Winemaking in Amish New York

Happy New Year to all. I hope your 2013 was filled with blessings and that 2014 will be happy, healthy and productive for you.  Do you take stock of the previous year at this time?  Set goals and make plans for the coming year?

It’s really just the changing of dates on a calendar, but can be the right time for a brief pat on the back or a great excuse to make a positive change going forward.  I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but I think they’re a good idea–if you manage to keep them, of course 🙂 .

Today’s photos, shared by Karen Johnson-Weiner (author of New York Amish and co-author of The Amish) were taken in a Swartzentruber Amish home in New York.

Here we see a snapshot of the winemaking process.  The owner is a young farmer in his early 30s.  The wine is made from Concord grapes, and apparently after a couple of months of aging is very dry.

Amish Wine Making

The fact that some Amish make and consume alcohol often surprises people learning about Amish society. I have been offered homemade wine before in Amish homes, coupled with encouraging words about health benefits and moderation.

New York Amish Wine

Some Amish drink recreationally, including beer and liquor.  Though likely less common than in the general public, Amish are not immune to social ills including alcoholism.  On the other hand some decidedly oppose consumption of alcohol.

Homemade Concord Grape Wine

Wine is the alcohol most often associated with the Amish.  Last year we looked at a story on Amish workers in a Pennsylvania vineyard.  Wine and vineyards of course occur frequently in the Bible. Wine is used in communion services by most Amish.

Wine in Amish Home

Reader Don Curtis, whose son Mark is Amish, previously shared that “most Amish families have their own grape arbors. They use the grapes to make grape juice which is canned. Also to make grape jam, jellies, etc. Homemade wine is made in Mark’s district by the deacon’s wife to be used at the twice yearly communion.”

Old Order church member Osiah Horst makes a good point as well:   “It would probably be up to individual communities and even individuals how strongly they felt about being involved in producing alcoholic beverages. For some, the fact that Jesus used parables about working in a vineyard would make the practice more acceptable.”

Winemaking and consumption is just another “Amish custom” which may be customary in one community but not in another.

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    1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      Hooray for AA's 1st posting in '14

      In this home based operation, does the straw hat serve a use in the process of winemaking, or is it just there to show scale?
      Great article this morning.

      Happy 2014 everyone, myself, I am still a little full from my family’s New Year’s Day gathering / meal at my Aunt and Uncle’s house with their kids and grandson. Good times. All the best for the rest of this year.

      1. Shom I didn’t even stop to think about the hat–passed your observation along though. Looked to me like someone just dropped or set it down.

        1. J T

          Hello Erik

          I realize that you are in NC and I would like to invite you visit us in Camp Hill sometime this spring to explore and pick your brain on our local Amish communities. Would you be willing to make the trip? We will house and feed you and provide transportation.

      2. Shom Karen says there are a lot of little boys in the house–“there are always hats on the floor!” The vintner here is also a beekeeper (along with dairy farming).

    2. Katie Troyer

      According to the photo that wine is going overboard.I come from a wine making family. Dad used to make wine, but I never saw him drink wine. I assume he did it when all his children were in bed and he needed a relaxer.

      1. OldKat

        @ Katie Troyer

        Katie: I have never seen a kerosene stove, so while I was looking at the pictures I was trying to figure out type of fuel that it used. Thanks for making that comment.

        Just curious, what is unique about that stove so that you could identify it as kerosene? I mean, obviously it has no fire box so I knew that it wasn’t wood or coal burning, but how did you know that it was not fueled by some sort of compressed gas?

    3. Nancy @ A Rural Journal

      How interesting! I erroneously assumed there would be no making or imbibing of alcohol in Amish communities. Thank you for the information!

    4. loretta t

      Amish winemaking

      I noticed the stove is kerosene. I didn’t know they were still used or available to purchase. I knew propane is popular among the English as well as the Amish.
      Is kerosene use popular in that area?

      1. Kerosene use in Amish homes

        Kerosene is more common as a fuel among the more traditional Amish (Swartzentruber Amish definitely fall in that category).

        A few years ago there was a deadly accident in another traditional community in western PA, when a woman who thought she was using kerosene to light a fire but it was actually kero contaminated with gas. In the same community in 2010 3 died in a fire likely fueled by kerosene near a stove:

        Propane is a more common fuel in more progressive Amish groups.

        There is a good chart in Karen’s book The Amish with traditional/progressive tech comparisons:

    5. SharonR

      Winemaking in Amish NY

      Greetings and Hope for a Great New Year, everyone!

      Good article on winemaking; I’ve always wondered how the Amish felt about alcoholic beverages, etc. Thanks for enlightening us about that.

      It reminds me of when my mother/father decided to grow grapes in their backyard, then harvested them, and made homemade wine, back in the 1960’s. I was a teenager then, but none the less, thought it was something “fun” for them to enjoy making and watching them offer it to their relatives and friends who would stop by for a visit. I remember 2 huge jugs sitting on the kitchen counter, “brewing” (or whatever it’s called), and taking up so much room on mom’s small counter top, meal preps were a little challenging! But an enjoyable time for them.

      Looking forward to more interesting articles about the Amish Culture. Enjoy reading others opinions too — another way to learn.

    6. ShipshewanaIndiana

      I helped an Amish family move yesterday. One of the other helpers (also an old order Amishman) commented that he and his wife “had beet wine, strawberry wine and grape wine last night (New Years eve) and our bellies were really warm.” Wine making is not uncommon here in the Elkhart LaGrange community with Concord grape wine being the most common product.

    7. linda

      wine making

      It looks like their wine over flow ‘es

    8. Alice Mary

      I had heard that some Amish make wine and imbibe. What I find interesting are the photos, especially since they’re from a Swartzentruber household.

      The comments are interesting (kerosene vs. propane, etc.). I’m guessing that’s a sink to the left of the stove area (grey handled pump). Do they have much trouble with it freezing up in the winter? Do Swartzentrubers have water heaters (free-standing), or do they warm up their water (for bathing, for example) on the stove?

      Interesting post!

      Alice Mary

    9. Wondercat

      Communion wine --

      — do the teetotal settlements brew their own, as an exception, or buy it in? Or do they use grape juice that hasn’t been fermented?

    10. MaryAnn Pepe

      Why Not Wine?

      It was the first miracle Jesus did at the wedding of Canaan and since the Amish follow the bible literally, I would think it would be fine in moderation.

    11. J T

      There is an Amish run Friday only market not far from here that has a local vineyard selling wines (mostly bad ones). Amish women can often be seen buying a bottle or two.
      And let’s not forget the two cases of Amish men being arrested for DUI. Yes they were driving buggies.

    12. J T

      Kero stoves

      I still see these being sold at mud sales. They’re always dirty and need some restoration. I think I might even buy one someday.