I live in northern Minnesota, in a unique part of the world called the Iron Range.
This is a place where iron is mined to make steel. It is a place rich in history and a melting pot of cultures. It is a place that drew thousands of immigrants from countries like Finland, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, and Italy to live and work. And with them, they brought their food and traditions.
Potica, môjakka, lutefisk, porketta, lefse, and the pasty are just some of the foods of the people of the Iron Range. These are comfort foods (okay, maybe not lutefisk!) that helped generations power through the cold weather and the hard work they faced in developing this region in northern Minnesota.
We’re decades removed from when those first immigrants settled here, but a new book published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press aims to make sure that we don’t forget the food and the stories that made us who we are.
Come, You Taste: Family Recipes from the Iron Range by B.J. Carpenter, a Hibbing native, writer, and culinary educator, shares dozens of recipes that illustrate the Iron Range’s rich history.
Carpenter tells the stories of the people, explains the importance of food to the region, and gives recipes and tips for making these traditional foods of the region. From pasties to Swedish meatballs, she’s covered it all, and it is a delight to read and even better to taste the amazing food.
Come, You Taste is a book that is perfect for anyone interested in getting back to their roots. It will inspire you to get to know the food of your people and learn the stories behind the food in your family. Seeing the photos and the handwritten scrawl of old recipes will make you nostalgic for the old times. If there’s one downside to the book, it is that there aren’t photos of the recipes in it. If you’ve never seen potica before (gasp!), it would be a bit more challenging to learn to make it from scratch. Despite that, Come, You Taste is a good read for those who enjoy learning how to make hearty, delicious foods sprinkled with tradition and history.
I knew when I read this book I would want to make “Grandma Carlson’s Blueberry Crunch.” Blueberries are a must-eat around late summer in these parts. If you know where to find a wild blueberry patch, you’re lucky, as no one will ever tell you where they got their blueberries.
Fresh blueberries are best in this recipe, but you could probably substitute fresh frozen blueberries if you had to.
Grandma Carlson’s Blueberry Crunch
Reprinted with permission from Come, You Taste: Family Recipes from the Iron Range by B.J. Carpenter, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. www.mnhspress.org
[ serves 6 ]
Grandma Carlson was one of the tiniest grandmas I knew. She blamed her size on her desire to be a child again, and she almost was—in both respects. She was our next-door neighbor, and by the time I was eight and nine, I was almost eye to eye with her when we’d meet while picking lilacs from the bushes that separated our houses. I was tall for my age, but not excessively so. She had a great sense of humor and was always interested in what we were doing for school projects and what our plans were for summer vacation. She always bought Girl Scout cookies from several of us on the block. Not that she had to.
She baked cookies herself, for us and for her granddaughters, who lived a little ways outside of town but were frequent visitors on weekends during the school year and for weekday overnights in the summer. There was a big berry patch out at their house—raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries—and when they’d come to town in the summers, they’d bring whatever berries were ripe to their grandmother, and she would make jam. That was mostly with the strawberries and raspberries. The blueberries were for pie, muffins, and crunch.
In late July, when the blueberries were ripe, she’d let us know when something was baking and when it would be done so my mom and I would be sure to come over while it was still warm. While my mom was gathering up some ice cream or something to “go with,” I was already seated on the top step of Grandma Carlson’s gray, lattice-enclosed porch five or ten minutes before she took the crunch out of her tiny, apartment-sized oven. I didn’t need a second invitation.
Grandma Carlson passed away when I was twelve years old. It made me sad to know I would never again be greeted by those laughing blue eyes that in the end I had to stoop to look into. Before she died, she gave me her blueberry crunch recipe, written in her spidery hand on a little recipe card embossed with the words, “From Grandma’s Kitchen . . . with love.” The card was misplaced long ago, but the recipe is baked into my memory.
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher or iodized
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
- whipped cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square or 7 x 11–inch pan. Place 2 tablespoons flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl and stir together. Add blueberries and stir; sprinkle on lemon zest and stir; drizzlelemon juice over all and stir again. Pour into prepared pan.
- Using the same mixing bowl, combine oats, 1 cup flour, ½ cup brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Sprinkle vanilla over dry ingredients and mix. Cut each stick of butter into 8 pieces, and work into the dry mixture by hand, a few pieces at a time, until it resembles cornmeal. Sprinkle over the top of the blueberries, evenly covering the surface up to the sides of the pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until browned, with blueberry mixture bubbling up. Serve warm with heavy or unsweetened whipped cream.
Frugal folks will appreciate the inventiveness of the recipes in Come, You Taste: Family Recipes From the Iron Range. These recipes made use of what was in season and what was available. The stories in this book show how folks helped one another by sharing their food and their knowledge. Back in those early days of the region, folks knew how to use every last bit of food and make it taste amazing, too. We could all do a bit more of that.
While the Minnesota Historical Society Press did provide my family with a review copy of this book, the opinions expressed here are 100 percent my own and were not edited by the publisher, author(s), or their affiliates. This post also contains affiliate links which help support this blog at no additional cost to you. Please read my full disclosure policy for more information.