Quaking bogs can be treacherous places. When my father introduced me to my first quaking bog, I followed instructions carefully and returned from that expedition without any good stories except that I made the bog bounce up and down by jumping as high as I could. As I got older and braver (or more careless) I began to accumulate some stories.
There was the time I got stuck waist deep in mud while trying to jump from a dry bank over a small channel of open water separating the bog from the land. Even better was the time I stepped into a hole in a bog a few feet back from the edge of the lake we were fishing. In a fraction of a second I was treading water with my outstretched arms holding my head above water. At least no one accused me of scaring the fish.
I love bogs. First, they are home to some rare plants that might well be called vegetarian carnivores, like pitcher plants and sundews. Second, they protect some of my favorite little lakes from most timid fishermen and all expert anglers with big boats, motors and depth finders. And third, bogs are where you find wild cranberries.
It has been many years since I picked enough wild cranberries for cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving or a cranberry apple pie, but I have fond memories of enjoying the ones picked by my father and grandfather. After the first frost Dad would ask Grandpa Hopp if he was ready to go a-cranberrying. The answer was always yes.
There were several lakes surrounded by cranberry bogs within a few minutes drive of Grandma and Grandpa’s. On a sunny day Dad would tie the Old Town canoe on the car, drop off Mom and us kids with Grandma and pick up Grandpa who would be ready with a half dozen gunny sacks.
Dad and Grandpa would pull the canoe along the edge of the bog and pick the berries hanging over the water. In a few hours they would have twenty or thirty pounds to share with Grandma and Grandpa Rang and aunts and uncles. Wild cranberries are smaller than the tame ones we buy today, but I think that makes them taste a little better. In the fall I still nibble some when we fish a secret lake surrounded by a bog.
One time a neighbor was visiting when Grandpa and Dad came home after a successful day. He said to Grandpa, “Tony, I thought that you couldn’t swim. Aren’t you afraid of going out in a canoe?”
I will never forget Grandpa’s reply: “Not as soon as we have a bag full of cranberries. If we tip over I’ll just grab the bag. Cranberries float, you know.” If you visit a cranberry marsh during harvest you will see them floating inside booms before they are conveyed into trucks for shipment to canning factories.
Cranberries grow throughout the northern areas of America, Asia and Europe. Native Americans were harvesting wild cranberries long before the first Europeans came ashore at Plymouth Rock or built the fort at Jamestown. With guidance from their native neighbors, the settlers were soon harvesting cranberries to make sauce and pies.
The settlers brought apple trees to the new world, and soon thereafter someone invented the cranberry apple pie. It’s a perfect dessert for an autumn or winter dinner, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Here is a good recipe.
Pie dough for a 9 or 10 inch pie plate
6 to 8 apples
2/3 to 3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 to 2 cups cranberries
2 T Flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. orange zest
3 T butter
1/8 tsp. salt
Make the crust and line the bottom of your pie plate.
Peel and core the apples and cut them into a half inch dice.
Grate the orange zest (outer layer of the peel)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Mix the apples and cranberries in a large bowl. Blend the flour, sugar and spices and salt together in a small bowl and stir into the fruit. Place the fruit into the pie plate. There should be enough filling to mound up in the middle of the plate. If not, peel and cut another apple and add it to the pie. Dot the filling with butter.
Roll out the remaining dough and cut it into strips about 3/4 inch wide and long enough to cover the pie. Put four or five strips over the pie, then another four or five at right angles to make a simple lattice. Use shorter pieces of dough to cover the remaining top of the pie.
With your fingers, seal the strips to the bottom crust and flute the edge of the pie Sprinkle the top of pie with sugar. Bake the pie for 15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and move the pie to the middle rack. Bake the pie about 35 to 45 minutes longer, until the crust is a deep golden brown and the juices begin to bubble up.
NOTE: You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries. We usually buy ten pounds of cranberries from a marsh every fall, wash and sort the berries and freeze them in one quart bags.
Jerri usually puts three cups in each bag, which produces enough cranberry sauce for a dinner. Her recipe is three cups berries, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring the sugar and water to a boil for about five minutes, add the berries and bring back to a boil. Cook until most of the cranberries have burst. Then remove from heat, stir and cool.