Summer must be over — it’s “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” time

A sign of how fast the summer of 2011 flew by: Our most recent blog post forewarned guests about buying fishing licenses before the July 1st state shutdown. And now, after what feels like a very short interval, we’re about to post the yearly picture of Andy holding a cookbook for the fall “Taste of the Gunflint Trail.”

In between we should have blogged about our fantastic summer staff or about celebrating the anniversary of buying Bearskin. We certainly should have written about the Gunflint Canoe races, the mid-July flooding, or the 97-year-old kayaker. Didn’t happen. The down side of  having an extraordinarily full resort all summer is that it’s very time-consuming.  Busy is a good thing.

The one blog we didn’t need to write this summer was the annual post usually entitled something like “Help, we need a recipe idea for the Taste of the Gunflint event.” Luckily for us, one of our longtime guests, Sarah Dale, did the thinking for Bearskin and came up with an inspired idea. The original concept was for resorts to serve a recipe featured in the Gunflint Trail cookbook, A Taste of the Gunflint Trail, such as the recipes for Sally’s Acorn Squash Soup and Sally’s Herb Bubble Bread. But we’ve already used all the doable Bearskin recipes that were included in the book.

Sarah Dale has been visiting Bearskin for years, and has fond memories of cooking school with Bearskin’s almost legendary former Chef Sally Bresnahan. Sarah even saved this stylish birchbark cookbook from 1994. (It’s desperately trying to return to tree trunk form, but with effort you can flatten it out enough to read the recipe pages.)

Sarah collected many of Chef Sally’s recipes over the years and suggested that we try Sally’s Fresh Mushroom Soup. I think of mushroom soup as a goopy, beige substance dumped out of a red and white Campbell’s can into a casserole dish. We use it, but we sure don’t eat it.

So we had our doubts about this recipe. Then we tried it. No wonder people love it – this is mushroom soup of a very different kind.

We’ll be serving Sally’s Fresh Mushroom Soup during the Taste of the Gunflint Trail event this Sunday, September 4th, from 11-5. The event is a fundraiser for the very successful Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.

You can work your way up the trail Sunday afternoon tasting Gunflint Trail treats, then finish up with a piece of homemade pie and ice cream on the front porch of Chik-Wauk. There’s a $5 suggested donation and coffee and lemonade will also be served. After you’ve eaten your fill, venture inside the museum to enjoy the interpretative and interactive exhibits on Gunflint Trail history. Local authors John Hendricksson, Betty Hemstad and Beryl Singleton Bissell will also be hanging out inside, ready to sign books.

If you’ll be in the area over Labor Day weekend, join us for a Taste of the Gunflint and pick up a copy of Sally’s recipe.

A taste of Bearskin for “Taste of the Gunflint”

Help us decide!

On Saturday, September 12th, the Gunflint Trail will be hosting  A Taste of the Gunflint Trail,” a trail-wide event that combines fun food,  local history and fund-raising on behalf of the new Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center. 

During A Taste of the Gunflint Trail,” businesses along the Gunflint Trail will be offering delicious treats from the Taste of the Gunflint Trail cookbook.  Rockwood, Loon Lake, and Chik-Wauk historic lodges will be the featured sites during the event, but many of the resorts along the Trail will offer delicious “Tastes” from the Gunflint.

Chic-Wauk Lodge, mid 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society.
Chic-Wauk Lodge, mid 1950's. Photo courtesy of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society.

If you enjoy staying at Bearskin Lodge and the Gunflint Trail, you’re going to find the Chik-Wauk to be a fascinating addition to your visits.  The museum and nature center  are slated to open next July 4th and will be housed in the former Chik-Wauk Lodge on Lake Saganaga, a distinctive all-granite 1934 structure most often remembered as the site of a well-known Hamm’s Beer commercial from the 1970’s.  The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is creating a museum and nature center in the beautiful old rock structure that will tell the story of the people and natural history of the Gunflint Trail. Proceeds from cookbook sales during the “Taste” event will go towards Chik-Wauk museum. Each participating site will also have a box for donations to the museum.

 cookbookLast year we served Chef Sally’s Acorn Squash soup recipe, one of Bearskin’s featured recipes from the book. It was a huge success, but we don’t want to make the same recipe again.  Bearskin’s other recipes are for Grouse with Blackberry Sauce (no grouse hunters in this group), Hot Spiced Wine (is it appropriate as a giveaway to visitors driving from lodge to lodge?), and Sally’s Herb Bubble Bread (maybe…).  The item has to be small enough to just be a “taste” of the Gunflint Trail and easy enough for the cooking impaired McCloughans to successfully create.  (Alas, “easy enough” rules out many of the delicious recipes in this book.)

One possibility would be to make a recipe from one of the many Gunflint Trail resorts in the cookook that no longer exist. Or we could make any recipe that isn’t being used by another lodge.

A Taste of the Gunflint Trail cookbook has a huge following of devoted fans who love both the stories and recipes.  So you tell us — what should we make?

Acorn Squash Soup recipe from “Taste of the Gunflint Trail”

Last week’s “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” event, a fund raiser for the future Chik-Wauk museum and nature center, was a big success.  It was a perfect day to drive up and down the Gunflint tasting specialty items at the many resorts and outfitters along the trail.

Andy with "Taste of the Gunflint Trail" cookbook on Saturday 9.13
Andy with Taste of the Gunflint Trail cookbook and our Acorn Squash soup before the Taste of the Gunflint event.


If you’ve never seen the “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” cookbook, we highly recommend it even if you aren’t the type who would read a cookbook for fun.  The book retells the history and lore of all the old businesses along the trail, and then provides a few recipes associated with each of the places.  It’s entertaining reading even if you skip the recipes.  Profits from the cookbooks normally support the Gunflint Trail fire department (on Saturday profits also went to Chik-Wauk) so buying the book contributes to a very worthwhile cause.


Bearskin’s recipes in “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” were all provided by Sally Bresnahan, better known as the legendary “Chef Sally,” who cooked at Bearskin until she retired to move to Nebraska in 2003.  We decided to attempt making Sally’s “Acorn Squash Soup” recipe from the book, knowing full well that we might not be able successfully duplicate Chef Sally’s culinary skills. 


It took the efforts of four of us to somehow make enough soup for the “Taste” event.  As a first attempt, it turned out pretty darn good.  We served 72 small cups of the soup on Saturday and received many compliments on its tasty flavor.


Since that time we’ve had numerous requests for the recipe.  The “Taste of the Gunflint Trail” cookbook is readily available in Minnesota bookstores and public libraries, but for those of you who can’t easily find the book here is Chef Sally’s delicious acorn squash soup recipe:


                    Acorn Squash Soup


                    4  acorn squash

                    3  carrots, sliced

                    1  onion, sliced

                    ½ cup  sherry

                    1/3 cup water

                    1  tbl. butter

                    1  tbl. flour

                    1  tsp. salt

                    dash  red pepper

                    1 can chicken broth

                    1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg

                    1/8 tsp. paprika

                    1/2 – 1  tsp. pepper paprika

                    dash  ground allspice

                    dash red pepper

                    1 cup  half-and-half

                    1  1/2  tbl.  sherry

                    Kale leaves (optional if serving soup in squash shells)




Cut squash in half lengthwise, and remove seeds.  Place squash, cut side down, in a broiler pan.  Add hot water to pan to a depth of ½ – 1  inch. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.  Spoon pulp from squash and save.   Squash shells can be used to create a serving bowl for this soup.


Place carrots, onion and ½ cup sherry in a saucepan; cover with water.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Drain; combine vegetables with reserved pulp and 1/3 cup water in container of an electric blender or food processor.  Process until mixture is smooth (we had some trouble with this part as it is quite a large amount and ended up using a KitchenAid mixer instead.)  Set aside.


Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over low heat.  Add flour, salt and red pepper, stirring until smooth.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Gradually add pureed vegetables, chicken broth, nutmeg, paprika, allspice and the pepper paprika. Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Stir in half-and-half and an additional 1 – 1/2  tbsp sherry.  Cook until heated.  If desired, serve in squash shells on a bed of kale.  Garnish with paprika just before serving.


Yield:  8 servings