My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amish Sense of Whimsy

Amish sense of whimsy... The window on the left side of the barn is fake, just painted on - as are the white cross-pieces on the barn doors. So is the white triangular vent at the peak.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kettle Korn


Sometimes it’s the little things in life… and for my husband, one of those things is fresh homemade kettle corn or caramel corn.  See that smile on his face?  Caramel corn put it there.

It would be easy to drive by and not see the Kettle Korn building—it’s set back from the street on a promenade that cuts through the middle of the block, in the middle of the downtown Shipshewana shopping district.  But we always make a point of stopping there.  If the older Amish gentleman who makes the popcorn treats is busy with the big kettle, then the wonderful aroma drifts out to greet any pedestrians on the main street.  There are jars with free samples, as if the aroma isn’t enticing enough!

Even if he’s not on duty, the treats are for sale, on the honor system.  A wooden box sits near the various kinds of popcorn (caramel corn, kettle corn, cheddar cheese corn), with a sign above it giving the prices for small, medium, and large bags.  You put your money in the slot and take your treat.  We’ve resorted to asking total strangers for change for a big bill, so we don’t go away empty-handed!

There’s another wonderful popcorn stand south of downtown, Vernon Miller’s Blue Ribbon Kettle Korn, located in the parking lot of the Red Barn Shoppes.  Someone is usually standing by giving away samples—often a young Amish woman, probably a daughter or niece...  Warning—if you try it, you will buy it.

We have found that kettle or caramel corn is a nice snack to much on during the three-hour trip home.  So with a cooler in the back full of pies, meat, cheese, and other goodies, we make our way back to everyday life, with a taste of Amish Indiana in the front seat to get us home.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Pretzels Ever

I never thought I could make a meal out of a pretzel… but that was before I discovered JoJo’s Pretzels in Amish Indiana.

JoJo’s has been on the first floor of the Davis Mercantile Building for as long as I can remember—it dates back to the old building, before the big fire (but that’s a story for another day).  The shop has expanded as its popularity has expanded.  But two things haven’t changed—the Coca Cola d├ęcor and the pretzels.  These days they come in all kinds of flavors with all kinds of dipping sauces, instead of just the original white and whole wheat with sauces of sweet or sour  mustard.  There’s something for everyone—even hot dogs or soup for anyone crazy enough not to like their pretzels.

I’ve read that owner Levi King named the place after his wife JoAnne, and that on a busy day, they make over 1,000 pretzels.  You can watch them being made—the workers cut off a chunk of dough, twist it into a rope, and flip it around to make the interconnected loops.  Then it’s baked, dipped in butter, and salted.  Yum.

Right next door is the Kitchen Cupboard, one of the few places in Shipshewana where you can get a good latte or cappuccino (or a frozen ice-blended coffee drink).  The two businesses are connected, so it’s a great combination.  We often sit at one of the tables there to rest our feet, enjoy our snacks, and plan out the rest of our day.  (Note—Kitchen Cupboard goes heavy on the flavorings in their lattes etc., and I like then less sweet, so I ask them to go light on the syrups.)

Fresh-baked pretzels don’t travel or reheat well; therefore, it’s best to eat them on the spot.  So pace yourself and make sure you leave room for a JoJo’s pretzel and a soda (I like the Boylan brand diet cherry) or a coffee drink.

I should mention that there is another pretzel place further down Route 5—Ben’s Pretzels—and the pretzels there are a bit different (more bready) but still very good.  So if you find yourself south of downtown when the craving hits, or if JoJo’s has a line going out the door, take a chance and try Ben’s Pretzels instead.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Country Lane Bakery

We just got back from Amish Indiana, and as usual, we discovered something new.  This time it was Country Lane Bakery.  We had stopped there once before with our Amish friends so they could pick up an order...  But this time we stopped by to take a look, and now we’ve got a new local favorite.

Country Lane has a very small retail area, but there’s a lot to see and buy nonetheless.  We chatted with the Amishman behind the counter, and asked to purchase some oatmeal whoopee pies.  When my husband asked about the cinnamon rolls, he threw in one of those as well—after he had frosted it, right on the spot.  (Talk about fresh!)  While he was away from the counter, I took this photo:

As the menu shows, there are a great variety of things to try—breads, rolls, cookies, cakes, and more.  My favorites are the chocolate walnut brownies and the whoopee pies; my husband likes the cinnamon rolls, the honey oatmeal bread, and the butter pecan pie.  Another favorite is the molasses cookies.

Country Lane Bakery is a mile and a half south of Route 20 between Shipshewana and Middlebury, at 59162 County Road 43, in this unassuming building with a phone shanty out front.  It is Amish-run and the food is made on-site.  The location is a mile or two out of the way, but we’re always looking for an excuse to drive out into the countryside anyway!  The food is fresh, and good, and reasonably priced.  As is typical in Amish Indiana, they are closed on Sundays.

We shop regularly at the big bakeries in Shipshewana and Middlebury and will continue to do so.  But it’s nice to patronize the smaller local establishments whenever we can, especially the Amish-owned ones.  Why should a few “English” families make all the money, when it’s the Amish culture that brings the tourists here in the first place?

NOTE:  It is October 2022 as I write this additional note, and Country Lane Bakery is for sale.  
The owners, I've heard, intend to go into the barbeque business instead!  So, I'm not sure about the future of Country Lane Bakery.  Hopefully someone will buy it out and keep it open at a new location.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Warsaw Cut Glass Company

There’s always something new to discover in Amish Country.  Recently my husband and I took a side trip an hour south to Warsaw, to the cut glass company workshop there, and it was a delightful afternoon.

I had visited the cut glass factory in Waterford, Ireland, many years ago, so I was familiar with the concept of “cut glass,” which is just what it sounds like—pieces of glassware have a series of cuts sawn into them, one at a time, by craftsmen who know what they are doing, and the patterns are beautiful.

The Warsaw factory still cuts glass the old-school way, as they have since 1911, with the same machinery used then.  The business has changed hands only three times, as one master craftsman trained the next one and then sold the business to him.  The present owner and master craftsman is Randy Kirkendall, who has cut glass there since he started training in 1980.  He now knows about fifty different designs.

The glass is cut by belt-driven wheels, and today it is one of the last places in America that still cuts glass the old-school way.  Calling ahead can allow visitors to go back into the large, open workroom and watch Randy practice his craft.  It is fascinating to watch him work!  He makes just a few marks on the glass with a red marker, and the rest is all freehand.  As he worked, he told us about the factory’s history and the process of cutting glass.  The building was full of the old machinery—huge belts that ran from one side to the other, spinning wheels of every size, different ones for different tasks.

My husband asked him, “How often do you mess up a piece and have to discard it?”  Randy pointed to a nearby shelf and said, “There are all my ruined ones for this year so far.” There were only a handful.  He said, “We get together on New Year’s Eve with our friends, and have a glass of wine, and fling them against that brick wall down there at the far end of the building.”  What a great tradition!  Out with the mistakes of the past, and start the new year fresh!

The factory has a shop out front, run by his wife, and we were amazed at how reasonable the prices were.  We went home with items for ourselves and others for gifts. Randy also does custom work, and they have a thriving mail order business.  Their website can be found at and there is a video there of Randy at work.