Pioneer Potluck: About picking berries, canning fish and making gooseberry and rhubarb pies

Pioneer Potluck: About picking berries, canning fish and making gooseberry and rhubarb pies

High bush cranberry catsup, sour cream gooseberry pie, rhubard custard pie

  • Tuesday, July 23, 2019 10:27pm
  • News

This is the time of year I start to look for canning jars and lids and get out my big glass kettle to make jellies and jams. We have loads of currents just getting ripe. The raspberries will get to the tummy, not the jam this year. They are my breakfast dessert right off the plant.

We had beautiful strawberries, but my friendly momma moose and her twin babies ate them — green ones, ripe ones, with the leaves. There will be a limited amount of strawberries to just to be mixed in with currents and watermelon berries or rhubarb jam.

Susan said when she was little, green watermelon berries were her favorite as they tasted like cucumbers. When they turn red I pick them to add color to jams and jellies.

I sometimes pull the rhubarb and dice it, put it in two cup containers and freeze for a latter time when I want to make rhubarb cake, cupcakes, muffins and a pie or two. Strawberries in with the rhubarb give the pie a wonderful taste.

And then there is mixed jelly. After I have a few of each berry left, I just cook them down a little and add enough apple juice to make it really pretty. You can mix other juice with one part apple juice to the described amount on the pectin box.

Blue berries are ripe, probably my favorite to give out as Christmas presents. I never use just plan blueberry juice. I add one part apple juice. Leave out one cup of regular juice, and add one cup of apple juice. This is my mom’s way of making tons of jelly.

I sometimes use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, as it is low in methoxyl-type pectin extract from citrus peel. Its jelling power is activated by calcium, not sugar content. It’s hard to find. I had to send for it. Mostly I use the Sure Jell-type pectin. If you do have a batch of jelly that did not jell, just follow directions on this pectin box and you will have wonderful jelly! Our friend Mr. Ed gave me boxes of Pomona’s. I thank him for his knowledge of berries and jellies and for picking lots of berries and giving them to us.

Susan likes my cranberry catsup (ketchup?), so with the abundance of cranberries this year we will have this yummy catsup this winter.

Canning salmon is an every-year happening at our house. I love canned salmon in the winter. The pint jar is all mine because Bob is not very fond of it. If I make potato soup, I add two big tablespoons full of canned salmon to mine. I don’t dare do that to Bob’s!

Many years ago in the ‘70s, in my other life, for three years in a row I canned hooligan. They made great sardines and were a real good treat in the winter time.

It was the first year I used a canner by myself and not in the tutelage of Leatha or JoAnne. The canner was filled with jars of hooligan and I brought it up to temperature, watching closely. All of a sudden there was a loud pop and hiss and the seal blew out of the top of the canner. I screamed, crawled on my knees to turned off the burner and threw open the door of our trailer house, screaming at the top of my lungs, “the canner blew UP!” at least 15 times!! I was running down the middle of the road of the trailer court at Unocal, called Mallard Park, to get my friend Jo Anne.

My new husband had just caught a bunch of hooligan and helped clean them, helped me put then in the jars and went off to open the gas station that we owned in North Kenai, now Nikiski. Someone, probably Jo Anne, called him and she yelled “Ann’s canner blew up!”

He was just pulling into the gas station and opened up the door and heard the phone ring. He raced back out the door, into his car and was back down at the trailer, which was about 5 miles away in 3 minutes — (he said!!) I was at Jo Anne’s and we decided to go back down and look at the awful mess, just as my husband drove up.

He flew up the stairs, opened up the door and the canner was sitting on the stove in one piece! OH MY goodness, was he mad! I said, still crying and shaking “SOMETHING blew out of the top!” Come to find out the soft plug was not set right and it blew out.

After looking at me and my total hysteria, he put his arm around me and told me that is what it is suppose to do! He found the plug, put it back in the hole and screwed the lid back on and watched for it to build pressure and then left AGAIN! I watched that canner with my heart in my throat from the distance of the living room. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when the 60 minutes was up!!

Richard was not and never was afraid of pressure. He was a pressure vessel welder and then became the first pressure vessel inspector in the state of Alaska. Yes, it was in 1970 and all the buildings in the area were oil-based business buildings. Lots of welding shops cropped up too. He NEVER understood why I was so darned afraid of a little, itty bitty pressure canner!! (P.S., I still am!)

I did can salmon and more hooligan the next year, then we moved to Anchorage and that is a way different story in my life in Alaska.

Now I have to go dice rhubarb and make a Rhubarb Custard Pie for supper. If I have a few strawberries I will put those in the pie also.


This is from a wonderful book, “Pioneers of Alaska,” by the Pioneer Auxiliary No. 4. First printing was 1988, if you happened to see one you better buy it — it is full of great Alaskan recipes!

1 1/2 pounds sweet, white onions

5 pounds cranberries — In place of high bush cranberries, I have used domestic cranberries in the bag. You will need 5 bags.

2 1/2 cups water

2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

6 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 ½ tablespoons allspice

2 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons celery seed

1 teaspoon black pepper

Cook together onions and cranberries in water until tender. Put through a food mill. Place in large kettle, DO NOT USE ALUMINUM — stainless or glass or enamel will do. Cook until thick, stirring often. Pour into sterilized pint jars and seal. Process 20 minutes in boiling water bath. Great Christmas presents!


My friend Virginia Walters asked me for a Gooseberry pie recipe, in my treasure of mounds and boxes of recipes I also came across this.

1 1/4 cups fresh gooseberries

1 cup white sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 double pastry pie crust. I buy mine!

Place bottom crust in a 9-inch pie pan

In medium bowl, stir in the gooseberries and sugar. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

In small bowl stir together flour and salt, set aside.

In a larger bowl:

1 cup sour cream

2 beaten eggs

Splash of vanilla

Mix eggs, sour cream and vanilla into the flour salt mixture. Add gooseberry and sugar and stir in to coat the berries

Pour into unbaked pie crust.

Place top crust on filling and seal the edges. Cut slits to vent.

Brush with a small amount of milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 55 minutes. Cool and serve.

Refrigerate the leftover pie. In the back of my head I was wondering if rhubarb would be good in the place of gooseberries? Back on the hunt and SURE enough I have a recipe for Rhubarb Sour Cream PIE! If you want it email me at


My favorite of ALL pies, except cherry. From my cookbook, “Grannie Annie’s Cookin’ at the Homestead.”

In an unbaked pie crust shell put in 3 cups cut rhubarb, (or more). Pile up as it shrinks as it cooks.

Beat together:

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons flour

1 cup sugar

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour over rhubarb

Mix 1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup room temp butter

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (op)

Sprinkle over top of pie.

Bake at 400 degrees for 60 minutes watch in the last 20 minutes — it depends on the oven.

Enjoy with French Vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream from a can.

• By ANN “GRANNIE ANNIE” BERG, For the Peninsula Clarion

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