Monday, July 14, 2014

Amish Barbecue Chicken

Everyone should have an Uncle Wayne.

This picture is an oldie! This is Uncle Wayne and my brother in 1959.

Uncle Wayne joined our extended family when he married my dad's sister 55 years ago. According to Aunt Nancy, I welcomed him into my life with all the unconditional love a two-year-old can give.

But Uncle Wayne brought more to the family than his mechanical abilities and love of John Deere tractors - he brought his Mennonite family's chicken recipe!

In northern Indiana - actually, in all the Amish communities - when it comes to recipes, Amish and Mennonite roots are pretty interchangeable. In fact, until the late 1600's, there were only the Mennonites. Then Jacob Amman had some disagreements with the Mennonite leadership, one thing led to another, and by the early 1700's there were two different denominations.

But that doesn't change the fact that the two groups have the same Swiss/German heritage.

All that is to explain how my Mennonite uncle brought an Amish recipe to the family.

Uncle Wayne in 2010
Another thing about this barbecue recipe is that it isn't tomato-based. It's a sweet/sour combination that comes straight from my German forebears. Think about it - sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), rote kraut (red cabbage), pickled beets, red beet eggs - all have that sweet/sour flavor. It's even an old Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that a meal isn't complete unless the table includes seven sweets and seven sours!

I don't think a written copy of Uncle Wayne's recipe exists. I'm sure he keeps it locked inside his head. :) But I found a few recipes on the internet, and then fussed and changed and deleted and added until this combination tasted as much like Uncle Wayne's as I can get. Maybe he'll stop by the cafe today and let us know how close I came!

Amish Barbecue Chicken

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all these ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil (you may want to open a window - it gets pretty strong!). Boil for a couple minutes, and then set the sauce aside to cool a little.

The Chicken:

 I used boneless chicken breasts, cut in half from top to bottom (making two thinner slices of chicken). You can also use chicken quarters, or even a whole chicken, but keep in mind that those will need to be marinated longer than the breasts, and will take longer to cook.

Place your chicken pieces in a glass dish, pour the sauce over them, and make sure all sides of the pieces come into contact with the sauce. Marinate the chicken (in the fridge) for several hours, or overnight. While it's marinating, turn the chicken occasionally to make sure it all gets sauced.

Here's where you know I'm not really following Uncle Wayne's recipe. There should be multiple pans of chicken quarters covered in gallons of sauce - enough to feed a large extended family plus the neighbors. And I wouldn't be cooking it on some sissy gas grill, either. The real grill to use is a 55-gallon drum cut in half, propped up on legs (made in your barn, by the way), and with hardware cloth or something similar for the grate. Oh - and don't forget a ton of charcoal! You've got a lot of chicken to cook in Amish Country!

Sigh. I miss living close enough to attend those family reunions!

Here in the Black Hills, our family isn't quite as extensive. Back to fixing supper!

Maggie-Cat came to watch the proceedings as I started the grill.

She was soon joined by Thatcher and Wynter...of course. :)

When you cut the chicken breasts in half, they don't take long to cook. I usually plan on about 5 minutes per side. Baste the pieces liberally with the sauce while they cook. Don't worry - this recipe doesn't burn as easily as tomato-based sauces.

Thatcher and Maggie-Cat kept a close eye on me. Just in case - you know - I might drop one of those chicken thingies on the deck.


What was that noise?

Uh-oh, an afternoon thunderstorm is rolling in over the Hills! That chicken better get done quick!

Whew! We made it back into the house before the first raindrops fell!

And yes, the chicken was as good as it looks!


  1. Okay -- now I'm enamoured with Miss Maggie Cat. She and Thatcher look so much alike they could be twins!!!! Well, if you shrunk down that corgi nose and those corgi ears! LOL

    Guess what I finished reading last night????? A Mother for His Children. Loved it to pieces. Loved, loved, loved the way she finds out about the number of children. That was hysterical.

    1. They do look alike, don't they?! :)

    2. Oh, Kav! I'm so glad you liked the story! I love the way this one turned out.

      And yes, Maggie-Cat and Thatcher match! It's really funny when they're wrestling together.

  2. I love the Maggie Cat!!!! We just sold a kitten with that distinctive black/orange/striped face this weekend, and she was adorable! Mama cat is a dark long-haired calico but more muted, so we get a kick out of these really brightly-marked cats!!!!

    The barbecue is a must-try. I'm making meatballs and sauce today (that way we have food for 3 nights, no muss, no fuss, no cost) but I'm putting this recipe on this week's list. I love trying new barbecue!

    1. Our Maggie is a riot to have around. She is "aggressively affectionate," so you better not have a hot drink in your hand when she decides it's your turn to pet her!

      This chicken is a great alternative to the usual sauces. I really love it when the chicken is in quarters with the skin on..... not quite as healthy, but DELICIOUS!

  3. Jan, this sounds delicious!! But I know I would be opening the window. I get easily overwhelmed by vinegar smells!

    Love the pet photos! I can't believe Maggie Cat tolerates the dogs so well!

    1. Maggie is the cat who thinks she's a dog. When she was younger, she followed the dogs everywhere! She even chases strange dogs out of the yard. She's such a weird cat - but she and Thatcher are best buds. Wynter is more aloof, but the other two wrestle, hug, snuggle, share food/'d think they were related. :)

    2. Amazing. We had a cat who would walk our son to the bus stop every day. We called her Sheba Dog. :) But she HATED our dogs when we got them. She never did tolerate them.

  4. Another great chicken BBQ recipe to try. Thank you. Love your cat!!!