In the back corner of the Save-A-Lot on River Street in Fort Plain, between a cooler selling Jimmy Dean breakfast meats and a rack of potatoes from Idaho, you’ll find a small wooden table laden with all manner of baked goods — from whoopie pies and peanut butter blossoms to pumpkin rolls and cherry fruit pies.
These products are not, however, made by well known brands that can be found in grocery stores across the country. They’re made instead by a little known Amish outfit named Morning Star Bakery, whose headquarters is located right next door to the grocery store. And the unassuming table in an unassuming corner of this small-town grocery store is one of the only places we know of to find fresh Amish baked goods; the kinds of treats that, due to a lack of preservatives, will usually expire before their more heavily processed counterparts, but whose limited shelf life is compensated for in taste.
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“We put a lot into using wholesome ingredients like the cane juice sugar, not the processed sugar, non-GMO flours,”said Amos Fisher, the Amish owner of Morning Star Bakery in Ft. Plain, which has its headquarters and bake shop right next door to the Save-A-Lot. “Our goal is no preservatives, no artificial ingredients or coloring.”
Fisher said in addition to selling his goods at the Save-A-Lot he also sells at fairs and festivals where he regularly sells out of product as demand is high.
“In the summertime we probably do an average of 70 pies a day,” he said. “I get a lot of comments and a lot of requests because it’s a more wholesome food. We sell out at our markets.”
For his fruit pies, Fisher said, he and his daughters bake with frozen fruit from companies that specialize in all-natural products with no preservatives. The bakery also sources ingredients from local farms when in season.
Fisher said in addition to fresh ingredients, Amish baked goods are made with a certain devotion to detail that’s typical in the community, whether it be baking chocolate chip cookies or building furniture.
“We use less machinery, we do a lot of drilling and mixing by hand,” said Fisher. “You have a better feel for what’s going on – how you’re making it and what it tastes like.”
Jessica Ford, who manages the Ft. Plain Save-A-Lot, said those who know about Morning Star’s table in the back of the store keep coming back for more, but it’s existence is a sort of special knowledge only acquired locally.
“It actually does pretty well, and we have people coming in asking for [Morning Star’s baked goods] as well,” she said. “If there’s something out [of stock] over there they want to know when [Fisher] is bringing it in.”
Another Amish baker who spoke to The Daily Gazette did so on the condition of anonymity because she already has more work than she can handle, she said.
“Today I had 50 loaves of bread and they all sold,” said the woman, who lives with her family in Little Falls in Herkimer County.
The woman, who also bakes with her daughters, sells her products at the Mohawk Valley Produce Auction, located on Fordsbush Road in Ft. Plain. The auction is only open Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., she said.
The woman moved with her family to the Amish community in the area about nine years ago, and she began baking as an additional form of income.
“It’s grown, it was very slow compared to now,” said the woman, standing in her driveway in Little Falls, dressed in a traditional long Amish dress with an apron and prayer cap. Nearby a chicken clucked in the underbrush. “At that point we were desperate for income and that’s what started me off. And it grew more popular over the years.”
Her family makes breads, pies (whoopie and traditional), cookies and other goods, and said she’s had so many orders for her baked goods that she and her three daughters can barely keep up.
“I’d say it’s much tastier,” said the woman, comparing her and her Amish baking counterparts’ products to the store bought variety. “People much prefer it to store bought baked goods, and it’s much healthier compared to those with preservatives.”
Susan King, 17, has been baking for as long as she can remember as part of her Amish family’s outfit, Rosebud Bakery. The Amish teen also sells her baked goods at the produce auction, which is only open Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
She bakes for about 10 hours before each auction day, she said.
“It took me the whole day yesterday and this morning,” said King on a recent Friday in September, sitting behind a long table at the auction laden with all manner of breads, pies and other treats.
A nearby price list shows the selection is quite reasonably priced as well: a large canister of hearty granola goes for $3, and large blueberry and cherry pies are $5.75. Six different flavors of whoopie pies, all but two of which are sold out, go for a dollar each. Sticky buns and cinnamon rolls are on offer for $1 and $1.75, respectively, while a platter of chocolate chip cookies cost $3.75.
“It really sells well,” said King of her goods, “it really keeps me busy.”
She added that people tend to really enjoy the flakiness of her pie crusts, which she achieves by adding an ingredient not found in many pie crust recipes.
“One thing which helps a lot is to put vinegar in the crust,” she said with a laugh.
King said she sources most of the fruit in her pies from Walnut Creek Foods in Ohio, a company based in an Amish area of the state and founded by the son of conservative Amish Mennonites. The quality of her ingredients and popularity of her products lead her to believe customers prefer her’s and other Amish baked goods over their store bought counterparts due to the increased freshness and quality – as well as the perception that the Amish approach their work with a certain level of craftsmanship and pride.
“Just by looking at the ingredients of the store bought foods, they’re a lot different than what we put in,” said King.
The drawback to becoming hooked on Amish baked is, of course, their potential scarcity and the remoteness and lack of options when it comes to procuring them. In addition to the Ft. Plain Save-A-Lot, and the produce auction on Tuesdays and Fridays, King only knew of one other location in the area selling the product: a small farm stand on Latimer Hill Road in Canajoharie.
As for scarcity, King said she hasn’t yet decided whether she’ll be baking commercially during the winter months, which she’s never done before. She just may yet, she said, as Rosebud Bakery – which takes orders – has never had more work than they can handle.
“We’ve never had it that way before,” said King. “We’ve had hectic weeks before but we can always take more.”
Dan Ross was recently at the produce auction with his granddaughter, Kali Krutz, perusing King’s display.
“We’re here all the time, my granddaughter and I come here every week,” said Ross. “It’s better than storebought…just fresh, no preservatives. It’s hard to walk by the stand and not buy anything.”
Kali Krutz’s favorite selection are the whoopie pies.
“The filling in the middle,” she said, of her favorite part.
Dale Brinkley of Salisbury in Herkimer County said his favorite selection when he comes to the produce auction are King’s sticky buns and chocolate chip cookies.
“I buy them all the time, they’re delicious,” he said.
He added that his wife prefers the cinnamon rolls, and he makes sure to pick up a few for her too. He’s always coming back for more too, as, he said, six sticky buns only last him about three days.
“I would say quality wise it’s better than anything you can buy in the store,” said Brinkley of King’s products. “They’re just fresher and made the day before.”
King’s Rosebud Bakery, which as far as we can tell has zero web presence, can be reached by calling 518-568-5684.
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Categories: Food, Life and Arts