12 Labor Day Picnic Recipes

“There never was, and never will be, such a remedy for the tired, overworked human body as the pure, fresh air of the country,” wrote an author known as Mrs. A. Sherman Hitchcock in an article published in 1911. Picnics were nothing new at the time, but being able to drive to a picturesque location certainly was, and Hitchcock was one of the early promotors of “motor-picnics.”

This Labor Day weekend, as many of us pack up our cars in search of relaxing, scenic destinations for our cook-outs, it’s interesting to learn what the earliest “motor-picnics” would have looked like.

Basically, it involved filling a specially designed hamper with nearly the entire contents of your kitchen: elegant silverware, salt and pepper shakers, saucers…. the lot. Or, if you didn’t feel like packing the fancy plates, you could buy wooden ones that you could simply toss into the campfire afterwards. (Not recommended today unless you’re sure the plates aren’t coated with anything!)

Image from “Suburban Life,” vol. 13, July 1911, via Google Books.

Hitchcock was confident readers would fall so in love with “motor-picnics” that they would devote an entire shelf of their pantry to picnic supplies, so that whenever the urge for a picnic struck, they could whisk together the necessities and hop in the “motor car.” (If I had a bigger kitchen, I might just do this too!)

Though Hitchcock doesn’t mention Labor Day in her article, it had already been established as a federal holiday at the time, and her description of the picnicker’s “tired, overworked human body” conjures images of laborers in need of a vacation day.

No matter what day her readers set aside for their excursion, Hitchcock was certainly sending them out into the country with a well prepared menu. Her staples were sandwiches, “Saratoga chips” (potato chips), deviled eggs (of course!), and cake.

That sounds to me like an excellent start to a Labor Day picnic. But if you’re looking for additional menu items, here are 12 of our favorites.

Drinks:

Peach Iced Tea

Fill some thermoses or mason jars with this peach-infused iced tea! Make a decaf version for the kids and a full-strength version for adults who need to recharge.

 


Salads:

Strawberry Balsamic Salad

Yes, you can make this salad for Labor Day with strawberries that actually taste like strawberries! We are getting some from a farm we know and trust in Quebec!

“Green Machine” Apple Salad

Healthy picnic fare! The sweet-tart flavor of the apples pairs nicely with the green vegetables. Pistachios and crumbled bacon add savory saltiness and extra protein. And it’s perfect for maximizing your vacation time because you can make it ahead! Just reserve the bacon, raisins, pistachios and vinaigrette and toss in when ready to serve.

 

 


Main Dish:

Bruschetta-Pancetta Quiche

This protein-packed quiche uses Greek yogurt, pancetta (or bacon), and two kinds of cheese. For food safety, serve this no more than two hours after removing it from the fridge or oven.

Zucchini-Beef Taquitos

This recipe from our friends at Lone Star Farm Beef is a great way to sneak some extra zucchini into your meals. Use their beef to make it–you can find it in our market– and be sure to serve it no more than two hours after it comes out of the oven.

Potato-Cheddar Grill Packs

This is another recipe from friends! This time from our friends at Conebella Farm Cheese. Use their raw milk Ayrshire cheddar to make these flavorful packets of potatoes, herbs, bacon and cheese.

 


Desserts:

Amish Half-Moon Pies

Hand-held half-moon pies are an Amish classic. Make these with schnitz from our market!

pear cobbler

Vegan Pear Crisp, Pear Crumble, or Pear Cobbler

Our blogger Susan Edelman explored the differences between pear crisp, pear crumble, and pear cobbler and shared her vegan recipes for each here. Yum!

Apple Nut Cake

This is the best kind of recipe–the kind passed down through a family over generations. Gloria Sands of Boyertown says her family has enjoyed this recipe since at least the 1940s!

 


Sides & Dips:

Guacamole & Fresh Salsa

Got to have dips and salsas at picnics! These simple recipes are full of healthy ingredients and sure to be a hit.

Salsa Verde 

If you’re ready to be done with your garden’s tomato plants but you’re still seeing a lot of green tomatoes that just aren’t ready yet, harvest them anyway and use them in this refreshing salsa verde.

Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dip

Picnic guests will love this “lightened up” Amish Peanut Butter Schmear that uses Greek yogurt, coconut milk and raw honey.

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