Pioneer Potluck: Getting ready for the holidays and meeting new friends

Salmon Pirog/Pie

Northern Colorado, 1937-1955, and Kenai, 2017


Mom started early getting ready for the Holidays. Dad and some of his relatives or friends would go deer hunting and when the deer was processed Mom would get a big chunk of venison to make mincemeat for our Irish dad, so he could enjoy his very favorite pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In the fall, out would come the big enamel pot and the hand meat grinder. The pint jars were scrubbed and sterilized so she could can her mincemeat for the holidays. She felt if it was canned it would improve the flavor. Sometimes she made a big batch for two years’ worth of mincemeat, just in case Dad did not bring home a deer that year.

The process of making the mincemeat took all day starting early in the morning, by putting the venison in the oven to be roasted slowly until very tender or in a pot on the stove and gently simmering all day.

It was my job, when I got older, to chop the apples, gather up all the spices and locate the jars and lids, find the pressure cooker and wash it out. When the venison was cooled it would be ground in the hand-cranked meat grinder. I liked doing that!

Mom did her magic and added the spices, and other ingredients, brought it to a boil, then canned it in the trusty pressure canner.

What brings this story to mind, is it was my the great pleasure to be invited by Virginia Walters to the Writer’s Guild last Wednesday. The subject of making mincemeat came up and we had a discussion about the way pie crusts used to be made with lard or Crisco. Then I was asked if I had ever made mincemeat. Well, yes, I say — Moose Mincemeat. That was followed by more discussions.

I came to Alaska with very few things — three kids, three suitcases and $100 in my pocket. I also packed my recipe box that I had received for graduating from high school. When Thanksgiving rolled around, I did not have Mom’s mincemeat recipes. My sister Elaine, still living at home, copied Mom’s recipe which appears below (adjusted to my moose version), and sent it to me.

We lived on Daniels Lake in Nikiski, and at the time there were six kids in our family. My good friends Leatha and Jo Anne, helped me process and can the concoction so we could have mincemeat pies for Thanksgiving. First it required a chunk of moose, as deer in our area was not available. All I had to do was ask and I had a nice moose roast in my hands within two days. My then-husband and his friends went out and “found” me one. We shared the meat with three other families. That helped us through the first winter in Alaska.

I tell everyone that we survived for about four years in Alaska on moose and fish and fish and moose. We traveled to Anchorage for the rest of our food supplies. While we were there we went to Army-Navy Surplus and bought boots, shoes, hats, gloves and clothes to last through the winter for school. Between all the three families, there were 13 kids, most school age. We had big holiday feasts usually at our house on the lake because we owned saw horses and plywood to make tables!

Holidays in Colorado, relatives would come to our house at Christmas. Thanksgiving was at Grandma and Grandpa’s. They lived in an 80-acre cherry-apple orchard, so Grandma made cherry and apple pies and Mom made two mincemeat pies. All pie crusts were made with lard.

Grandpa had a large chicken coop where he kept turkeys besides chickens. He took orders in the spring for the turkeys, fattened them up and in some cases, killed, plucked feathers and took out the innards for older relatives and older neighbors. He hung them in the cold coal house to cool out and age — about for days. He kept coal in it, for the coal stove that heated the basement house they lived in.

In the spring he got baby chicks. They grew into layers so he could gather eggs and take them to town to barter for groceries and more chicken feed. (Oh yes — and those wonderful chicken feed sacks with which Grandma and Mom made dresses for me and my sister, and shirts for my brother. She also made my feed sack doll clothes and quilts.)

At Christmas time our relatives came to our house on the farm and we had a big table full of food that Mom had planned starting in October. The table was set with a beautiful Irish linen table cloth and matching napkins and Mom’s beautiful china dishes and silverware. The buffet held all the pies that Mom and Grandma made. Dad was the first to say after the large meal, “Loretta, how about some of your fine mincemeat pie?” We learned to like mincemeat pie from Dad sharing a bite with us when we were little. Grandpa liked mincemeat too. The rest ate Grandma’s cherry and apple pie. They all had a big scoop of vanilla ice cream piled on top.

Oh what memories! I thank my new friends at the Writers Guild to jog my memory bank so I can write this story!

Below, I wish to give you recipes for fish and one for moose.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self-taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at, or look for her on Facebook at Grannie Annies COOK BOOKS, where you can find details and ordering information for her cook books.


Daughter Susan Jordan came up with this wonderful tasty recipe using salmon and pie crust. I will put this recipe at the top of my list to make often! It is yummie.

Makes 4

2 pie crusts, either homemade or store bought. You want to have two round 10-inch pieces.

1 long red salmon fillet, ( one side of the fish, filleted) baked, flaked and pull any bones

2 medium size celery stalks, sliced

1/2 cup onion diced, about the same size as the celery

1 cup rice already cooked. Use “boil in the bag” to make it easier. Cooled.

1/4 cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons Original Southern Classic Uncle Dan’s Seasoning. It is sold as salad dressing or dip mix in the salad dressing aisle. You want the Original Southern Classic Ranch, comes in packets, usually top shelf area.

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sour cream

Mix the mayo, sour cream and Uncle Dan’s in a small bowl. Fold together all other ingredients except the crust in a bigger bowl. Lightly mix in the mayo mixture, try not to make mush or goop.

Cut the round pie crust in half and put mixture on half of that piece. Fold over the half crust. Squeeze and crimp edges well so all of the filling is covered. Lift with a big spatula, carefully. Place on a baking sheet that has parchment paper on it. Cut a inch slit in the top for steam to escape.

Continue making the remaining Pirog. Pirog is a Russian name for meat or fish pie, Midwesterners may know it as Meat Pasties made with pie crust or bread dough. Pierogi is a Polish name for boiled pies.

Bake at 425 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Watch this process carefully as I didn’t time mine.

Put the baking sheet up on a rack to cool. Enjoy, Susan


My Mom’s recipe adapted to Alaskan ingredients.

Cook about 2 pounds of moose meat-neck bones, tough chunks of rump roast until tender and falls off the bones.

In place of beef suet — which I find tastes old — I substitute frozen cubed butter. While grinding the moose meat, occasionally, add a stick of frozen butter. Use about 2 sticks.

Grind 2 pounds of frozen cranberries.

Save one cup of moose stock from boiling and freeze the rest for soup stock.

Place meat mixture in large glass, stainless or enamel kettle.

Add the following:

2 lbs ground cranberries

3 lbs tart apples, peeled, cored and diced

3 lbs Craisins, raisins or currants

1 Tblsp salt

2 cups brown sugar

5 cups apple juice or sweet apple cider

1 cup meat stock

Bring to boil, stirring often for one hour. Do not let it burn! It is easier to place in oven and cook down. The idea is to reduce the liquid.

Then add:

1 1/2 pints of cranberry juice - apple juice works too

1 tsp mace - if you have it on hand

2 tsp cloves

1 tsp allspice

2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup dark molasses

Juice of one orange - about 1/2 cup

Juice of one lemon - about 1/2 cup

3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients and simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pack in sterilized pint canning jars and process at 10 pound pressure for 30 minutes.

Note: This is for sea level. All other altitudes check you pressure cooker instruction book.

To use in pie:

To one pint of moose mincemeat, add 2 to 3 tart peeled and sliced apples. Mix in mincemeat and place in unbaked pie shell. Dot with 2 tblsp butter and place top pie shell over pie and crimp. Brush milk over top of shell and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake for one hour until nicely browned and bubbling. Eat warm with vanilla ice cream.

This pie reheats easily and baked pies freeze very well.

I can see my Dad with the first big slice of warm mincemeat, topped with vanilla ice cream. He waited for the ice cream to melt a little and then carefully cut a piece with his fork. We would wait for him to take the first bite, watch him roll his eyes and make the YUMM YUMM sound. He would look at Mom and tell her that was the best pie she ever made. He was not full of compliments, but mincemeat pie pushed them out with great sincerity.