everything is done.

Serve on a rimmed plate, not in a soup bowl (as I mistakenly did to myself before realizing my mistake).  This is pot pie, not chicken soup!

P.S. When she taught me how to make this pot pie, Alice Ann had already prepared her homemade broth and cooked chicken meat.  You can make your own by simmering a whole chicken in a large pot (filled with enough water to cover the whole chicken) with some carrots, onions, and other aromatic veggies you like.  When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the pot and pick out all the meat and set aside.  Return the chicken carcass back into the pot and simmer for another hour.  Strain, set aside the broth and discard the rest.  You probably won’t need the meat from the entire chicken for the dish, keep some to make chicken salad sandwich later perhaps?  After all, the whole point of something like pot pie is to stretch the rare commodity like meat with the cheaper filler like noodles.  Some of the world’s best dishes are driven from the same necessity.

Everyonehappy

P.P.S.  The pot pie aunt Alice Ann made that day was simply marvelous and absolutely perfect for that day.  Every one had their fill and decamped to the patio for some delicious wild blackberries ice cream, homemade, of course.  You expected no less from her.

Icecreamhapy

A propos of nothing, here’s a shot of Jaiden, David’s little niece, riding off to the sunset hauling Harry the cat, dazed and bewildered, off to the sunset.

Offtothesunset

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/coneslayer/ mph

    Lovely photography. There’s something jarring, yet appealing, about the simple food of my childhood getting the food porn treatment. And that ice cream looks incredible.
    In my Western PA town, I would say that ham pot pie is the most common type, but you can use any meat. For family reunions, my aunt would make three: ham, beef, and chicken. And I make turkey pot pie the day after Thanksgiving.

  • Kim

    I’m a cousin of the Kinches, and was thrilled to hear you had visited Alice Ann and John’s! Isn’t their farm great? I love your entries and pictures. You have paid wonderful homage to a place and people so dear to me!
    Kim Mack

  • sara

    My family’s pot pie recipe is for beef, onion, potato, and dough. The original called for lard in the dough but we use crisco now. Its the best meal to warm you up in the winter!

  • PJ

    My Nana, from Allentown, made this all the time and it was always served over mashed potatoes! This is pure comfort food.

  • http://unsweet-tea.blogspot.com/ LG Burroughs

    What a lovely essay. Reminds me of the book “Tender at the Bone”. Your whole blog is quite wonderful and I linked to it from mine. Thanks for your efforts!

  • ALEJANDRO

    HOLA PIM SOY DE COLOMBIA Y ME PARESE QUE TU BLOGGER ES UNO DE LOS MAS COMPLETOS SOBRE COMIDA YESAS COSAS MUCHA SUERTE

  • http://transblawg.eu MM

    Hi Pim – I love your weblog and photos.
    As a confirmed pedant I have been investigating the origin of the term, both in my blog and at Wordorigins and I’m convinced that the German dialect borrowed the English term ‘pot pie’. There is no related German word afaik.
    Margaret

  • http://www.theduckquacking.blogspot.com daphne

    Wow. I enjoyed the write up and photos. Certainly food is nothing without meaning-and the lovely faces and relationship ties mean so much more with the good looking pot pies!

  • Kim

    I grew up in Lancaster County with Mennonite/Amish roots. I now live in Israel and miss much of the food that is so common in PA Dutch country. Your pictures were a great trip down memory lane for me. I can’t wait to have some Good’s Potato Chips on my next trip home to visit my family!

  • Cousin Ann

    I am David’s dad’s cousin, grew up in Denver and now live in Florida. I still do some Pennsylvania Dutch cooking but not like Alice Ann. When I think of her in her kitchen, my mouth waters. Your pictures and descriptions are wonderful representations of family life and good eating in the Pa farmland.

  • Barry

    Wow,
    I grew up in a small predominately German settled farming community in Ohio. My grandmother used to make me this. I’m now 44 and just asked my mom for the recipe as it’s something I didn’t want to lose contact with. Thanks for sharing. I don’t get a chance to visit your blog but once every few weeks but it’s a great site. Keep up the great work!

  • Jeff

    Growing up near Lancaster County, PA this was me and my siblings favorite thing and always were very happy when our mother started simmering the chicken and making the dough. As for the name, the family always said that this was a true “pot” pie because the pie crust-like dough is cooked in a pot and is the most important and delicious ingredient. I am salivating just thinking about it.

  • http://whatstepheats.blogspot.com Steph

    Pim,
    That looks so good! It’s almost like what my father would call chicken and dumplings; he would love this sans onions. I will try this recipe for sure.

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Kathy

    I was born in Lancaster and lived an hour or two from there until I moved to Texas 5 years ago. Let me tell you…I miss this stuff. Such amazing comfort food!

  • Henry

    I am from York and we don’t put no corn in our pot pie.

  • Maree

    My Grandmother made pot pie with sweet potatoes (not the red nor the huge yams) and no saffron. My Mother made it with white potatoes and saffron. We Grandchildren liked my Grandmother’s pot pie because the sweet potatoes added a different yet delicious flavor. Now with fourth generation making the pot pie is a family day where everyone pitches in dropping, rolling and learning to mix the dough. We use saffron. The day is anticipated with great joy and fun.

  • November

    This is twice I’ve hit your blog looking for a specific recipe via Google. The first time I stumbled on here was for your fantastic entry on Panang Curry, one of my favorites. But I must admit I am more than surprised that not only have you posted a Pennsylvania Dutch Pot Pie recipe, but it was dead on exact to the one my grandmother used to make including the saffron. Though she omitted the corn, which I will certainly have to give a shot now. I just had to comment to thank you for this.

  • Karen Roongrojana

    Interesting. I am from Lancaster PA and my grandma made Pot Pie frequently. I married a man from Bangkok Thailand and here I find a Thai woman writing about my favorite dish from my childhood in PA. Wow. I find that very interesting.

  • Karen Roongrojana

    oh and by the way, my husband who is Thai, is a chef at the Ritz Carlton here in Florida where we now live.

  • Jane

    I grew up in West Lawn, PA and Pot Pie was my favorite dish as a child. My mom taught me to make my Great Grandmother’s recipe, which is very close to yours without the corn….although that DOES sound delicious – but only that good home grown Lancaster County sweet corn would be acceptable)! We always serve this meal with an endive salad and hot bacon dressing. My family now lives in Singapore, and I have taught my Indonesian helper how to make Pot Pie. Next week I will be teaching my oldest daughter’s 8th grade cooking class at the Singapore American School how to make it…..so this recipe has truly traveled around the world! Loved your photos!

  • http://www.towerdeli.com Fort Lauderdale

    This is interesting in a good way. Pot pies have been a famous dish for it is unique and satisfying at the same time. As good as it is, it is also rich in history and an interesting name. Thanks for this!

  • Debbie Brock

    My mom only uses navy pea beans to make her pot pie. It is delicious!!!

  • http://www.largepot.net Large Pot

    Just came and read, this is wow! I was seek from many blogs, but here is the best, I love it.

  • Kathy

    Your article was interesting. I’ve been eating and making chicken pot pie my whole life. My mother taught me the basics and it always included saffron. I was just surfing the web looking for variations when I came across your article. I much enjoyed. I am cooking a pot as I type.

  • Donna

    This sounds like a great recipe especially using saffron! When I first met my husband in 1972, his grandmother who was from the Lancaster area used to make us Ham Bott Boi,using large homemade egg noodles, ham, potatoes, onions and fresh parsley! She boiled the ham covered with water in a large pot for about an hour then removed the ham reserving only some of the liquid (ham broth is very salty), cut ham into pieces and return to the stock. Add water if necessary, I usually add more! Peel and cut potatoes in large chunks to easily differentiate from bott boi noodles! Add potatoes and bott boi noodles and return to low boil until potatoes are almost done about 30 min. Add quartered onions (2 to 3 small) and continue to boil until onions are clear and
    potatoes and noodles are done. Serve in soup bowl with spoons and forks and enjoy!!! We love Ham Bott Boi!!!

  • Holly

    Hi,
    I recently got some noodles that remind me of pot pie noodles. After being married for 15 years, I’ve never made pot pie. So I searched online for a recipe and found your blog. I was reading it and saw Alice Ann and saw her picture and thought to myself “I know her”. Turns out, she lives a few miles from where I grew up. Next time you talk to her, ask her if she knows the Ginders who are her neighbors. They are my parents. I remember being at her house one time. Anyway, I sort of followed her recipe and my family all liked it. I omitted the corn though. I don’t know if I’ve ever had pot pie with corn.

  • http://chezpim.com/ Pim

    What a small world we live in. How delightful. I’m glad her recipe worked out for you.

  • Dan

    My mom always made chicken pot pie when I was a kid. As I got older I felt stupid calling it “pot pie” and thought my mother just named it wrong, I mean after all everybody knew what pot pie was, a small crusted pie filled with stew like ingredients. I told people when I served it that it was chicken and dumplings. Now I am sixty and find out that it really was called POT PIE and a mispronunciation that caused the confusion. My grandparents were from Pennsylvania too!!!! Ahhhh so my mother wasn’t crazy after all!!! Now when I serve it I am sure to tell people it is “pot pie”, not chicken and dumplings and the story behind it.

  • Clockguy from PA

    Wow, bringing back a whole world of old memories for me, I was born and raised near Lancaster county and ate chicken bot boi as far back as I can remember!! My parents were German but my mother got her recipe from an Amish friend down in Bird in Hand. She always put a spritz of old time cider vinegar in her helping, the kind with the “mother” that you had to shake before using. We had bot boi in the winter all the way up to spring and the last meal usually was accompanied by a fresh dandelion salad with a hot bacon dressing to “wash out the winter bugs from your body”!! (Only small sweet dandelion plants that hadn’t budded out yet!) I didn’t like the vinegar when I was a boy but now that’s the only way I eat it. I am pushing 69 and still make bot boi often.

  • Terri

    I was only 23 when my Mom passed at age 53….next week I will turn 49.  I have been looking for this recipe for years now.  My heritage is German/Polish, and my Grandma and Mom used to make pot pie with beef roast, potatoes and pot pie gets thrown in at the end.  As I grew into a pre-teen, once a month a small church in very small town in sw Ohio would hold pot pie dinners and my family and my mom’s parents would attend the dinner.  As I recall, they served chicken pot pie.  Over the years, I have asked many people, have you heard of pot pie…NOT the kind that has veggies in it.  Of course, that is the only kind they knew so they wanted me to explain it (then they thought I meant dumpling dough….no not dumpling dough).  Thank you so much for this recipe, I too found your site via googling german pot pie dough.  I find it odd that the Pennsylvania Dutch came from German (thanks for that info also) as I had no idea, so that’s why I searched for German pot pie dough.  I so wish I would have had this recipe years ago.  I plan on making this recipe within the next month to celebrate my birthday and my only child’s high school graduation. 

  • Terri

    P.S.  I’ve never had pot pie with saffron. The only dish my Mom ever used (the very expensive) saffron in was rice soup….rice, broth (chicken broth), sliced carrots and the magic incredient that turned the broth a sunny yellow…the saffron.  Mmmm, I always ate mine with ketchup mixed in.  Gosh, 26 years later I still miss my Mom’s specialty dishes.  I had to learn to cook on my own, and w/o going into long details, I have no written down recipes from my Mom and I find that sad.  However, I have a very good memory, and I haven’t had any complaints about my cooking.  Thx.

  • Pinklaldlylois

    I was looking for my recipe that my aunt sis gave me 45 yrs ago and it led me here so I could remember what I put it in. Using more eggs and a touch of baking powder in mine I finally remembered how I did it for so many years for the family. The story was great on your family enjoyed the pictures also family means everything now that they are all gone.

  • Sara Mastros

    Instead of boiling a whole chicken just to make bot boi, you can also use the carcass from a roast chicken, that still has some meat left on it. That’s the way my (Lancaster) family makes it. It’s very easy to make broth from a roasted chicken carcass in a slow cooker.  Just break up the carcass so it fits in the crock pot, cover with water, set the slow cooker to high and leave for several hours.  Strain the bones out, return the shredded meat to the pot (which has mostly fallen apart by then) and throw out the bones. Using roasted chicken instead of raw gives a nice color, and adds a little of that caramel roast taste to the broth.  You could probably even use leftovers from one of those grocery store rotisserie chickens (but I wouldn’t tell Aunt Alice!)

  • Travelingman1966

    I not only grew up in Lancaster county, my grandparents on both sides were Pa Dutch. I am 100% Pa Dutch. You don’t ask a German to explain our language. It is a dialect mainly from the Palentinate region. Add a dash of broken English. When I speak Pa Dutch to German people they have no idea what I am saying. That being said, Pa Dutch Pot pie does not use saffron. We tend to be more simple, and do not use excessively expensive ingredients. And to all those people that think pot pie is that baked dish with a crust, I have one question. Where is the pot? That dish is a baked chicken pie. It has no pot involved.

  • UncleWallyKunz

    My wife calls them pot pie, I call them bot boi but we both call them delicious.  So many variations , so little time.

  • Rriehm

    I’m from eastern Ohio/western Pa. and German on both sides and my mother always made “pot pie” without the saffron or corn or even the carrots and potatoes. It was just a thick broth with very tender beef and of course the homemade noodles; maybe onions but not much. So I’m going to try it as best I can remember. I think it was all cooked (except the noodles) slow long in the oven roaster I’ve inherited from her. Everyone loved it and always asked her to make it when they visited. And we had dandelion salad in the spring too!

  • David

    My sides of my family has German background and my folks grew up in the Northumberland/Berwick area. My mom makes Bot Boi but her’s (which came from my Dad’s mom) is made with ham, ham broth, carrots and potatoes. Dad and I use ketchup on it. Anyone heard of this version?

  • Mitchell Troutman

    Thanks for the recipe. I know people do it different, but all the variations I’ve ever seen are just based on things that people grow in dutch country. Corn, Beans, etc. Never heard of adding saffron, but who knows.

  • Becky Schmader

    I can’t wait to try this recipe.  My Grandmother would make this on occasions if “she was feeling good”  My Father would have my Mom make it for us at least once a month.  We had it with a pork roast, boiled all day & potatoes, the “pot pies” were thrown in at the last minute & cooked for about 5 mins with the pork & potatoes.  I remember this being the “best thing in life” as a kid & always requested this meal on my birthday…In August.  Thank you so much for the recipe, I have lost my Grandmother years ago & my Father 4 yrs ago, now I can make this & re-live my childhood! :)

  • Foul80

    Yes, I’m from Danville and we do the same…Chicken or Ham…As, for the Ketchup…that a new one to me:)

  • Flec1205

    my mother made the beef too.  we just use beef and the homemade noodles.  one of the spices i use is “bell’s poultry seasoning” it comes in a yellow box and is only sold in the stores around here in november.  It sure makes the broth and the noodles taste good

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  • Kate

    I grew up in Sunbury - Our family moved to Cleveland many years ago, but brought the recipe for pot pie (that is what we called it) with us.   ”Hello” from Cleveland.  Anyway, my mother (and grandmother and now me and my niece) make pot pie.  We use any kind of broth we are hungry for.  We use, ham, chicken, beef, hamburger (with onions & potatoes – carrots were only used in hamburger pot pie), etc.  We also use ketchup and raw onions as well as those cooked into the pot pie.  I have all boys and they are not interested in learning how to make it, which saddens me because now only my niece and I make it.  Her children are not interested in learning how pot pie and I am afraid the recipe will end with us! 

  • Fred

    I don’t know why you put pot pie in quotation marks.  What other people call “pot pie” is really meat pie.  This is called pot pie because it has what is sort of pie dough cooked in a pot!

  • jenna

    On this cool Fall day….thinking of Pot Pie.Yum. My in-laws were pen dutch and taught me this recipe. However we mash the potatoes with a fork put butter and apple cider vinegar on top. It is the BEST

  • Greg

    grew up in central PA this was always just potatoes, chicken and noodles. No corn or saffron, but I use a mirepoix to make the broth, then remove. I have had it made with turkey, ham, and squirrel. We now live in MN and it is one of our favorite dishes. So is corn soup with rivvels and shoe fly cake (we don’t really care for the pie).

  • http://www.facebook.com/sissysanfrancisco Mark Daniel Snyder

    Reading this brought back a lot of memories for me as well. My family made chicken pot pie and ham pot pie. I personally liked it with lots of salt, pepper, and chopped onions! I don’t think we ever added saffron. Once I became vegetarian, we made it with veggie broth, and sometimes soy protein.

  • Name

    Ann
    This recipe sounds so much like a dish I had as a very young girl, I went to
    Pennsylvania on a visit with my cousin and his wife. She was Pennsyvania Dutch. A member of her family, I think it was her aunt made a dish like this
    that I just loved. I was too young at the time to think of cooking but after I
    grew up and married I thought of that dish so often. It was delicious. Both
    my cousin and his wife died very young, so there was never a chance of
    finding the recipe. I have been married for 55 years and I have looked for
    a recipe like hers all this time. I know it had chicken, pot pie, onions,
    potatoes, corn & I think it has carrots. But I don’t know the seasonings of
    other things added.
    A big hug and many thanks for sharing this recipe.
    Happy cooking, Ann
    .

  • Anonymous

    Having one foot in dutch country and the other in the south, the relationship between bot boi (which I was raised with) and southern chicken & dumplings is very easy to see. Southern “dumplings” are really just bot boi noodles; egg & flour dough cut into squares. Maybe just a tad thicker than bot boi noodles.
    The south – especially the Carolinas – was settled by many German/Pa. dutch coming down here for the logging and farming. Moravians from Pa. settled much of Eastern NC and brought their recipes with them.
    The primary difference I see between the two dishes is that chicken and dumplings doesn’t have potatoes or other veggies….just some onion. And the broth is thickened with a little flour so it is like a thin gravy, rather than broth.
    Both versions are wonderful on a chilly day!

  • Angelina Grunert

    This is exactly what I grew up eating. I now live in the mid-west,not a good cook and can’t even get this anywhere,just the highly overrated baked pot pie