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The Milwaukee Pantry
10 Locally made products every cream city household should have on hand

Photos by Dan Bishop

December 2012

Treat spiced pecans were featured in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living

Milwaukeeans love their food and drink during the holidays. A well-stocked pantry in preparation for the party season should include a goodly supply of the following locally produced goodies. Each will lend pizzazz to a festive gathering of friends or for simply snuggling up in front of the blazing fireplace. Be assured that Santa loves such a selection of munchies and drinks while on his rounds. With this on a chimney-side snack platter and beverage tray, a gracious homeowner is sure to please.

All That and A Bag O Chips
W75N865 Tower Ave.
Cedarburg(262) 389-9103

Stacy Wilke and her husband, Steve, make tortilla chips in different flavors that are sold at the Cedarburg Piggly Wiggly and at area festivals. Production is done after-hours at a local restaurant. The chips are gluten free, except for the seasoning, which includes lime and salt, cinnamon sugar, pepper supreme and seasoning salt. Strawberry, apple harvest and peppermint are seasonal touches.

Bay View Packing Co.
1906 W. Saint Paul Ave.(414) 344-3050

Aina hey and ho, ho, ho, you betcha! Holiday in Milwaukee means getting pickled ... with pickled polish sausage, turkey gizzards, asparagus and onioned eggs all laid out for Santa’s midnight snacking. Let’s not forget that the Jolly Ole North Pole Boy also loves his fancy boneless and bone-in pickled pork hocks and hog knuckles, as well as Nova Scotia herring in sour cream sauce. Bay View Packing was established in 1923, with five generations of Liebners in the heritage lineup, using recipes that date from the firm’s beginning. For stocking up on these stocking stuffers, store hours are from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Bolzano Artisan Meats
3950 N. Holton St.(414) 426-6380

Scott Buer’s Bolzano Artisan Meats has brought back the lost art of dry curing, using locally raised heirloom hogs for its salamis. Bolzano is based in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, in what was once a dairy and then a distillery. Try Bolzano’s seasonal FiggyPuddin’ salami, a sweet/savory pairing of prosciutto and melon, mixed with dried figs that play up a sweet and salty balance along with its subtle touch of cocoa. For a special holiday gift, treat your special person to a Charcuterie School On-The-Go, Friday, Dec. 21, at the Outpost Natural Foods on Capitol Drive. Cost is $20.

Ma Baensch’s
1025 E. Locust St.
(414) 562-4643

Although the original Ma (Lena Baensch) is long departed, her Baensch Food Products Co., a division of Wild Foods Inc., still packs premium Atlantic herring, caught in the wild waters off Nova Scotia. Founded in 1932, the company has been at its current location since 1945 and remains a staple on most Milwaukee holiday tables. Ma’s was purchased by the irrepressible Kim Wall in 1999. She still uses the original family recipes for the company’s herring pieces marinated in wine sauce or sour cream and chive sauce. Baensch Foods is a member of the National Fisheries Institute and is kosher certified through the Chicago Rabbinical Council.

Burke Candy gourmet hot fudge topping and toffee pieces

Burke Candy
3840 N. Fratney St.
(414) 964-7327; (888) 287-5350

Three generations of Burkes have worked for more than 70 years on a glorious array of gourmet chocolate confections. Their Grandmother Reilly line of toffees is worth shoveling snow on Christmas Eve, especially if the milk chocolate cashew variety awaits. For the dedicated chocoholic on your gift list, how about presenting him/her with a 10-pound pail of Burke’s gourmet hot fudge topping. If those lords a-leaping can’t wait for the ritual unwrapping of presents, rush them to the company store, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Murph’s Original
622 N. Water St.
(414) 727-1855

Kathryn (Murph) Burke launched her line of gourmet food items in 1975, just as her fifth youngster was about to be born. Her Mount Mary College degrees in chemistry and home economics were pluses in initially developing a savory marinade in small batches for friends and home use, eventually evolving into what seemed to be tanker truckloads for the mass market. Next came a Bloody Mary cocktail mix, creamy garlic dressing and shortbread cookies in chocolate chip, rosemary and plain varieties that are bite-sized perfect for even the tiniest of Santa’s elves. Plus, Burke’s milk or dark chocolatey "Murtles" candies make for a magnificent munch of chewy caramel and pecans while wassailing. Look for her online recipes, where you can also place an order.

Treat Bake Shop
(414) 305-8937

Sarah Marx Feldner started as the early morning baker at a co-op more than 15 years ago, and was most recently the executive editor for She secured her master’s in library and information science from the University of Illinois with an emphasis on culinary collections and food research, which has helped her eat her way through 10 countries. Feldner’s latest tome, "A Cook’s Journey to Japan," makes a perfect holiday companion gift for her dynamite-spiced Georgia pecans. These snazzy snacks are found at Larry’s Brown Deer Market, Grasch’s in Brookfield, and other local and national outlets. To learn the spicy side of life, Feldner apprenticed with the Penzeys, Milwaukee’s condiment czars.

High spirits

Holiday time means beverage time in Milwaukee, with its ever-growing range of locally produced beers at boutique breweries and brew pubs. Plus, there’s the area’s burgeoning presence of distilled products, all perfect enough to produce a comfortable holiday glow.

Since Santa is watching with his list of who’s naughty and nice, enjoy responsibly.

Great Lakes Distillery
616 W. Virginia St.
(414) 431-8683

Entrepreneur Guy Rehorst is constantly turning out new products, augmenting his original gin and vodka selections with absinthe, whiskey and brandy. His latest batch of seasonal spirits is made with distilled Lakefront Pumpkin Lager, aged in bourbon barrels and bottled at 90 proof. It’s great as an Old Fashioned base or with cider. Featured in most of the city’s best eateries and taverns, Great Lakes also has a snug little bar and shop at its production facility.

Lovino LLC
2132 E. Bennett Ave.
(414) 467-6446

Jamie and Erica Zdroik created their divine Spanish sangria after months of testing at home, sampling and trying again. Finally, they were satisfied with the concentrated blend of Cabernet franc as a base wine, complemented with punchy citrus flavors, partnering with an Algoma winery. Think romance when dining at Di Carlo Trattoria & Pizzeria in Oak Creek or when purchasing a bottle (or two) at Ray’s Wine & Spirits, Outpost Natural Foods and other outlets.

Midwest Custom Bottling Co.
W23921 Paul Road, Pewaukee
(262) 522-6958

Company owner Tom Maas developed his RumChata liqueur from a delightful marriage of rice, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, Caribbean rum and sweet dairy cream secured from a dairy in Neenah. It can be served straight up, slightly chilled on the rocks, mixed in with coffee or even used to make an extra-special cupcake. The drink was launched in 2009 by Maas, who worked on a Shawano County farm as a kid, then for Jim Beam after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.



This story ran in the December 2012 issue of: