The kitchen partner and I are unpacking today from a weekend with friends at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells. It was nice to put on the swimming suit in chilly October, even if it meant chasing the kitchen partner up and down water slides all weekend. He never gets tired on vacation. I swear. He’s like a five-year-old with a full wallet turned loose at Chucky Cheese.
To make up for his “excitement”, on the way home he drove us through Warrens, Wisconsin. Located 155 miles Southeast from St. Paul, right off I-94, Warrens is the self-proclaimed Cranberry Capital. It’s home to the World’s Largest Cranberry FestivalÂ and more than 2,500 acres of cranberries. Â Betcha’ didn’t know that Wisconsin produces more than half of the U.S. supply of cranberries each year, did ‘ya?
Our first stop was The Cranberry Discovery Center, in downtown Warrens. Although a cute history museum fills the downstairs level, I was most excited about the cranberry-themed gift shop upstairs. The clerk informed me that more than 90% of the shop’s products (jams, candles, wines, glassware, etc.) were made in Wisconsin. Way to go Wisconsin Locavores! We picked out a bag of dried cranberries to munch on the drive home and some locally made gifts to tuck away for the holidays.
When the kitchen partner asked about buying fresh cranberries, we were directed 4 miles outside of town to Wetherby Cranberry Company. There were cranberry bogs on both sides of the road, a few flooded for harvest with red berries bobbing on top. Wetherby has been family operated for more than 100 years and sells fresh cranberries and cranberry wine on-site and by mail. We drove up to purchased a 5 pound box of berries right from the back of the farm truck–freshly picked that morning. It doesn’t get much better than that for a locavore.
The box of berries came with a small book of recipes which I’ll be cruising through this week. Cranberry salsa and cran-apple jam caught my eye. A secret confession: I like walking by the refrigerator and popping a fresh cranberry in my mouth. The sour crunch hits that point between tangy-good and tangy-uncomfortable that makes me feel alive.