Kay Scherting: And you know what food do, Leigh? They’re memories. It’s not just food that you eat.
Leigh Olson: That voice should be familiar to you if you listened to the trailer for the podcast. But if you didn’t listen, it’s my Auntie Kay. She was the catalyst for this project. It was this comment and the story of picking wild cranberries she shared – and I recorded surreptitiously – during a summer visit that made me realize we all have stories like this. That need to be documented and preserved. Stories that tell our history and connect us to our heritage. Stories rich in culture.
It’s short story. But one that’s filled with memories of family, childhood, and experiences that shaped a life. Oh, and I do have her permission to use the recording to share with all of you.
Kay Scherting: We had wild cranberries all the while we lived on the farm. Then my mom would make a cranberry sauce, which was like thick apple sauce. And we’d eat it with thick from cream. No, not sweetened, just thick farm cream.
We lived on a farm that was in northern Minnesota and it bordered Canada and North Dakota and very, really kind of desolate. There was a lot of swamp lands and in those swamps were wild cranberries. And we had this neighbor lady across the road from us that came over one day and asked my mom if she wanted to go pick my wild cranberry. I was always a little bit afraid of her because she was quite gruff. And my mom didn’t drive. So we went with Cecelia.
We went to this marshland and it was desolate. There were shrubs and trees on both sides of the road and there’s a little country road. And as we were going in, she said, hmmm better mark our way so we don’t get lost. So she tears her apron into little pieces and ties them on branches and we continue on picking cranberries.
I have no idea how long they were there, but we could not find our way out of there. We couldn’t do find her apron strings. We couldn’t see anything. And I remember my mom being a little nervous and I was scared. To. Death. I can still feel how scared I was to think that we were in the middle of these woods. You couldn’t see anything. You look straight out, you could see the sky. You couldn’t see anything else. Cause there were no buildings around it. There was no farm, there was nothing both on our side of the road and the other side of the road, um, It was just a little two lane dirt road. So thank heavens there were power lines. Which was interesting too because we lived on the farm two years before we had power. They were just the old fashioned posts with a wire that hung across from post to post.
We found our car and got home and I remember my Dad being quite upset because he knew we were going picking, but he had no idea how long it would take and how long we’d be gone. So anyway, that was the beginning of picking wild cranberries. Dad probably went through this a couple times and we never veered very far off the road.
Leigh Olson: After the break, treasured WearEver kitchen utensils, fresh chicken dinners, and blood sausage.
Sponsor Ad: This episode of the Heritage Cookbook Project podcast is supported by Bob’s Red Mill. When you’re making those treasured family recipes, don’t leave the quality of your ingredients to chance. Visit bobsredmill.com to find out more about this employee owned company, their products and how you can fill your pantry with them with their products, not their employees.
Kay Scherting: Many years ago my grandfather bought the whole set of Wear-Ever. Kettles and pie pans and cake pans and cookie pans and roasters for my grandma. And I’m thinking back on it. They must have been really expensive and she got everything. I have some of the pieces, but the piece I cherish the most is the colander. Um shaped like a cone with a wooden paddle in it. After we simmered the cranberries, mother would put cranberries in this colander and we would squeeze out all the pulp and that would be our cranberry sauce. She’d add a little bit of sugar. Uh, none of us liked it really sweet. Living on the farm we have lots of cream. And we would eat it with farm cream, not sweetened, just thick farm cream., But it’s a memory of my mom. It’s a memory of growing up.
I think about those years on the farm. We had no running water. And our house was always spotless. Clothes were always spotless. Mother cooked everything from scratch. And we made our own butter. Mom made bread every week. We had a lot of company on the farm because we really only ones on my dad’s side of the family that lived on a farm. So all these cousins would come out to the farm. And mom would go to the wood pile and chop a head off a chicken and put it in hot water and pick all the feather off so we will have fresh chicken for dinner. And then she’d make blood sausage. You know, and that, that seems so primitive. But that’s, those were farm things. And you know when you have all those animals and you don’t have a lot of money, you use everything you have to make food for your family. We had a lot of really good food. It just warms heart every time I think about it.
Leigh Olson: I hope that you enjoyed listening to Auntie Kay’s story about her memories of life a on the farm. If you want to hear more stories like this, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
The full recipe for Cranberry Sauce can be found at theheritagecookbookproject.com and don’t forget to register for access to the printable cookbook pages. Cheers.
The Heritage Cookbook Project Podcast was produced and edited by me, I’m Leigh Olson. Sound design and mixing also by me. Sound effects credit for this episode goes to Dobroide for Marshes.
EPISODE 8: WILD CRANBERRIES AND APRON STRINGS
Some stories carry with them a spark. This story of wild cranberries and growing up on a Northern Minnesota farm was the spark that ignited a project. This project in fact.
It’s a short story, but a powerful story about how food has the power to conjure up memories of people, places, and a time that was not necessarily easy, but simple.
Thank you to our Sponsor Bob’s Red Mill for keeping my pantry full of fabulous flours and baking products!
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Marshes by dobroide https://freesound.org/s/466355/
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Grandma Florence, Auntie Kay and Aunt Wanda and the farmhouse in Northern Minnesota.
Grandma Florence, Auntie Kay, and Auntie Wanda and farmhouse in Northern Minnesota
- 2 pound fresh cranberries
- 1 cup sugar, for tart sauce add more if you have a sweet tooth
- heavy cream for serving
- In a large sauce pan or Dutch oven add cranberries and sugar. Heat over medium heat until berries start to pop and release their juices.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. You will want to stir this occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn't scorch.
- Remove from heat and mash through a potato ricer or, if you are lucky enough to have your grandmother's Wear-Ever sieve, use it.
- Serve with heavy cream drizzled over the top. If you can find farm fresh cream, that is the best.
And you know what food do, Leigh? They’re memories. It’s not just food that you eat.