First place winner Mary Jo Polak


Mary Jo Polak

INGREDIENTS: Sauce 1 can cranberry sauce (whole berry or jelly) 1 can apple pie filling Topping ½ cup melted butter ½ cup brown sugar 1 cup flour pinch of cinnamon INSTRUCTIONS: Combine cranberry and pie filling. Top with topping mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown and bubbling. Can be served hot or at room temperature

Honoring mom

 

For Mary Jo Polak, a 66-year-old from St. Anthony, her cranberry sauce recipe is a hit year after year, but it also holds sentimental value.

“It’s after my mom. It never had a name; we just called it cranberry sauce,” says Polak. “That’s why I named it Margie’s, because that was my mom’s name.”

Polak says she was called the “basic cook” in her family, noting her mother told her one time that she just made the best cucumbers.

“We all died laughing over the years that the only thing I could make was cucumbers,” Polak says. “So when I won with this recipe, it’s like, ‘Here mom, I’m good at cranberry sauce too.”

Polak says she made her holiday classic with a twist after hearing eight years ago how someone added apples to it. She did the same, then baked it. A few years after that, she decided to put a streusel topping on it, and the kids loved it. 

Growing up, she says the holidays were all about family. Her mom came from a family of 12. Everyone would get together over the holidays and there was always cooking, mostly done from scratch. Polak says it was a big joke when she whipped up her recipe because at first, no one wanted to try it, but once they tried it, they all were hooked.

Polak says she’s never entered the recipe contest before. She saw the ad in the paper and knew if she was going to enter, she’d offer up her cranberry sauce — it’s a simple, delicious recipe that’s something the whole family can love and enjoy.

“I was terribly surprised [to win] but so joyful ... It’s really a tribute to my mom,” she says.

Polak has kept the family cooking tradition going by cooking with her own kids — she says the boys cook more than the girls. She says everyone has a favorite dish that they prepare. Her cranberry sauce is one she always has to bring.

“I always bring a dessert, too, because I’m the sweet one,” she says. “I like the sweets.”

 

—Hannah Burlingame

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